Showing posts from November, 2015

Leading at a Distance?

When I look back at the leaders who have influenced my life the most, I find that they were primarily people that I have known personally. I felt valued by their relationship and approachability and therefore opened myself up to them and to their ideas. Those leaders won my following because they connected with me and went out of their way to show that they cared about me. Relatability is a definite strength of leadership. So is vulnerability. Which is why I was slightly confused about a certain former President of the United States: George Washington. I am sluggishly chipping away at Ron Chernow’s biography entitled: Washington a life, and I was surprised to find out that George Washington’s leadership style was not at all the approachable and relatable kind that I have found so influential personally. Washington was often described as “aloof” and hard to figure out. In public Washington held his cards close to his chest. People were mystified by this man, but they nevertheless follow…

Book in Review: Being Nixon

I am new to the world of Nixon, but have always been interested in the mystery of the man. A figure so maligned by critics and history alike draws not only my sympathy but a desire to understand him. What led him to heights so great and a decline so tragic? What motivated him to allow the White House secret arm of dirty tricks? And why did he cover up Watergate, paying off those involved not to talk?

I found Being Nixon ambitious. How do you try to understand a man who does not understand himself? Evan Thomas attempts to do this very thing as he walks through the childhood, adult, and political life of Nixon. I found his work excellent. He is objective in his writing, maybe a hint sympathetic. As I read, I found myself rooting for RN, grimacing as I saw the road signs warning of the collapse to come.

The truth about Nixon is that he was terribly convoluted. He was a mystery and Thomas captures this beautifully. Nixon was a shy introvert who was observably relaxed next to dictators. He …

Ramblings about Black Friday

I want to begin by saying that Black Friday is not evil. It is a legitimate time for good deals and good deals are most definitely a good thing. I have gone Black Friday shopping before--maybe I'll go later today.

I will say however that what we spend our time doing tells a lot about us. What we spend our money on tells a lot about us. What we stand in line for hours tells a lot about what we value. Our actions will always eventually reveal our hearts.

So when I see the annual "pilgrimage" to malls and retailers every year known as Black Friday--where thousands of people stand in line, wait overnight, scour every row and aisle for the latest deal--I think it is revealing about what our culture values: stuff.

We love stuff in America. We have so much of it that I do not even think we realize how much stuff we have. Sometimes it takes a trip outside the comfortable walls of our homes or even our country to recognize that: "man, we really love stuff." I had one suc…

Revive us again

Creation is groaning. Can you hear it? Attacks in Paris. Attacks in Beirut. Refugees fleeing Syria at a historical pace. We currently live in a world where human beings are trafficked like beasts. And where unborn children are slaughtered by the thousands in the name of choice.

And we groan along with all of creation: “How much longer will things be this way?”
What we need is healing on a massive scale. We need the world to be changed and restored. To whom do we turn? With new elections coming up we can always hope for new policies or procedures that will make things right. Maybe we could fix income inequality and revive humanity’s potential. Science could discover new technologies to fix our climate and global conditions to in turn make societies peaceful. Right?
Wrong. Our problem is so much deeper. The problem is us. It is inside of us. As G.K. Chesterton said over a century ago: The problem is Me.
We need help. What we cry for is for is intervention of the Divine. For God to revive u…

My top ten Pixar movies

Today I ran across one of those online slideshows that have no other purpose than to waste your time entitled: Every Pixar Movie, Ranked From Worst to Best. Of course I clicked on it and was slightly disturbed by the conclusions that were made (Inside Out was listed as the best...). Below is my own list:

10. Monsters University. As most sequels generally never live up to the grandeur of the original(except for the Toy Story trilogy), Monsters University was far from the first. But I am still glad they brought the beloved Mike Wazowski and Sullivan back. Great characters--and good story.

9. Inside Out. I have only seen this movie once. It was creative, colorful, and intense--but it lacked the quality of the earlier Pixar masterpieces. I was also disappointed that they showed the funniest scene in its entirety in the previews. Why do we watch movies anyways?

8. Toy Story I. This is a classic that keeps getting better and better. As a kid, I was slightly disturbed by Sid and his Frankenstei…

Taking God at His Word

“‘Go,’ Jesus replied, ‘your son will live.’ The man took Jesus at his word and departed.”--John 4:50

Last night at our Awaken Bible Study our small group ran across this verse in the book of John. The context is that of a desperate nobleman whose son is at the “point of death.” This man had heard that Jesus was in the area, went over twenty miles to find him, and upon finding him--he begged. The character of this nobleman is that of desperation, of stopping at nothing until his son was healed.

Though Jesus rebukes the man for limiting his power to a specific location, the nobleman keeps asking. He does not care: just come heal my son! Jesus stays true to form and rewards the desperate persistence. He tells him to leave, “your son will live.”

How would you have responded in this situation? Would you have believed him? Would you have kept asking for Jesus to come to your house to save your son--even after he said that he will live? I find the official’s reaction profound yet simple: H…

The gift of struggle

Anfechtung. There is not an English equivalent for this German word. "It may be a trial sent by God to test man or an assault from the Devil to destroy man. It is all the doubt, turmoil, pang, tremor, panic, despair, desolation, and desperation which invade the spirit of man" (Bainton, 31).

Have you ever experienced Anfechtung? This is not your run of the mill struggle or your mild mannered sadness. This is a brutal onslaught that pulls you down to the depths. A ferocious attack that breaks you and does not leave you once you have been broken. Personally speaking I have never experienced a depression of this intensity; but I know people who have.

Someone who did experience this "Blitzkrieg of the soul" was a certain Martin Luther. We remember him today as the great and imperfect reformer who helped bring the church back to the truth of the Scripture. He was the man who defiantly nailed the 95 thesis to the church in Wittenberg, sparking the fires of the eventual blaz…

Book in Review: Hole in our Holiness

I have read this book twice, and probably will read it again. DeYoung writes "Hole in Our Holiness" with clarity and conviction--addressing a void in the American church: Holiness. We preach grace, grace, and more grace (and rightfully so!), but if the extravagance of God does not call us to chase after holiness we have missed the point of grace. A modern message that forgives but does not call is nothing more than licentiousness--A free pass to heaven that conveniently ignores the purpose of salvation.

DeYoung reveals how central holiness is to the gospel message. In fact, one of the primary reasons for Christ saving His people is so that they will be holy(1 Peter 1:15-16, 2 Corinthians 7:1..etc)! DeYoung shows how this is not just the eventual: "in eternity I will be holy" but it is a call today to be holy. And though complete holiness is not yet fully attainable--we CAN grow in it by the grace of God. We can be obedient children today.

The most helpful chapter fo…

Do you suffer from E.E.S?

E.E.S. is a serious condition. Doctors do not yet know about it, (and there is a chance that I made it up) But it is still a serious condition. In fact, everyone suffers from E.E.S. to some degree. Do not be fooled, it is dangerous; and if you show any of the symptoms described below, seek help at once.

E.E.S (also known as Earthly Eye Syndrome) is something that is obvious to see in the gospel of John. Nicodemus in John chapter 3 had a serious case. The Samaritan woman who met Jesus at the well of Jacob also suffered from the malady. And if you think that just because you have spent some time with Jesus that you are clear from the threat of the Syndrome, think again. The disciples in John 4 seemed to have some of the worst cases of E.E.S. yet recorded in the book!
In all three of the cases above we see a preoccupation with the physical world. In all three we see complete confusion in response to the words of Jesus--which makes this condition very dangerous. Let’s look briefly into eac…

Why I am not mad at Chip Kelly

I am a Philadelphia Eagles fan. If you do not know the sorrowful implications of that self-deprecating statement, consider yourself fortunate. Throughout my childhood my dad’s painful words “maybe next year” were an annual tradition. Sure, my football team has made it close to winning the Super Bowl—actually several times in recent memory. But no one cares about close. The truth is that the Philadelphia Eagles have never won a Super Bowl. Never. Ever. And that means we are bad.

But a fan base that is notoriously known for their passion and an “adore you one moment hate and curse you the next” attitude always expects greatness. Why? No clue. I wonder if we are just so starved for a championship (and not NFC East Championship) that it gives us a diluted sense of optimism. Every year we put ourselves “out there” thinking this year could be the year—and every year we come up empty.
That is why I am not mad at Chip Kelly. Chip Kelly (the Eagles coach) came in 2012 with an incredibly successf…

It's not how you start

I have been experiencing a lot of “new” recently. My soccer team, Liverpool FC, fired (or “sacked” as they say in England) their manager last month and hired an electric, new manager in J├╝rgen Klopp. The homey church that I have been attending for 18-19 years just moved into a new building that is a lot bigger and completely brand new. And did I mention that I am getting married to the girl of my dreams next June? That is a lot of change for a guy all at once!

Everyone loves a fresh start. Everyone loves a new beginning because they feel that they are no longer tied down to the past. New beginnings have not yet bet constrained by the bumps, bruises, and limitations of everyday life. Fresh starts get us all excited and allow us to dream, as they should.

Finales, however, seem less popular and far scarcer. While most people start well, few end well. The average tenure of an English Premier League manager (according to the Guardian) is 1.23 years. That is a little over one year! And we hav…

The Christian Response to Refugees

I want to begin this short post by saying that I am not talking about how government should handle the refugee crisis. I believe that it is a noble government’s responsibility to look after the security of its citizens first and foremost. As this situation is almost unparalleled in recent history—there are no easy answers from a political perspective. What I am talking about below is how the Christian individual should respond to the approximately 3 million souls expelled from their homeland.

A true Christian is a Christian first before he is anything else. A Christian can be an American and love his country tremendously, even give his life for his country (as many have)--But he is a Christian before he is an American. His identity is in Christ; not in his citizenship, career, nationality, or anything else. This is fundamental to what we believe.
If this is true, then I am surprised by the response of many American Christians regarding the current refugee crisis. I see a lot of “close t…

Home Ahead

"Home is behind, the world ahead,
And there are many paths to tread
Through shadows to the edge of night,
Until the stars are all alight.
Then world behind and home ahead,
We'll wander back and home to bed."

I am a big fan of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Those who know me best know that I love to quote little tidbits from the movies at random. Although I am not as bad as some "LOTR" fanatics, I admit that I have read the books 3 times in my lifetime and have lost track of how many times I have seen the movies. Can you blame me?

I am not sure what it is about Tolkien's  trilogy that makes it such a beloved story for so many people today. He created a world that seems to us so real, where even the most minute detail is described in a way only Tolkien himself can describe. People resonate with the many themes of: leaving home for an adventure, an intense struggle with evil that is both inside us and outside us, things being finally made right, and (of course) the i…