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An American Blog



...with the soul of a Roman, the mind of a Berean, the strength of a Colossian, and the heart of a Thessalonian.



Updated: 2017-10-21T23:11:00.725-04:00

 



Bryan College in 2017

2017-08-25T21:56:32.046-04:00

Last weekend I went to Bryan College to see the solar eclipse. I'm glad I went and the weather cooperated completely. This visit to Dayton, Tennessee, also provided opportunities for me to have extended conversations with people I know and respect at the college about some of the controversies that have come up in recent years. I went into this with an open mind and asking broad, open-ended questions. One could call this a “listening tour” of sorts, though that implies having more plans than I had to do something with what I learned afterwards. My plan and hope was to listen to both sides, and I did. Some of these conversations did not touch on the controversies at all.Based on what I had read and conversations I had even right after arriving in town, I anticipated finding a spirit of fear on campus and among the faculty. I did not find that.At Bryan College and among its people, I found a warm spirit of gratitude to God for all that He is doing there at the college and people thankful for the opportunity to be part of that.When gently probing under the surface, I also found pain. Enduring what feels like attacks leaves hurt.Those who are taking issue with the college's leadership at the top have expressed their intent to isolate their concerns to him, and not the rest of the staff on campus. There are others at the college who do not see how it would be possible for him to have done those things of which he is accused without others there being involved. Still others, if they do not feel incriminated by the accusations, take offense to being thought of as duped or blind to things going on at the college when in fact their eyes are wide open and in several cases have more information as to what has been going on at the college than those currently lobbing accusations from the outside.One of the things I found most striking about these conversations is how I was consistently told I was among a tiny, self-selected group of people who had actually bothered to have a conversation with them and ask questions about what they knew about these things. In one case I was the very first in-depth conversation, and in another I was the third person in three years to ask questions. This is a college with 15,000 alumni (a number I remember from several years back, so I expect it is higher now) and a student body of 650 students.The two biggest controversies for the college, as cited by those opposing the current administration, are (1) the statement of faith clarification in 2014, and (2) the land deal with the camp in Dayton.The statement of faith clarification was not a change to the statement of faith, but rather a separate clarification to express what many people had always understood the original (and still active) document to mean. Something I did not know from reading the press reports was what brought about this clarification in the first place.By way of background, I've made several visits to campus over the years since graduating in 1999, and on one of those I learned that the student body in recent years had come to be comprised of approximately one third of students coming from public schools, one third from private schools, and one third from homeschooling backgrounds. A few years ago, that last number had dropped significantly because apparently homeschooling associations and groups had begun to recommend against Bryan College due to some of the professors there teaching theistic evolution. That was inconsistent with the mission and purpose of the college, so the administration moved to correct this with the statement of faith clarification.One of the difficulties of when this happened was its coming right in the midst of the reaccreditation process the college goes through every few years. The administration did not want to pile this on during that intense time, but also wanted it to happen soon enough to be official for the coming school year. Perhaps it seemed like the least bad option at the time, but the administration waited until after the exhausting accreditation process was complete to raise the statement of[...]



Total Solar Eclipse at Bryan College

2017-08-24T10:01:04.402-04:00

At the suggestion of one of my old college roommates, I returned to the town where I went to college for a long weekend as it was in the path of totality for the solar eclipse.I had read in the media like The Washington Post and some of the tech press that totality is worth the hype and distinctly different from a partial solar eclipse. I had an interest in talking to some people at my alma mater anyway, so even if the weather did not cooperate, I considered it worth the trip.The Washington Post traffic blog also suggested that traffic heading toward locations in the path of totality was expected to build significantly starting 48 hours prior to the eclipse itself, so I made the 9-hour drive on Friday. (I had not checked to see what the traffic forecast was for the day after, and I expect I would have spent less time driving back today than I did yesterday. It was interesting having some of the traffic experience though: different license plates, etc. I noticed a lot of cars from Pennsylvania and New Jersey.)The eclipse in Dayton was from approximately 1 to 4 PM with totality from about 2:32 PM to 2:34 PM. I set a couple alarms on my phone to help warn me and others around me when it would be the safe time to view the sun's corona without any solar glasses. It did not disappoint.The college had a presentation in its auditorium during the early part of the eclipse. The entrance has glass doors that seem to have a polarized film that helps reduce how much brightness makes its way into the lobby. Distinctly absent upon leaving the building was that normal sense of the sunlight on the ground being really bright. On that nearly cloudless day the outdoors continued to feel like I was behind some kind of polarized light protection even though I was not indoors or wearing sunglasses. It was really cool. At one point as we got close to totality, that effect made some clouds on the horizon look like the color of dark storm clouds.Means for safe eclipse viewing easily abounded. Several people had brought every day items with small holes in it. Even a few Ritz crackers did the job of showing the eclipse in the shadow. Crossing one's hands so that one's fingers formed small spaces for light to pass through and shadows to form also worked well, though the eclipse form in those shadows was less clear. One of the coolest and by far most abundant methods of seeing the solar eclipse before and after totality was through the trees. Instead of normal spots of light on the ground that had come through the leaves, they were all crescents the shape of the eclipsed sun.The amount of daylight around us felt surprisingly full even with most of the sun's light blocked by the moon and only a crescent sun visible through solar glasses. It was not until about 3 minutes before totality that it really got much darker much faster. You could hear and sense the anticipation suddenly building among the crowds that had gathered around campus. Solar glasses were still necessary even with only a tiny sliver of the sun visible.Then totality came. A cheer went up from the crowd. I later heard that others down the hill and even several miles down the road could hear the cheer from campus. This began the brief period of time when it was safe to view without glasses. It was quite the sight, and I looked up at it several times during totality.There are a lot of things one could possibly observe during totality, and those two minutes go by quickly, so I am sure I did not do them all, and obviously those I heard about after the fact. My first observation would be that calling totality “darkness” or like night would be to way overstate the effect. It was more like twilight just before sunrise or after sunset. Yes, stars appeared; no, I could not pick out any constellations. There were also a couple spots with bright red lights hanging in the sky. Someone suggested it was a drone.Another person was later disappointed he forgot to look around at the horizon for the 360-degree sunrise effect. I am thankful my friends had positioned themsel[...]



Broader and Deeper than Mere Secession

2017-07-20T18:20:11.389-04:00

An excerpt of “Address at the Celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania”:

When we come to examine the action of the Continental Congress in adopting the Declaration of Independence in the light of what was set out in that great document and in the light of succeeding events, we can not escape the conclusion that it had a much broader and deeper significance than a mere secession if territory and the establishment of a new nation.

Events of that nature have been taking place since the dawn of history. One empire after another has arisen, only to crumble away as its constituent parts separated from each other and set up independent governments of their own. Such actions long ago became commonplace. They have occurred too often to hold the attention of the world and command the administration and reverence of humanity.

There is something beyond the establishment of a new nation, great as that event would be, in the Declaration of Independence which has ever since caused it to be regarded as one of the great charters that not only was to liberate America but was everywhere to ennoble humanity.

It was not because it was proposed to establish a new nation, but because it was proposed to establish a nation on new principles, that July 4, 1776, has come to be regarded as one of the greatest days in history.

Great ideas do not burst upon the world unannounced. They are reached by a gradual development over a length of time usually proportionate to their importance. This is especially true of the principles laid down in the Declaration of Independence.

Three very definite propositions were set out in its preamble regarding the nature of mankind and therefore of government. These were the doctrine
  1. that all men are created equal,
  2. that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights, and
  3. that therefore the source of the just powers of government must be derived from the consent of the governed.

It was worth the time to read, and I commend the full text to your attention and reading as well.



Was Joseph an Aspergian?

2017-07-17T11:29:48.818-04:00

My question is about Joseph of old, and Asperger's, a condition mostly studied during my lifetime. There are a few things in the story of Joseph that make me wonder about Joseph's neurological wiring. None of this is to downplay the role the Lord played in this whole situation, but perhaps this was one of the things the Lord used, or even one of the things that got in Joseph's way.Joseph had a dozen siblings, mostly brothers, mostly older, and he was beloved by their father. One day (or night) he has a dream that he was going to be over them even outside the context of their father's love (Genesis 36:6-8). There's no indication he thought about how that might go over with them, nor does the text indicate any bad intent on his part. It seems he simply viewed it as sharing information. I've heard this text preached a few times, and usually the preacher condemns Joseph at this point for either being a jerk or not having a clue. Maybe he doesn't have a clue. Maybe he didn't think and wasn't wired to think that way. His father liked him. He dreamed about people liking him. Why wouldn't people like him?After another dream and repeated similar reactions from his brothers and father, he ends up with a target on his back that nearly cost him his life (Genesis 37:9-20). One of his brothers spoke up, and they decided to sell into slavery instead (Genesis 37:21-28). He winds up in Egypt owned by “an officer of Pharaoh and captain of the guard” (Genesis 37:28,36; 39:1).There, “The LORD was with Joseph, and he was a successful man” (Genesis 39:2), and his master saw that (Genesis 39:3) and put Joseph in charge of “all that he had” (Genesis 39:4), and the LORD “blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; and the blessing of the LORD was on all that he had in the house and in the field” (Genesis 39:5). He had responsibility for this Egyptian's things in the extreme—no accountability required (Genesis 39:6).Joseph was also attractive (Genesis 39:6), and the Egyptian's wife noticed and tried to seduce him (Genesis 39:7). Joseph declined (Genesis 39:8-9), and she persisted for days (Genesis 39:10). One day he went about his normal routine even though none of the other men who were normally around were there (Genesis 39:11). He didn't make the connection between how this change in the environment made it riskier for him. The Egyptian's wife pounced on the opportunity, and she grabbed him by his clothes (Genesis 39:12). The only thing Joseph knew to do was flee—even if that meant leaving his clothes behind—and he did (Genesis 39:12). He never thought or had time to think about how that situation could look.She wasted no time in turning against him his efforts to remain pure. She called the heretofore absent men of the house as “witnesses” and with racial overtones accused Joseph of attempted rape (Genesis 39:13-15). She disrespected her husband before these men as well (Genesis 39:14). She later recounts the events to her husband with an entirely new explanation for why Joseph left his garment behind (Genesis 39:17-18). His response is to demote Joseph from master of all to palace prisoner (Genesis 39:19-20). Even there, “the LORD was with Joseph and showed him mercy” (Genesis 39:21). Joseph now found favor with the keeper of the prison. Instead of being in charge of the Egyptian's household, he now was given charge of all the prisoners (Genesis 39:22). Accountability was not required here either (Genesis 39:23). While in prison, Joseph had a memorable dream-related encounter with a couple Egyptians who had offended Pharaoh. One was restored and one was executed, as interpreted with God's help from the dream; and Joseph was promptly forgotten (Genesis 40:1-23).Two years later Pharaoh had a couple dreams and was troubled at not knowing their meaning (Genesis 41:1-8). The chief butler could empathize and told Pharaoh his prison story (Genesis 41:9-13). Pharaoh promptly summons Joseph who promises “an answer of pe[...]



The Best Advice Reagan Ever Received

2017-06-28T07:24:27.721-04:00

In Hand of Providence is the story of Ronald Reagan getting his first job as a radio announcer.

His father had concurred with news reports advising people to stay in their own communities, even though he himself had been an ambitious man whose dreams had been crushed by the Depression. Quoting Reagan's autobiography: “I think he understood the fire that was burning inside me—a drive to make something of myself—that had always burned inside him.” His father let Reagan borrow the family car to continue his quest.
His persistence eventually paid off. Dutch landed a job as a sports announcer at WOC in Davenport, Iowa, and met an unforgettable Scotsman named Peter MacArthur who is program director at the station. Dutch had never mentioned he was interested in sports at his previous interviews, but fortunately, this time, he tried a different approach. “This man gave me probably the most unusual audition that has ever been given,” Reagan later wrote in the letter. “He put me in the studio all by myself. I was to imagine a football game, broadcast it, and try to make him see it. Well, that is what I did—for about fifteen minutes.” Reagan raided his memories and colorfully described one of the games he played at Eureka in great detail. After the audition, the Scotsman “walked back into the studio and told me to be there on the following Saturday—I was broadcasting a Big Ten game, the Iowa-Minnesota homecoming game.”

“And that was the start of everything that has happened since,” declared Reagan years later when writing a letter about the best advice he ever received.  “But the advice that led to that was the thing—that it isn't necessary to have pull, or to have someone get you a position. If you really have faith, and will decide what it is you want to do, and then go out and knock on enough doors, you will find someone willing to gamble on even the most experienced person, as I was.”

Dutch worked the rest of the football season broadcasting Big Ten games and loving it.
To recap:
  1. Believe.
  2. Decide what you want to do.
  3. Persist.



The Evangelistic Nature of Suffering

2015-11-02T08:34:15.315-05:00

God reveals much in the Scriptures about those who suffer. One of His primary purposes in suffering is evangelism. When those who suffer are “not in any way terrified” by their persecutors, it is “to them a proof of perdition” (Philippians 1:28). It is also “an occasion for testimony” (Luke 21:13). Our suffering, even among the most severely persecuted, is truly “light affliction” (2 Corinthians 4:17) compared to those who are treasuring up for themselves “wrath in the day of wrath” (Romans 2:5) and for whom “the treasury of hail” (Job 38:22) may also be light compared to the undiluted wrath of God “poured out without mixture” (Revelation 14:10). Suffering for Christ is a small price to pay for those facing misery without hope and who need to hear the Good News.

We are not “as others who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). We have hope, and we have a great High Priest who can “sympathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15) and who “learned obedience by the things which He suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). Suffering builds our relationship with Jesus. When we suffer, we share in “the fellowship of His sufferings” (Philippians 3:10). Jesus also taught us to “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven” (Matthew 5:12; Luke 6:23). This is quite the opposite of being in any way terrified. Indeed, “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).

The Persecuted Church is the Vibrant Church. It is the Prevailing Church. Persecution is but a step along the way to becoming mighty “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19; Mark 1:17). This is the outlook of those who suffer, those for whom we pray and advocate. We don't like to hear about suffering, but it is powerful to hear from those who have suffered for the cause of Christ. Paul taught us to “hold such men in esteem because for the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his life” (Philippians 2:29-30).

We advocate for those suffering in order to advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This magnifies the ministry (Romans 11:13-15) of those who have suffered for the sake of the Gospel and stirs up the Church in the Gospel (2 Peter 1:12-14). Those who have suffered for Christ are well suited to tell others, “Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God” (1 Corinthians 15:34).



Reforming Conservatism

2015-02-20T16:54:40.685-05:00

In response to recent defeats and in the interest of moving beyond past successes, Jay Cost argues for reforming conservatism. His central point: “The animating impulse is not so much to increase or decrease the scope of the federal government, but to modify the way the government accomplishes its goals.”He is correct in that “smaller government” is a relative term that does not speak to what the correct size of government is. His reference to “the way the government accomplishes its goals” implies that the goals of government are already understood. I am not convinced this is the case.The role of government is to punish evil and praise good. Government should be large enough to punish as much evil as there is in the land. If there is not much evil, government does not need to be very big. Conversely, government should effectively praise good as well. “Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before unknown men” (Proverbs 22:29).Sometimes government can get its roles mixed up and praise evil or punish good. More subtle is when this begins as a government attempting to do good. Cost quotes our beloved 40th President Reagan, “Government is not the solution to the problem; government is the problem.” I would agree with the first part of that and narrow the second part to say “government outside its correct role is the problem.” A lack of vigilance to when government deviates from its rightful purposes gives rise to corruption.This is why, in addition to “sound policy on education, entitlements, regulation, and energy,” Cost argues, “Reform conservatism should also concern itself with political corruption, the systematic tendency of the government to favor narrow factions of society over the public good.” (To clarify, I consider “sound policy” with respect to those things to still only be punishing evil and praising good.)Cost is correct in that one form of corruption is when government favors “narrow factions of society.” Dick Morris recently noted the contrast in winning elections by identity politics and appealing to narrow factions vs. winning by messaging on principles that apply universally to everyone.Is corruption really “the systematic tendency of the government”?I would argue that corruption, called sin, is inherent to human nature (hence our need for the Gospel), and that our government is set up to systematically counterbalance this corruption. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts sinful man absolutely. This is why we have separation of powers. Parallel to Isaiah 33:22 we have three branches of government. No one branch of government has absolute power. This was the original ambition “made to counteract ambition,” as Cost quotes Madison. Some may corruptly exploit the limits of the system, but nonetheless, the principles on which that system is based remain true and useful for good government.If a nation rejects God and the Source of its blessings, including a system of government that follows God's Word and compensates for human nature, then it is no surprise to see vigilance decrease and corruption within that government increase.We may be seeing this now with the Affordable Care Act. In the name of lowering costs, the law tilts the balance of power heavily toward the administration and toward denying basic laws of supply and demand. This is not a systematic tendency of government, but a systematic tendency of this law enacted in defiance of our system of government and of basic laws of economics.A focus on corruption is only as useful as there is a tendency for corruption to exist and multiply in the first place. If conservatives become the anti-corruption people (feeding further still the ruse that they always oppose things), then laws like ACA give that cause reason to exist.Cost gives three reasons for his reform conservatism a[...]



The Christian life is about love

2015-02-10T14:21:56.300-05:00

Yesterday I wrote about how the Christian life is not about commands, and concluded pointing out it is about friendship. Today I want to pick up on that and point out that relationships shifting from commands and obedience to love and respect is a sign of maturity.In Ephesians 5:22-6:9 and Colossians 3:18-4:1, Paul has instructions for people in three pairs of relationships that men have: wives & husbands, children & fathers, and bondservants & masters. In the latter two, the language of commands makes sense early in the relationship. If a father gives his child instruction to clean his room, the child should clean his room. If a boss instructs his employee to do something, the employee should get it done. That command-obedience mindset, though, is for when the relationship lacks maturity.Mature children don't just clean their rooms when asked, but learn to have a clean room. Mature employees don't just do what their told, but learn good decision-making in the context of the organization's purpose, principles, parameters, and advice for operating. While God wants us to do what He tells us to do (as his children), He also wants us to get to know Him and his ways, and have a love relationship with Him (as his friends).About a decade ago, I came to a realization. I had often heard people say, “Christianity is a relationship, not a religion.” I finally thought about what that meant with the relationship part. I began looking at that relationship as I would through a marriage. Although I am single, I can still learn from Scripture about marriage and learn from others who are married. I filter teaching about a mature relationship with God through the question, “Would this make sense in a marriage?”Even in the early stages of marriage, I don't think of a healthy marriage as being based on commands and obedience. Any man who thinks he's supposed to point out to his wife that she should submit to him may have forgotten that his love for her is supposed to be as one who lays down his life for her. As I understand it, a marriage between individuals should be based on love and respect (in maturity), not commands and obedience (overcoming immaturity).The instructions God gave Adam and Eve in the first marriage demonstrate this well. He did not say, “I command you to be fruitful and multiply,” He simply said, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth…” If we think about what is necessary to live that out, it's rather obvious that those instructions do not need framing as a command that we must obey. The motivation is already there.If our only motivation for obeying God is that He is God and we're not, that seems to exclude just about everything else from the mature relationship that He wants to have with us. Human flourishing is not just about us all obeying the same set of commands, but about enjoying the freedom God has given us and exploring the life He wants to have with us.An example in the Old Testament of the kind of freedom God intends for us can be found in 2 Chronicles 12:8. I find the NIV or NCV draw out the point well: “But the people of Jerusalem will become Shishak's servants so they may learn that serving me is different than serving the kings of other nations.” The rule of God is not like the rule of men. The rule of men is tyranny. The rule of God is freedom.[...]



Why the Christian life is not about commands

2015-02-10T14:22:31.625-05:00

When I read Romans 14:23, I don't read, “Whatever is not of obeying the commandments is sin.” When I read Hebrews 11:6, I don't read, “without following the commandments it is impossible to please Him.” We are “not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14). Law was over us to point out our sin (Romans 7:7), punish our sin (Romans 13:4), and point us to Christ (Galatians 3:24). Grace is not an alternate to law to point out our sin, punish our sin, or point us to Christ. Grace is Christ over us lifting us up out of sin (Ephesians 2:5,8). We “live by faith” (Romans 1:17; Habakkuk 2:4), and “after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” (Galatians 3:25). “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4).When Jesus gave us his “new commandment” (John 13:34), it was of a completely different nature than the law. Unlike the law, His commands are “not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). Jesus did not say in John 13:35, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you obey my commandments.” While Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15), and made similar statements in John 14:21 and 15:10-11, I don’t know of anywhere that He says or even implies, “If you don't love, you're sinning.” It's a completely different focus. His command is about shifting the focus from law to love. “These things I command you, that you love one another” (John 15:17).Do we measure how well we love through how well we obey the commandments, or do we measure how well we obey His commandment by how well we love?I don't see anywhere in 1 Corinthians 13 law teaching us what love is. Galatians 5:22-23 suggests that law is totally unnecessary in the face of love. Law cannot give life (Galatians 3:21), and by implication cannot give love either. Law is all about duty. We're not under the law (Romans 6:14), and even so, love fulfills the law (Romans 13:8,10) and exceeds the law (Matthew 5:38-48).If love is nothing more than obeying a commandment, then what is the Gospel? Why did God love the world? Was He following a law? Was it a requirement that He send His Son? It was His “good pleasure” to send His Son (Luke 2:14), reveal His Son (Luke 10:21; Matthew 11:26; Ephesians 1:9), predestine us through His Son (Ephesians 1:5), and it is His “good pleasure” to work in us (Philippians 2:13)! It is our “good pleasure” to proclaim the Gospel (Philippians 1:15) and pray for the salvation of the lost (Romans 10:1).Paul asks, “Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law?” (Galatians 4:21). He literally frames the choice of being under the law or not as a choice between bondage (Galatians 4:24) and freedom (Galatians 4:26). He concludes by saying, “we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free” (Galatians 4:31). Jesus says, “Woe” to those who “load men with burdens hard to bear” (Luke 11:46). This stands in contrast to when he says, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). We know Jesus' commands by the ones that are “not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).When we truly understand that we are not under the law (Romans 6:14), that Christ came to set us free (John 8:32) and that we have been justified “freely by his grace” (Romans 3:24), then we have every reason not to be entangled again with a yoke of bondage (Galatians 5:1). 2 Corinthians 3:17 does not say “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is no sin,” but rather “there is liberty.” We have been “called to liberty” to “through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13). There is no love without freedom. Without freedom, good works are just duty. If our focus is on a duty to follow commandments so we do not sin, then there is no room for love to exceed the law. It is only in being “free from the law[...]



Your Turn Challenge Results

2015-01-24T20:08:12.016-05:00

I don't expect this post to be especially valuable. I'm mostly writing it because I took on the 7-day Your Turn Challenge in my own modified way, and today would be my day to finish it. Feel free to skip this over, as that would probably be a good demonstration of what I'm about to describe learning to do.

A week ago today, I was up super early in the morning. I had a little too much time on my hands. Upon discovering how much I found it useful to get certain feeds on a weekly basis, I multiplied how many things I got on a weekly basis. Technology lowers our minimum required value threshold.

This week I also started working with a company in sales. Telling them what I knew about sales helped convince them to bring me on board. Normal work time for them is afternoons and evenings on weekdays, and Saturdays.

Mornings make for the best writing time for me. Today my morning and early afternoon went to sales canvassing. The rest of my day has gone to catching up on (1) news and (2) emails—both simply for the purpose of collecting things to read. No, this did not make for an afternoon of reading, but simply collecting things I found interesting to read. After having only read a few things as I was going, I now have 89 things in my Pocket list to read. Neither the collection nor the reading thereof really constitute much of an accomplishment. This is probably little more than a demonstration of how susceptible I am to even mildly higher forms of clickbait.

It was a full news week. SOTU, March for Life, Virginia General Assembly meetings, just to name a few, and every big event also spins off a lot of other nuance stories. I have thoughts on how to keep up with events in a better way, and I find that even moving in that direction with any regularity is a challenge. Ultimately I hope to be one who generates content and may facilitate that for others as well. I don't see keeping up the Your Turn Challenge after this, at least on a daily nature. Weekly may work better. Nonetheless, the bills must be paid, and that pushes projects into the margins. Sometimes the margins are consumed just with planning. At any rate, I'm out of margin for today. See you next time, Lord willing.



One Day the Conductor Will Appear!

2015-01-23T07:00:06.399-05:00

J. Vernon McGee has preached all the way through the Bible. One day I was reading his remarks on Psalm 2:12, and he tells a story that has really stuck with me. Perhaps that is because we, too, “live in a world where every man is tooting his own little horn.” His comments follow:“Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” —Psalm 2:12The late Dr. George Gill used to tell us in class, “ ‘Kiss the Son’ is the Old Testament way of saying, ‘… Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved …’ (Acts 16:31).” “Kiss the Son.”Do you remember who kissed Him? Have you ever noted what our Lord said to Judas after he kissed Him? The theologians today argue about predestination and election and predetermination and foreknowledge, and that this man Judas could not help what he did since it had been prophesied he would do it. Now I’m going to let the theologians handle that. I’m just a poor preacher who doesn’t know very much; so I stay away from those problems and let the theologians solve them.However, after I listen to them awhile I have a sneaking feeling they haven’t solved them. Notice what the Bible says, and it is well to listen to the Bible rather than to the theologians.Remember at Jesus’ betrayal when Judas led the mob out to apprehend Jesus in the garden, he said, “I’ll identify him for you by kissing Him.” So he came to Jesus and kissed Him.Have you noted what Jesus said to him? “And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? …” (Matthew 26:50). Why did He say that? Didn’t He know why Judas had kissed Him? Of course He did. Then why did He call him friend? What did He mean?Let me suggest this. “Judas, you have just kissed Me, which has fulfilled prophecy, and has satisfied all the theologians who are going to come along. Now you are free to turn and accept Me, free to turn that kiss of betrayal into a kiss of acceptance. You can do that, Judas. You are a free moral agent.” And the Spirit of God says, “Kiss the Son. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”My friend, the Spirit of God today is in the world saying to mankind, “Kiss the Son before it is too late. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ before it is too late.” He is coming some day, and He is going to establish His kingdom here upon this earth. He is going to rule, and He is going to put down all rebellion. He will bring peace and harmony to this little earth.When I first went to Nashville, Tennessee, as a pastor, some friends, thinking they were doing me a favor, called me and said, “We have tickets for the symphony orchestra that’s coming to town, and we want to take you as our guest.” Well, I love music, but I know nothing about it; and I can’t sing it—I always help congregational singing by keeping quiet. Frankly, I can’t think of anything more boring than a whole evening of symphony! But I had to go because they were polite and I wanted to be polite, so I accepted graciously and went along.I had never been to a thing like that before, and I was impressed by what I saw. We went in, took our seats, and in a few moments the musicians began to drift out from the stage sides. They were in shirt sleeves for the most part, and each man went up to his instrument and started tuning it. The fellows with the fiddles too big to put under their chins sawed back and forth—oh, it sounded terrible. The fellows with the little ones they put under their chins squeaked up and down with those. The ones with the horns—oh my, nothing was in harmony. It was a medley of discordant, confused noise.Then after they got through with that kind of disturbance, they all disappeared again—[...]



The Top 6 Things I Learned About Giftedness

2015-01-27T11:31:06.309-05:00

It is from the late Howard Hendricks that I learned inductive Bible study.It is from his son Bill Hendricks that I learned inductive people study.Bill has made it his life's work to help people discover, what he calls, their giftedness. That is, how you are wired, what makes you tick, what makes you come alive.His book is called The Person Called You, and therein he describes how he has people tell stories about experiences in their lives they have found especially satisfying. From there he looks for patterns in abilities used, subject matter at hand, circumstances surrounding the experience, the role the person played in the situation, and what they found satisfying.It was a good read and worth my time. I recommend it.Kindle locations below are noted [in brackets].1. Teach a hammer how to look for nails. [619]Excerpt: “Let’s say that a hammer doesn’t know it’s a hammer. In other words, it doesn’t know what it was designed to do. Lacking that knowledge, it’s liable to go around breaking windows, putting dents in cars, or trying to drive screws.” Once a hammer understands its purpose, “From then on, that hammer won’t be looking for a job, it will be looking for nails.”2. What keeps someone at a task for 10,000 hours? [763]Excerpt: “people who end up at the top in any field get there as a result of one thing: they work harder than everyone else. In fact, much harder—ten thousand hours harder, to be exact. It’s called the Ten Thousand Rule. … From the standpoint of human motivation and how we choose to spend our lives, perhaps it’s the key question: What keeps someone at a task for ten thousand hours? … The only way you’ll do something for ten thousand hours and be productive at is is if you’re gifted to that task.”3. Your giftedness affects all of your relationships. [945]“If for no other reason, you do well to know something about giftedness in general and yours in particular because of the way it affects all of your relationships.”4. You can predict how you will react in a situation. [1606]“The best indicator of how well you know your giftedness is that you can use it to predict ahead of time what will happen if you place yourself in a given set of circumstances.”5. Your giftedness can shape a vision of your future. [2107]“A vision is a picture of what your life might look like at some point in the future if you really trust your giftedness … You can’t predict the future—except that you can predict that your giftedness will still be operating. … You start with your giftedness and then describe what you would actually be doing if you used it on a daily basis. … A vision is a North Star that guides your path. It keeps you aligned with your giftedness. … Your next job needs to put you one step closer to your ultimate vision.”6. We must let our giftedness rest. [2939]“Sabbath, or rest, is not a quaint custom of a bygone era that is slowly fading from the stage. Yes, society may be gradually setting aside the rituals and customs associated with Sabbath. But Sabbath was never about a custom or a day but about a reality built into the fabric of the world and the nature of human beings. We were designed to work, and to that end we were each given a gift. But we were not made to work all the time. At some point and in some way, we’re supposed to rest, which means letting our gift rest.” frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ss&ref=ss_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=mountaintopbo-20&marketplace=amazon®ion=US&placement=B00H3V4YZQ&asins=B00H3V4YZQ&linkId=IIAIFUZPSACY4LNB&[...]



The Essence of Sales

2015-01-21T21:53:09.143-05:00

Sales help keep the economy going. If you work in sales and want to learn how to do things better, you may find something here helpful. If you want to know how the process works, you're welcome to read this, too.The heartbeat of the sale is the buying sign. Learning to recognize them and maximizing their potential is what a salesman does. It begins with creating an environment in which these signs can emerge.When I was at RadioShack they taught us about what they called the four stages of selling: greet, qualify, present, and close.GreetThe sales process begins at the moment you begin the interaction with the customer. While some people put a lot of stock into first impressions, I think the most meaningful first impression is when the salesman begins to actively engage the customer.One would hope that greeting a customer would be part of naturally being friendly with other people. If it is not as natural for you, here are a couple basic pointers: smile, and look people in the eye. Those two things can set you off on a good start. Handshakes are generally reserved for higher end transactions, or maybe at the end of lower end transactions.Note: In retail, if you have people walking in the door, you begin with an advantage in that you know they are already thinking about your products. Cold calls or canvassing (door knocking, telemarketing) usually require some kind of sales pitch.QualifyOnce the initial relationship is established, the first step is to ask the customer open-ended questions to figure out the customer's needs. An open question is one to which the responses can be anything. What are you looking for today? How can we help you? What brings you here today? What are you trying to accomplish? How are you trying to do your project? They usually begin with words like “What” and “How.”You want to make sure you have established an understanding of the customer's purpose or intent in making a purchase. Build the customer's confidence that you are working on their behalf. Once you begin to get an idea of the product the customer is seeking, then you can begin to steer the conversation toward the products that you have available.PresentOnce you begin to offer your products to the customer, you have entered the presentation stage of the conversation, though there might still be more qualifying to come later. It is very important to thoroughly know your inventory, selection, menu, or whatever you have available to sell. This can also help you better qualify the customer, too.It is worth noting at this point that integrity is very important. A quick story: One day during Hurricane Isabel I had some customers in town who were displaced from their home in Virginia Beach. They came in browsing around and one of them had a lot of questions about our products. I had a lot of answers. The conversation volleyed back and forth several times, and then they hit on a question to which I did not know the answer. At that point I simply said, “I don't know.” And then the customer said, “Now I trust you.” It was a very poignant moment in understanding not just the importance of integrity, but also of building trust with a customer.Focus your presentation on what you have available to sell. SWAT. Sell What's Available Today. No one is particularly helped by discussing products past, present, future that are not available right now. When people are ready to move, it is best to move with them on that readiness to act. Strike while the iron is hot.During your presentation, pay close attention to how your customer reacts. Specifically, you are looking for buying signs. These are indications that the customer is mentally engaging your product and thinking about how their life would be better after having pu[...]



How to Write a Great Paper the Night Before It's Due

2015-01-22T08:10:25.347-05:00

That was the tagline that inspired hundreds of high school students to gather at 6am for breakfast one day to hear a Student Venture speaker. It also helped that he was a triple major from Harvard.His basic message was one of a three-step process of preparation for one to undertake leading up to the night before a writing assignment must be submitted that he called “Load, Relax, and Capture.”1. Load.Remaining mindful of the time between when an assignment was given and when it was due, the first step is to begin introducing yourself to the topic. Along the way of everyday life, read articles, material, etc. Become familiar with people, things, and ideas related to the topic.And that's about it for that step. Maybe note a source reference to make the bibliography easier to write later.The next two steps work in tandem together:2. Relax.Forget about the paper, the assignment, school, etc. Go about your daily life.That's it. Don't try to force the work on the paper.3. Capture.He described how as you are going about your normal daily life, our minds are wired to percolate on ideas under the surface, and every once in a while, a great idea will come to us that would be relevant to our paper. Because thoughts have a very short half-life—maybe 15 seconds—it is essential to always have at the ready a way to capture those ideas.He told a story about how one time some people wanted to study a particular individual—he might have been an executive—who was especially creative. They worked out an arrangement to follow him around for a while to study him and his habits. They weren't noticing anything particularly unusual about how he did things or what he did. The time came for him to fly across the country—perhaps a meeting. The guy tilted his head back to doze off. The researchers thought their study was going on pause. It turns out that's actually when things got interesting. Every once in a while, he would come to, pull out a pad, quickly write something down, put it back, and then go back to dozing off. They asked him later what was going on, and he told them he was writing ideas down. Some of his best ideas came to him that way.Capturing ideas can happen many times over while one is assigned to work on a paper. The idea is to gather all those ideas one has captured into one place so that when the night before the paper comes due, you have a lot of material at your disposal for including in the paper. (If it's a larger project, it's better if that writing starts two or three days before its due.) My tool of choice for capturing became a pen in my right pocket and a pad of Post-It notes in my left.Pen and paper still have major advantages over a screen. You can precisely put as many marks as you want anywhere on the page.— Developer Letter (@DeveloperLetter) September 22, 2013Recently I have discovered an online tool that is almost as flexible as a large writing area: Trello. If you've ever used a good outlining tool before, think of Trello as an easy and powerful version of that kind of functionality. It makes it easy to keep track of the big picture on a project or collection of ideas while also storing away a lot of detail for follow up later.Trello is actually designed to accommodate the Kanban method, though I don't really use it much for that. It also has some good collaboration capabilities. If you like lists and lists of lists, Trello is a very useful tool. I once read about a company using Trello for managing its writing production, and they had 47 and 36 writing ideas in Trello at the time for their two blogs. Perhaps it speaks to both my potential and lack of accomplishment that I have a lot more ideas stored away in Trello.It has its limits,[...]



Spring Forth

2015-01-19T14:10:55.622-05:00

One of the ways to know you are a writer is you cannot help but write. The seeds of writing are always available and often planted. Some finally spring forth into something final for publication.

The powerful thing about words is they have meaning. They are not just marks on a page or sounds coming out of our mouths. The goal is to see that meaning, that intent, reflected off the understanding of others. One's writing is an expression of oneself with a purpose beyond oneself.

It is in this way that writers reflect their very nature as beings created in the image of God, the God spoke things into existence, who describes things which do not exist as though they did. God Himself is the very Word made flesh. That God!

Of Him the prophet Isaiah wrote, “Behold, the former things have come to pass, And new things I declare; Before they spring forth I tell you of them.”

God is a writer, too! He's been writing or speaking since the beginning. We know many of the things he has declared still have yet to “spring forth,” and we are still looking forward to seeing them unfold. Some of them have been waiting for us.

What things well up within your soul? What are those things that can come forth from you that will change others forever? How do you uniquely reveal more of God's image? How can you point us to Jesus in ways that only you can? We look forward to seeing them spring forth!



Stucco Them

2015-01-17T08:23:36.203-05:00

I've discovered that with certain writers and producer-people, I like to keep up with them on a weekly basis. Daily is a bit frequent and more for regular news. The weekends tend to be slower for news, and life in general, which is good for slower reading, video watching, thinking, etc. It's already producing amazing results.It turns out that Saturday is one of my favorite days to get up super early. I didn't get to bed early last night, but my neighbors helped motivate my early rise just after 4 this morning. (I discovered a while back that even if I wake up at 2- or 3-something, I should still rest until at least 4am. Otherwise, it's an easy way to get sick.)I've recently started using IFTTT and their email digest channel which has a weekly option. Pipe into that from the feed channel, and you're good to go for weekly RSS. This morning I had 8 weekly digest emails waiting for me (set for 3am Saturday) that all came in just after 3:30. Perfect timing. I made my initial reading and run through all 8 emails in about 16 minutes. Some things I read just in the email, others I opened and read in a browser, a few I saved in Pocket, and then the rest were videos which I watched for just over an hour until about 7am.One of the weekly digests was from Seth Godin's blog. I've read his material before, and I've enjoyed it. He's in the idea business. He makes me think, and I enjoy that. I've read his material on a daily basis before, and while good material, in the past I have found it to be “one more thing” to do each day. In the end, I've decided the burden outweighed the benefit and I could live without keeping up. Today, though, on the weekly basis, it didn't feel like a burden at all. It was a very fluid process reading his short posts and his longer posts in one single stream.And then there was the winning post that won about half of the hour I spent watching videos: the one week challenge. (I view the valuable part of that hour as my time; Seth views it as my attention.) I opened the links, and they were basically about his book, and a follow-up challenge.I watched all the videos in those two links. If you read and watch enough Seth, a couple themes emerge: permission to fail, freedom to be wrong, commitment to fish or cut bait, etc. This very post here is an answer to my time spent giving Seth's ideas my attention this morning. I'm not necessarily taking the 7-day challenge. I believe in a day of rest. And I've been inspired by Seth's writing before about building a blog, though not fully carried that idea to fruition. In one of the videos he talked about how we all know that guy who talks for 19 years about an idea he's going to launch. I'm sure for many people, I'm that guy. As one of my friends often says, “Don't be that guy.” So, not today.Recently I've discovered the usefulness of the voice dictation upgrades in iOS 8. (In fact, even in writing this post I realized that makes for a new reason to download the Blogger iOS app. After all, I could use it to draft posts or at least capture ideas.) As I was noting how I spent my morning, when I said the name “Seth Godin,” iOS' first guess was that I had said, “stucco them.” In some ways this is perfect: Seth Godin is all about throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks. Permission to fail. Freedom to be wrong. Stucco them.[...]



Two Simple Questions for Evaluating Any Law

2014-01-27T15:00:04.944-05:00

After one understands the two purposes of government, one then has a basis for evaluating how well human government is submitted to those purposes.To review, the two purposes of government are to (a) punish those who do evil, and (b) praise those who do good.There are two parts to look at in every law: the action of those governed, and the governments reaction to it.The first question: Is the action of those governed good or evil?The second question: Is the reaction of the government to praise or to punish?Fundamentally, it's really that simple. Some examples:The death penalty for murder.Murder is evil. Death is a punishment. Good law.(There are also other punishments for murder such as lifetime incarceration that also punish evil, and there are reasons to further examine how the state implements its most severe punishments.)Congressional Gold Medal.The history of the United States has had many heroes. The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest form of praise from the Congress of the United States. Praising those who do good is good law.Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before unknown men (Proverbs 22:29).Commending Resolutions.When the Republicans won control of the House in 2010, they proposed a change to the Rules of the House that would end most commending resolutions. While there may have been good intentions behind this change, it has resulted in neglect of one of the fundamental roles of government.Prohibiting the praising of those who do good is bad policy. Good does not need incentives or rewards, but it should be praised by those in authority.Work.Man should work, and if he's unwilling to work, he shouldn't eat. The natural law punishment for not working is hunger. In such cases, government punishment is not necessary.Sometimes governments institute policies in defiance of natural law. This is not just a matter of praising those not doing good, but actually rewarding them. So-called "anti-poverty" programs championed by Democrats fall into this category. These would include programs like food stamps and unemployment benefits that pay people when they are not working. These are bad policies.If someone could live on $1,200 per month, one could also become dependent on that funding if provided by the government. While members of Congress work hard for the American people, they can also lose touch with the effects of their policies on the American people.Adhering to good criteria for public policies would help avoid unintended consequences.[...]



The Increase of His Government

2013-12-26T09:53:13.669-05:00

To us a Child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder.

And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
Isaiah 9:6-7

How good is this news, that government increases forever?

To answer that question, it helps to look at the purposes of government as described in the Bible: (1) punish the evildoers, and (2) praise the virtuous.

We know that there are no evildoers in heaven (Revelation 21:27). Only those who are saved go to heaven. (And anyone can be saved!)

That means there is only one purpose for government in heaven: to praise the righteous—those who are saved who are righteous in Jesus Christ.

Think about that. The purpose of government in heaven is to praise others. Yes, Jesus will be praising us throughout time in heaven!

How is that for an amazing thought? That's how much He loves us!

Other Scriptures speak to this as well. Our praise "is not from men but from God" (Romans 2:29). That means our praise is from God!

We will be praising Him, and He will be praising us. It is a two-way relationship.

This is also consistent with other Scriptures that describe how in the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, "He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power" (1 Corinthians 15:24).

May the good news of His government and peace increase forever!



The Values of Alexander Hamilton

2013-02-11T16:20:17.483-05:00

During his (New York) Assembly tenure that (1787) spring, Hamilton voted on two measures that suggested ambivalent feelings about his childhood.

Oddly enough, he supported a bill making it impossible for people divorced due to adultery to remarry. Such a draconian statute in the Danish West Indies had prevented Hamilton's parents from legitimizing his birth. If this vote suggests some latest hostility toward his mother, another vote betokens tenderness for her.

The Assembly was debating a bill that aimed to deter mothers of illegitimate children from killing them at birth. One controversial clause stipulated that if the child died, the unwed mother had to produce a witness who could corroborate that the child had been stillborn or died from natural causes.

It bothered Hamilton that the mother would have to admit openly that she had given birth to an illegitimate child. One newspaper account showed Hamilton's empathy:

Mr. Hamilton observed that the clause was neither politic or just. He wished it obliterated from the bill.

To show the propriety of this, he explained feelingly on the delicate situation it placed an unfortunate woman in. . . . From the concealment of the loss of honor, her punishment might be mitigated and the misfortune end here. She might reform and be again admitted into virtuous society.

The operation of this law compelled her to publish her shame to the world. It was to be expected therefore that she would prefer the danger of punishment from concealment to the avowal of her guilt. (The Daily Advertiser, February 10, 1787)
When Samuel Jones supported the measure, Hamilton refuted him "in terms of great cogency" and convinced the Assembly to side with him. That Hamilton argued so strenuously for this measure hints at surviving hobgoblins from the Caribbean that still hovered uneasily in his mind.
—Ron Chernow, Alexander Hamilton, 2004, pp. 226-227.



Remembering Michael Schwartz

2013-02-04T21:08:02.802-05:00

Michael Schwartz passed away yesterday.  At the end of November, Senator Coburn honored Michael on the Senate floor.   Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I wish to take a moment to honor a member of my staff who is not retiring but as a result of his ailment can no longer come to work on the Hill. This gentleman's name is Michael Schwartz. He has been my chief of staff for almost 15 years, beginning while I was in the House and here in the Senate as well.   A lot of people on the Hill know Michael. What they know is that he is one of the kindest, gentlest people anyone has ever met. He has been a light focused on how we do things to honor other people.   Michael has been the kind of person who has always focused on others, especially those in need. He is the kind of person who doesn't pass up the homeless we all see around the Capitol but stops and tries to satisfy their need. He offers them money and food, but he also offers them friendship and his time. He offers them the love and dignity that comes from being reminded that we are all children of the Creator.   Mike has also been an unapologetic defender of the family and of those who cannot defend themselves, whether that be the disability community, the unborn, the infirm, or the elderly. He has reminded me and my staff and all of us that a society is truly measured in how it treats and cares for those less fortunate.   Mike is also a voracious reader and gifted leader. In a city where people stop learning when they gain power, Mike has shown that the closer one gets to power, the more one needs to humble oneself and learn new things. He has been mentoring staff and others for years on the Hill in both reading groups and Bible studies, where he has shared his wisdom, his faith, and his heart.   As many in the Senate know, Mike has ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease. For weeks, he has been battling--actually months--to continue to fulfill his responsibilities here when most of us would have said: It is too difficult, I can't do it. He has overcome challenges that most of us can scarcely imagine. He has done so with grace, humility, and an unbelievable level of courage. Through all this, we have watched him inspire everybody on my team with both his spirit and his tenacity.   In these difficult circumstances, Mike has been an extraordinary servant and faithful leader. He is still the guy who cares more about other people than himself. The kindness he has shown to everyone he has encountered, whether to a homeless person on the street or a leading Senator in the halls, he has reminded our team and me that we are all equal regardless of position in the eyes of God.   Let me close with a passage from 2 Corinthians that reminds me so very much of Mike.   It is written: ``I believed; therefore I have spoken.'' Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people--   That wonderful word ``grace,'' too often a shortage in Washington, that Mike so well displays--   may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore, we do not lose heart.   Mike, don't lose heart.   Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renew[...]



Marriage Policy Preservation

2013-01-07T16:40:36.059-05:00

This is a specific look at the Scriptures that speak to marriage, especially as would be relevant to a discussion of public policy.From Genesis to Revelation, marriage is a picture of our relationship with God.Genesis 2[18] And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” [19] Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. [20] So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him. [21] And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. [22] Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. [23] And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” [24] Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. [25] And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.Isaiah 61[10] I will greatly rejoice in the LORD,My soul shall be joyful in my God;For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation,He has covered me with the robe of righteousness,As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments,And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.We see Jesus' affirmation of marriage in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark.Matthew 19[4] And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ [5] “and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? [6] “So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”Mark 10[5] And Jesus answered and said to them, “Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. [6] “But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’ [7] ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, [8] ‘and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. [9] “Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”Ephesians 5[25] Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, [26] that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, [27] that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. [28] So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. [29] For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. [30] For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. [31] “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” [32] This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. [33] Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let[...]



For Evangelicals Defending Freedom

2013-01-04T10:46:53.784-05:00

Daniel Darling is my friend and pastor for a family member in the Chicago area, and he has called on evangelicals to speak up about guns. He and I have engaged on this issue before. He publicly raises some good points and other points worth a response, so I thought I would answer his call here."The Bible doesn’t clearly express an opinion on the possession of guns, but many evangelicals defend the unlimited distribution of firearms with the same fervor that they defend biblical orthodoxy."Somewhat to my surprise, an opportunity to "defend biblical orthodoxy" came along sooner than expected, even since I read his recent year-ending post. It has already reached the top 5 of the most popular posts on this blog ever (which may not be saying much). I don't think this will post will rise to the level of "fervor" (thoroughness, in this case, perhaps) as that, but we shall see."According to a recent Public Religion Research Institute survey, 8% of white evangelical Protestants favor tighter gun laws."And I would say, please count me among the 92% that do not favor more gun laws. Points of Agreement"...in the wake of yet another deadly school shooting, it’s time for evangelicals to contribute to the national discussion..."I agree. Evangelicals should regularly be contributing to the national discussion. We may also have more such opportunities on immigration reform, and Daniel and I have more agreement on that issue."Even President Barack Obama and other influential voices have called for a balanced approach that looks not only at guns but also at mental illness, violent video games and a culture of fatherlessness that produces young troubled men."I agree that fatherlessness is a huge issue and merits more attention and prayer.A Time"Still evangelicals should not defend the use, proliferation and availability of assault weapons with as much vigor as they defend their faith.""To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven" (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Thus, I would disagree that one "should not" ever outweigh the other. It's quite subjective to measure "as much vigor."Question: What weapon isn't an assault weapon? If a machine fires a bullet, it fires a bullet. To put "assault" in front of that is a reference to something external to the nature of the device itself in that it only speaks to how it is used. If I fire a bullet into the ground, have I assaulted the ground?The clearest distinction when it comes to guns is whether or not they are automatic weapons or not. Automatic weapons, like machine guns, are devices that when you pull and hold the trigger, it repeatedly fires without any additional effort. Semi-automatic weapons operate on a one-bullet-per-trigger-fire principle, and do not require special action to reload. And there's everything else down to my grandpa's old muzzle loader that was a multi-minute process to reload between rounds.The discussion of "assault weapons" raises the emotional level of a discussion about semi-automatic weapons to the level of a discussion of automatic weapons. For that reason, I am do not prefer to use the term "assault weapons" as I find it to be misleading.Roles of Government"On one level, the Bible affirms the government's first and most basic job..."There are two specific Biblical roles for any government: punish those who do evil, and praise those who do good. "...the government's first and most basic job (is) to protect its citizens..."I disagree with our current and previous Presidents[...]



The Two Biblical Purposes of Government

2013-12-31T14:38:43.524-05:00

There are two sections of the New Testament that both speak clearly and directly to the two purposes of government, and both can also easily be misused. This post is an attempt to give clarity to these passages, the purposes of government, and how Christians should respond to governments that do and do not stay within these purposes.Romans 13Paul wrote to the church in Rome, the capital of the world at the time, about the role of government. The first four verses of Romans 13:"[1] Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. [2] Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. [3] For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. [4] For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil."While it indeed says, the ruler "is God's minister to you for good," it also gets very specific about what he does that makes for that ministering for good.First, rulers are "a terror ... to evil" (v. 3) and "to execute wrath on him who practies evil" (v. 4). Second, he will give "praise" to those who "Do what is good" (v. 3).1 Peter 2Peter identifies the exact same two purposes for government: "[13] Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether to the king as supreme, [14] or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good" (1 Peter 2:13-14).Governors are sent by him to punish evildoers and praise those who do good. Those two things, as the Bible explains, are the fundamental purposes of any government of men that has, does, or will exist on earth.Civil DisobedienceThis also forms the Biblical basis for civil disobedience: when government goes outside punishing evil or praising good, especially punishing good, then civil disobedience is appropriate.The apostles said as much when they concluded, "We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). There is a Biblical place for civil disobedience, and it's very important to be crystal clear on where that is.If one is not clear on these issues and the full context of these passages, then one can easily be mislead into thinking that "God's minister to you for good" or "submit yourselves to every ordinance" would mean we should always obey government, and that is not the case.Necessity of GovernmentThe only reason earthly government of men must exist is because evil must have consequences. Good does not need consequences. Thus the main purpose of government is to punish evil. I believe God in his wisdom gave the role of praising good as an additional role for government to balance out government's role with punishing evil. It's also important to note there are inherent problems with government ever going beyond praising good to promoting good or doing good itself.December 2013 Update: Some of the language in this post was updated from "roles" to "purposes."[...]



Virginia Cider Week

2013-01-10T16:28:25.765-05:00

HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 105Offered January 11, 2012Prefiled January 11, 2012Designating the full week before Thanksgiving, in 2012 and in each succeeding year, as Virginia Cider Week in Virginia.----------Patrons-- Englin and Scott, E.T.----------Referred to Committee on Rules----------WHEREAS, since Colonial times, cider has played an important role in the cultural and culinary heritage of the Commonwealth and nation; andWHEREAS, early settlers planted orchards and fermented the juice from the apples, yielding a beverage that provided essential vitamins and nutrients during lean winters, while vinegar, made from the cider, was used for antiseptic and medicinal purposes; andWHEREAS, Thomas Jefferson, at his beloved Monticello in Virginia’s beautiful Piedmont region, planted two orchards specifically for cider production, sharing the hearty beverage with his family and many guests; andWHEREAS, as settlers planted seedling orchards, they developed new varieties of apples that were particularly well suited to the climate and soils of the new land, many of which continue to be grown today; andWHEREAS, over time, as the nation shifted from an agrarian to industrial society, and with the advent of Prohibition, the number of orchards producing apples for cider and cider production diminished; andWHEREAS, over the past several years, cider production has experienced a resurgence, with five hard cider producers currently operating in the Commonwealth and more expected to open in 2012; andWHEREAS, the cider industry enhances the preservation of agricultural lands, contributes to the Commonwealth’s agricultural industry, provides additional opportunities for agritourism, and encourages individuals to enjoy a traditional Virginia beverage; andWHEREAS, Virginia cider serves as an excellent complement to many cuisines, especially those traditional dishes commonly enjoyed during the holiday season; now, therefore, be itRESOLVED by the House of Delegates, the Senate concurring, That the General Assembly designate the full week before Thanksgiving, in 2012 and in each succeeding year, as Virginia Cider Week in Virginia; and, be itRESOLVED FURTHER, That the Clerk of the House of Delegates post the designation of this week on the General Assembly’s website.[...]



The cost of green tape, yellow tape, and red tape

2012-07-30T18:57:34.347-04:00

[Time: 12:20]   Mr. KELLY. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to this motion.   The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is the gentleman opposed to the motion?   Mr. KELLY. Yes.   The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman from Pennsylvania is recognized for 5 minutes. width="400" height="300" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/F1YQDjpuY_U" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>   Mr. KELLY. Mr. Speaker, in 2011, we came to this House for one reason, and it was a motion to recommit. We recommitted to the people of the United States that we were going to change the way business was done in this town. This motion to recommit is a joke. This is ridiculous.   Let me tell you about what it's like to be in the real world and not inside the Beltway. I operate a business that my father started back in 1953, after being a parts picker in a General Motors warehouse, going to fight the war, and coming back home. I called our body shop manager today, Jason Sholes. He's been with me for 26 years. I said to Jason, ``I need to know the cost of tape, Jason.'' He goes, ``What are you talking about, Mike?'' I said, ``In our body shop, when people wreck their car and bring their car in, I know we have to use a lot of tape.'' He said, ``Oh, my goodness. Has the cost of tape gone crazy. We use two types of tape, Mike. We use green tape. Green tape is the tape we use when we have to use water on a job, and we have to make sure that the tape sticks, and that's up to $4 a roll.''   I said, ``Tell me about the other tape.'' He said, ``The other tape is yellow tape.'' I said, ``Tell me about the yellow tape.'' He said, ``That's when we're going to paint a car, and we don't have to use the green tape. The yellow tape is a little less expensive. It's only $2 a roll. But, Mike, I've got to tell you that we're spending $160 a month on tape, and it's really making me wonder about whether I'm doing the right thing.''   I said, ``Jason, we're spending about $2,000 a year on green and yellow tape?'' He said, ``Yes, we are.'' I said, ``Jason, do you know what the cost of red tape is?'' He goes, ``I have no idea. We don't use red tape.'' I said, ``Yes, we do. It's $1.75 trillion.'' That's the cost of red tape.   I called my friend Don Shamey at NexTier Bank. I said, ``Don, we've know each other since we were kids. Our wives know each other, and our kids grew up together. We do a lot of things together. I've done business with you for 40 years. You're right across the street from me. Don, tell me about the new regulations.'' He said, ``Mike, if you take a look at it, there's 1,100 pages now that are the definition of whether you're a qualified borrower or not.'' I said, ``It only took 1,100 pages for the government to determine what the definition of a qualified borrower is? Are you kidding me? Do you mean to sit here and say that you are serious?''   We renovated a ballpark in my hometown with a guy named Tom Burnatowski, a veteran. It took us a couple of million dollars to renovate[Page: H5319]our ballpark. The day we were going to open up, I got a call at the dealership where he said, ``Mike, could you come down.'' I said, ``Why? What's going on.'' He said, ``We're having trouble with the occupancy permit.'' I went down to see. I said, ``What's the problem?'' He said, ``Come into the[...]