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Showing posts from 2016

2016: A Milestone Year for Me

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It is that time of year again: the end of it. And 2016 was in many ways a milestone year for me. I accomplished two really critical steps that were necessary for me in my 23rd year:
Milestone #1: Move out of my parent’s house.
After graduating college I obliged my parents by moving back into the downstairs guest room to save some money and hopefully get a job. The Lord provided work and I began to chip away at my college debts. It was a great arrangement for the two years that I lived there—and the food was fantastic.
But once I had some money set aside it was becoming high time to grow up a little bit and move out. I was getting old, and living at home did not necessarily inhibit my natural inclination to slothfulness. So thanks to my Aunt and Uncle, I got a good deal to rent from them and quickly jump to milestone #2.
Milestone #2: Get married to Montana. I proposed to my wife October 30, 2015, so this was in the works for a while. Perhaps, my wife will argue, it was in the works fo…

Book in Review: "Hillbilly Elegy"

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"Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis" is an incredible story about a world I knew practically nothing about. And once I cracked it open, I could not stop reading.

J. D. Vance records the childhood challenges he faced growing up poor in Middletown, Ohio. He recalls his Kentucky hillbilly heritage, and the generational sins/demons it left in left in his inheritance. Make no mistake, the poverty deck was stacked against young J. D. His father would leave the scene and put him up for adoption at a young age. His drug addict mother would be married five times with a slew of boyfriends in between. Such volatility gave J. D. the merest of statistical chances of making it out.

But like any good story, J. D.’s had a hero: his grandmother Mamaw. To say it simply, Mamaw was crazy. She was crude, vulgar, and violent. At one point J. D. recalls a story of her making good on a promise to burn her drunk husband alive with gasoline—fortunately he made it out with only …

Entrepreneurial Christianity

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Luke 16:1-13 records one of the strangest parables ever recorded. Jesus says:
“There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and an accusation was brought to him that this man was wasting his goods. So he called him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.’
“Then the steward said within himself, ‘What shall I do? For my master is taking the stewardship away from me. I cannot dig; I am ashamed to beg. I have resolved what to do, that when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.’
“So he called every one of his master’s debtors to him, and said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ And he said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ So he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ So he said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ So the master commended th…

Recovering Shame?

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A primary presupposition to Christianity is the understanding that you are a bad person. That I am a bad person. So bad, in fact, that we are each fully deserving of divine punishment through hellfire.
That presupposition has been accepted largely throughout Christian history, even by substantial percentages of the unregenerate. C S Lewis writes, “When the apostles preached they could assume even in their Pagan hearers a real consciousness of deserving the divine anger. The pagan mysteries existed to allay this consciousness, and the Epicurean Philosophy claimed to deliver men from the fear of eternal punishment. It was against this background that the gospel appeared as good news. It brought news of possible healing to men who knew that they were mortally ill.”
Even the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s occurred during a time when people were fixated on the reality of death, and the morbid certainty of an eternal punishment that awaited them. Instead of fascination with celebrities …

Play some Chess!

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I will admit, and my wife will agree, that I am a little bit of a nerd. I love strategy. I love learning about fatal maneuvers in wars and battles gone by. Like Hannibal's double envelope at Cannae, or Stonewall Jackson's flank march at Chancellorsville. I enjoy reading about critical night marches and feinted movements that left the enemy lost in the dark. 
I think, in fact, that my love for sports is due largely to my love for strategy. Soccer in particular is a game of tactical precision--where the faster, stronger player by no means has the advantage over the skilled technician. I also relish board games where each movement has to be perfectly calculated; and the cost of each thrust and parry must to be carefully weighed before engagement. Games like chess.
I have been dabbling in chess for the last few years online through chess.com. And though I am quite the novice (and lose frequently) I am still a big fan. Here are a few reasons why you should dabble too:
The game of ches…

Head on a Swivel Christianity

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As a kid I loved to watch shows on the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet. I loved the ones that featured real time video (complete with British commentary) of wild animals living in their natural habitats. Whether it was of reptiles, sharks, or venomous rain forest snakes--I was enthralled by the beauty of diverse parts of creation that I had never seen before. I particularly enjoyed the shows which included carnivores stalking, chasing, and finally...devouring their prey. Those shows would go something like this:
The cheetah would crouch in the tall Savannah grass, blending in with its coloring--perfectly enshrouded. It's agile body lines compress like a spring. Like a sprinter loading up into his starting blocks, the cat gets into starting position.
And off in the distance, the unaware family of gazelles graze blindly in the scorched African plain. Two fawns prance together in the heat of the evening a bit away from the rest of the herd. One youth strays further still, chomping …

Embody the Message

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Question: What would you do if you knew for a fact that tonight would be your last night on earth?
If it were me I would probably get my family and closest friends together and reminisce about old times. I would want it to be a special gathering that celebrates me and all I had done in my life; a glorified pity party of sorts where people could be sad for me and communicate to me how much they will miss me when I am gone. Surely I would not expect to serve them dinner or wash the dishes. It's my last dinner, not theirs.
But when I am look at Jesus's last dinner, I am astounded. In John 13 Jesus knows that He is about to leave the world, and not in a graceful or immediate fashion. He knows that one of his closest friends is about to betray him in a few hours, and he is no doubt feeling the emotional turmoil of the impending crucifixion. A cosmic battle is raging on in the background as Jesus looks to reverse the effects of sin and death for those who are most deserving of it.
Addit…

A World Divided

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We live in a world divided. A nation divided. A church unfortunately divided. Lines are drawn everywhere separating people on the basis of any quality imaginable: nationality, class, ethnicity, political leanings, religion, income, and local. And behind each line, more lines are drawn splitting each group into smaller subgroups and subdivisions. Each subset of the whole promoting their own self-interest; each bighting faction seeing the world through their own self oriented lens, alienating others in the process.
There are cops and there are blacks. There are Democrats and there are Republicans. There are urbanites and there are those from rural communities. There are Millennials and there are Baby Boomers.
But this is no surprise to us. This is the world we live in. The world we have always lived in.
Even if you were to go back to Jesus’ day, you would find the world still ripping itself to shreds of division. There were the oppressive pagan Romans ruling Israel with an iron fist. The…

Guest Post: "Not My President"

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After a very intense and bitter election, Anti-Trump demonstrators vandalized buildings, kicked cars, and knocked out power in cities across America.And more protests are planned over the next few days.Although the pundits and the polls overwhelmingly projected an easy win for Hillary Clinton, she lost.Even last minute voters who walked into the voting booth not knowing who they would vote for ended up voting for Trump.
Okay, I understand being shocked and disappointed that your candidate lost when her election seemed so certain; I get that.As did Hillary, go home, have a good cry, and get it out of your system.Donald Trump was elected fair and square, and he will be our next President.However, against the urgings of Hillary and even of President Obama to transition peacefully, the protests and burnings continue.Why all the outrage and discontent?
Maybe it’s because God intervened in our election.Not that Donald Trump is a good man or that he deserved to win, but that God sovereignly ga…

A Fettered Faith

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There is a common strain in modern Christianity that looks to break away from the archaic institutions and cumbersome structure of Christianity past. I recall reading an article about a man (proclaiming himself a Christian) who had had it with the church and was leaving. Entitling his blog post "My Emancipation from American Christianity," he no longer needed the divisiveness and the close-mindedness of the Christians. He was done being tied down to old fashioned beliefs and people that have lost relevance to our world.

His alternative: It would just be me and God. No more church. It is broken and can't be fixed. What about truth? I can discover that on my own, with my own personal relationship with God. He says it better himself:  


"Jesus said that the Spirit moves where it pleases, and with it go those in its glorious grip. In my heart and in the hearts of so many like me, that Spirit is boldly declaring its emancipation from the small, heavily guarded space that wa…

Fake It 'Till You Make It

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Obedience is a difficult thing for us humans. It is one thing for us to love someone who is being difficult; it is another to get to a place where we even WANT to love that difficult person in the first place. Some days are just not good days. You know what I am talking about, those days where even the littlest things set us off. Where people bother us, and we don't worry about bothering them back.
For days like these, C S Lewis offers some wise advice.   
"The rule for all of us is perfectly simple. Do not waste time bothering whether you 'love' your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less." (Lewis, Mere Christianity, 131)
Sometimes we think the path to change occurs down a linear, one way road…

Book in Review: "Battle Cry of Freedom"

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After three months of reading, I completed McPherson’s famous work “Battle Cry of Freedom”. It took me this long to complete not because the reading was laborious, but because of the sheer volume of material in this book. Information is packed on every page—and not just military information. McPherson captures life for the average citizen in both the Confederacy and the Union. He tracks the economic implications of the war, the foreign implications of the war, the political rollercoaster throughout the war, the desperation of the Union in 1862, and the shambles of the Confederacy in 1864-1865. This is perhaps the best work on the most turbulent period of American History: The Civil War.

McPherson reveals with great detail, the massive divide between the North and the South generations before the Civil War. The Civil War was not a flippant affair by the South. Secession was threatened years before and seemed only a matter of time before it would come to fruition. Though there are many f…

Love the Process

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Have you ever wondered why God does some of the things that He does? Do you ever ask yourself why things are the way that they are? I was asked recently about God's method of sanctification. He loves us, saves us, and uses us--but still allows us to sin. Why? What is the point of sinning Christians?
Because here we are as redeemed sons and daughters of God. We enjoy intimate fellowship with Father through Jesus Christ--having His Spirit within us-- and our "sanctification process" looks more like the stock market than the "walking in newness of life" that is offered those in Christ. We are up one moment and down the next. We boom today, but a crash is always around the corner. There are good moments to be sure, maybe even a gradual progress, but the cyclical pattern of: sin, confess, repent--show no signs of stopping. Why is this frustrating and painful cycle the chosen path of the Christian saint?
Wouldn't it be better if God would just perfect us immediatel…

Confessions of a Perfectionist

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I don't think I am a perfectionist. Per say. Maybe I am just "overly ambitious" or better yet "filled with high expectations." Whether it is my daily routine, my performance in extracurriculars, or my thoughts on my future--I expect and anticipate an idealistic picture of what will happen.

Frequently in college I would amuse my roommate by verbalizing to him my to-do list for the day. I would plan to hit the books, get started on a paper that is still three weeks out, be proactive in my required reading. Then I would plan to go to the gym in the afternoon and enjoy some leisurely time later in the day. That for me was the perfect day. It was productive and forward thinking, yet there was time left over for rest.


Well surprise, surprise: more often than not my ideal day would fail to come to fruition. When it came down to it, I lacked the fortitude and the personal discipline to see my dreams into reality. Hours that could have been spent in rich, unadulterated st…