"He is Faithful" covers a range of topics relating to Christian faith, practice, and thought, as well as the authors' life experiences. It seeks to testify to God's faithfulness and love, demonstrated most importantly in sending His son Jesus Christ to provide forgiveness and salvation to all who believe in his name.
I’m blogging through Nancy Pearcey’s excellent book Total Truth as part of a book discussion I’ve been doing. Last time, I covered Chapter 6 which dealt with evidence for design. This time, I’m on chapter 7, “Today biology, tomorrow the world”, which deals with how Darwinism and scientific materialism have influenced science and society beyond biology – and the problems they have caused there.
This morning, I got to thinking about freedom of religion and free speech both as they connect to Martin Luther and Facebook. Particularly, I just finished Eric Metaxas’s excellent biography Martin Luther: The Man Who Resdiscovered God and Changed the World, and immediately after it, I read another article in the Wall Street Journal’s Facebook Files – this one noting that Facebook’s strategy to stop hate and violent speech on the platform – artificial intelligence – isn’t up to the task.
Today, I’ll link to and just briefly comment on a few interesting things I read recently.
I’m very concerned about social media, where it is taking us, and how hard it is to extract ourselves from it, even if we want to. Worse, many of the platforms seek to get their users hooked, and data suggests they are downright harmful in a number of ways. I’m beginning to start thinking about ways to reduce how much I rely on these platforms.
Some time ago, I read Booker T. Washington’s “Up from Slavery” and highly recommend it; it’s amazing how far reaching his insights are. Today, I’m linking to an assortment of interesting things I read recently, and I’ll lead off with this quote from Washington, which Darrell Harrison reiterated recently in response to news that Oregon had subspended state reading, writing and math proficiency standards for high school graduation. Basically, for the next five years, high school graduates won’t have to be able to prove they can read, write, or do math at a high school level. Apparently, the current standards don’t lead to the desired proficiency rates for “diverse” individuals so the standards need to be changed. As Harrison notes, Booker T. Washington wrote:
I have begun everything with the idea that I could succeed, and I never had much patience with the multitudes of people who are always ready to explain why one cannot succeed.
In my last post I looked at Neil Postman’s excellent book, “Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public discourse in the age of show business”. While the book is not written from a Christian perspective, I think Christians can benefit from taking a careful look at some of his ideas and assessing how our culture and media might be influencing us. If necessary, we might also consider what corrective measures we could take.
I’ve heard Neil Postman’s book “Amusing Ourselves to Death” recommended many times, and in fact I believe it made Ben Sasse’s list of must-read books, so I recently read it – or, rather, listened to it; I got the audiobook from the library. The book is subtitled “Public discourse in the age of show business” and traces how, as our communication media have changed, that’s produced corresponding changes in our culture and even how we think. The book is compelling and thought-provoking, and even more so given that it was first published in 1985. At the time, Postman was horrified by how television was changing public discourse but the internet was still well in the distance. It’s tough to read this book without trying to imagine what he would say about how YouTube and social media have further reshaped our culture in the internet age.
C.S. Lewis’s classic book “Mere Christianity” deeply influenced my thinking over the years. Its clear explanations of core Christian concepts are so memorable and helpful that they have had a lasting effect. One quote which has really stuck with me is this:
The real test of being in the presence of God is that you either forget about yourself altogether or see yourself as a small, dirty object. It is far better to forget about yourself altogether.
In my last post, I linked to this article called “The books are already burning” on how retailers are beginning to remove books on some controversial, debatable topics because they’re viewed as too dangerous.
I’ve been accumulating browser tabs again, so it’s apparently time for another set of links to things I found interesting, with perhaps a couple of remarks on each:
There’s a certain type of selfishness which seems to have become natural, normal, and even encouraged in our society – one that I tend to take for granted even in myself.
Here are a few things I read recently that I found interesting.
In college, I heard Richard Pratt speak on what it means that humans are made in the image of God and his specific teaching from the book of Genesis has really stuck with me over the years. The full transcript is available online, so I’d suggest reading the whole thing, but today I’ll hit some key ideas.
Browser tabs have been building up with far more interesting things than I can possibly blog about, so here are a few which I want to pass on. Today’s theme centers on education, and the ideological battle about race issues going on there.
I’m blogging through Nancy Pearcey’s excellent book Total Truth as part of a book discussion I’ve been doing. Last time, some months ago, I covered chapter 5, dealing with Darwinism. This time, I’m on chapter 6, “The Science of Common Sense”, which deals with the evidence of design in nature.
I just finished reading Thomas Sowell’s excellent book, The Quest for Cosmic Justice and highly recommend it. This was the first Sowell book I’ve read, though I’m familiar with his essays, and is probably my favorite of the secular books I’ve read in the last several years. I’m tempted to make it part of the family “canon” – something that I want all of my kids to read before they move out. I’d rank it even above Ben Sasse’s The Vanishing American Adult (which I reviewed here) and Them: Why we hate each other and how to heal (which I seem to have forgotten to review), both of which I thought were deeply insightful and helpful. I’d put this on par with Thaddeus Williams’ Confronting Injustice without Compromising Truth (review here) as a truly outstanding book in terms of understanding present-day politics, social change, and social justice. Williams’ book tackles issues from a Biblical perspective; Sowell’s book tackles issues from a secular perspective. Hence, the latter will appeal more to the general audience although the two are highly complementary.
As I understand it, many Christians have concerns about ethics of the COVID vaccines – particularly, concerns that the vaccines may derive from abortions in some way or another. In general, Christians (myself included) object to benefitting from abortion in any way that might involve contributing to it or condoning it.
Earlier this year, I presented on the core Christian message, and today, I’m continuing my series blogging this presentation. In my first post, I looked at the structure of the Bible and the historical Jesus. In my second post, I briefly summarized the core Christian worldview and the gospel. In my third post, I looked at how the core Christian message, the gospel, is explained in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and, in this final post, I continue on to the book of Romans.
I’m writing to highly recommend Thaddeus Williams’ outstanding book, “Confronting Injustice without Compromising Truth: 12 Questions Christians Should Ask About Social Justice” which I just finished reading. This book gives a careful, thorough, Biblical and balanced analysis of social justice, analyzing both the modern social justice movement (which he calls “Social Justice B”) and the Biblical idea of social justice which led to the abolition of slavery, played a role in the civil rights movement, etc. This book came highly recommended by my friend James Hong, as well as by Tim Challies and Samuel Sey, but it far surpassed my expectations. I wish every modern-day Christian could take the time to read it or listen to it. I read the audiobook version which is read (extremely well) by the author and highly recommend that format as well.
I read and listened to a few more things lately I wanted to be sure to link to. Some, I hope to blog about in more detail in the near future. Several deal with an interesting Supreme Court opinion this week.
I’ve been building up a large set of open tabs in my web browser with things I want to write about, and it’s becoming unmanageable, so that must mean it’s finally time to write. Given the number of topics, I’ll try and keep comments relatively minimal.
Earlier this year, I presented on the core Christian message, and today, I’m continuing my series blogging this presentation. In my first post, I looked at the structure of the Bible and the historical Jesus. In my second post, I briefly summarized the core Christian worldview and the gospel. Today, I look at how the core Christian message, the gospel, is explained in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and, in later posts, I’ll continue on to the book of Romans.
A few weeks ago, I started a series introducing the core Christian message based on a talk I gave recently. Today, I continue this series. Last time, we looked briefly at what the Bible is and some historical facts about Jesus. Today, we’ll look briefly at the core of the Christian message, then in subsequent posts we’ll look at how this is explained in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and in the book of Romans.
Recently, I connected via Twitter with a group of scientists, tech folks, and others who were interested in learning more about the world’s religions. They were starting a religious texts reading group and I got involved as someone who could explain the teachings of the Bible and Christian views, which I was extremely excited about. As it turned out, I ended up presenting a kind of “Introduction to Christianity” to this group. Today, I’ll begin a brief series where I summarize what I covered in my talk on that subject.
I posted this essay over a year ago. Here’s some additional thoughts I have on light of recent events including COVID denial (COVID conspiracies, downplaying the threat, HCQ miracle “cure”, vaccine conspiracies, etc) and election denial.
Some time ago, I began blogging on our Sunday sermons to help myself review; today, I’m continuing that by covering our Jan. 3 sermon, on 1 Peter 4:7, by Pastor Peter Kim. You can stream the recording of this service here.
I’ve had a collection of interesting articles building up, so today I’m going to share them with a few comments. First, though, I want to talk a little about the horrible events and riot at the Capitol last week and some of the free speech implications coming out of them.
I’m hearing that lots of people have major reservations about the COVID-19 vaccines, and I just want to make sure people know I’m available as a resource for anyone with concerns about it. Also, I’ll be getting it myself (along with my family) as soon as it’s our turn to do so, and I want to explain why.
Some time ago, I began blogging on our Sunday sermons to help myself review; today, I’m continuing that by covering our Dec. 27 sermon, on Matthew 25:1-13, by Pastor Nate Kwak. You can stream the recording of this service here.
Recently, I had a great Facebook discussion with a number of folks from my church regarding saving for college for our kids. The discussion began with this question:
Some time ago, I began blogging on our Sunday sermons to help myself review; today, I’m continuing that by covering our Dec. 20 sermon, on 1 Cor. 1:22-25, by Pastor Peter Kim. You can stream the recording of this service here.
Recently, someone asked me why those holding to a traditional view of marriage or gender identity are treated with such hostility; particularly, the question was, “Why do they care what I believe?” After all, our society is built on the principle that people have the right to believe what they want, even though we might disagree with them and try to persuade them otherwise. Thus, many Christians, including myself, thought at first that reformers in these areas were primarily seeking to change our nation’s laws to ensure that gays and lesbians and others would be fully accepted into society and allowed to marry, etc. However, these reforms now target not just policy but also beliefs – so much so that a number of authors and thinkers spoke out against this approach earlier this year, noting, “The way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument, and persuasion, not by trying to silence or wish them away.”
Some time ago, I began blogging on our Sunday sermons to help myself review; today, I’m continuing that by covering our Dec. 13 sermon, on Hebrews 11:17-19, by Pastor Peter Kim. You can stream the recording of this service here.
Today, I’m briefly touching several topics. This time, I look at the near elimination of Down syndrome, some issues relating to COVID, a bit on Facebook’s hate speech policy, and a few other items which caught my interest.
I gave a brief devotional last night for some college students studying for finals, and chose to speak on the God-ordained nature of work and study. These ideas have been very important to me over the years in thinking through my own place in life, and I hoped they might help the students as they focused on studying, not normally something most of us enjoy doing. I thought I’d turn my notes into a post here in case others can benefit.
Some time ago, I began blogging on our Sunday sermons to help myself review; today, I’m continuing that by covering our Dec. 6 sermon, on Hebrews 11:8-16, by Pastor Peter Kim. You can stream the recording of this service here.
Yesterday, I was listening to a new podcast, “The Surpassing Value”, from a leader in my church, James Hong, and was struck by a point he made. In his second episode, he was focusing mostly on the issue of truth – what it means, why it’s so important to recognize objective truth, etc. But then he got to talking about how our culture is shifting away from honest debate on big issues; often, conversations we ought to have instead are viewed as being as “just politics” and then we dodge the underlying issues.
I just finished reading Senator Ben Sasse’s book The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age-Crisis – and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance; I really enjoyed this one and will want to re-read it. Technically, I listened to it in audiobook form from my library, but I’ll likely pick up a copy and go back through parts in more detail as it’s really excellent.
This week is headed towards being a big news week on the COVID front, as the UK approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine previously and began administering it this week. In the US, our FDA has an outside advisory panel meeting tomorrow (as NIH director Francis Collins mentions in this interview) to decide on Pfizer’s vaccine, and Dec. 17 to decide on the Moderna one. But in advance of that, there are a couple of other things worth thinking about.
Some time ago, I began blogging on our Sunday sermons to help myself review; today, I’m continuing that by covering our Nov. 29 sermon, on Matthew 8:1-4, by Pastor Mark Lim. You can stream the recording of this service here.
I know there are lots of concerns about the forthcoming COVID vaccines – whether their development has been rushed, whether they will really be safe, etc. I’m worried that these concerns will translate into reluctance be vaccinated, which I’m convinced would be bad for everyone. Well, NIH Director Francis Collins had a great interview this week with Russell Moore on exactly this topic. Moore is a relatively important figure in contemporary Christian thought, and Collins is both an amazing scientist and a professing Christian. I highly recommend watching the interview; it’s very worthwhile.
Have you ever worried that our public school system might be designed to produce homogeneous students who conform to an approved set of standards or beliefs – that it in fact might even become an instrument of tyranny? I was reading the excellent book The Vanishing American Adult by Ben Sasse (on which I will have more to say at a later time), where one portion examines how our public education system developed and what it was designed to do. His whole analysis is worth considering, but here, I want to look at a 1930s lecture Sasse quoted from. J. Gresham Machen’s The Necessity of the Christian School, is worth reading in full, but here I’ll focus mainly on the aspects and ideas Sasse highlighted – which aren’t specific to Christian schools.
Recently as I browsed my Facebook feed, I noticed that some of my friends and family are uncomfortable about taking a COVID-19 vaccine. Although I am not an expert on vaccines per se, I realized that as a scientist I am more knowledgable about the topic than my friends who are not scientists or medical professionals. I posted that I would field questions about the vaccine. Here, I’ve curated and lightly edited some of the questions and my responses for public consumption.
Some time ago, I began blogging on our Sunday sermons to help myself review; today, I’m continuing that by covering our Nov. 22 sermon, on Phil. 2:14-18, by Pastor Peter Kim. You can stream the recording of this service here.
I recently finished reading Sex and Money: Pleasures that Leave You Empty and Grace that Satisfies by Paul David Tripp, and wanted to jot down some quick notes and recommend it before I forget. I started to call this a “book review” but such is my admiration for Trip that I don’t really feel like I’m entitled to review it as much as to comment on it.
Recently, I ran across a Facebook post from someone who was feeling like they just didn’t belong in their church. It was easy to enumerate ways they were different – skin color, education level, and a number of other aspects. This post grabbed me, as I know that feeling well, and I know how big an issue it can become for some of us. Most of us can easily identify ways we’re different from people around us, even other Christians in our church, and that can impact our sense of belonging. Here’s part of what I wrote in response:
Some time ago, I began blogging on our Sunday sermons to help myself review; today, I’m continuing that by covering our Nov. 15 sermon, on Hebrews 11:8-10, by Pastor Peter Kim. You can stream the recording of this service here.
I want to link to a few things, and briefly summarize a couple of others
When I first ran a blog some 15 years ago, I approached it with the wrong attitude and, I believe, created too much controversy. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I cared too much about getting attention through what I wrote. I found that I could gain attention by being controversial, by disagreeing with people, and by having strong opinions that I expressed boldly or even angrily. And boy, were my opinions strong, and I had them on almost everything.
Some time ago, I began blogging on our Sunday sermons to help myself review; today, I’m continuing that by covering our Nov. 8 sermon, on Hebrews 11:7, by Pastor Peter Kim. You can stream the recording of this service here.
Today, I want to tell a story from my past which I believe has some relevance to current political turmoil.
Some time ago, I began blogging on our Sunday sermons to help myself review; today, I’m continuing that by covering our Oct. 25 sermon, on Hebrews 11:5-6, by Pastor Peter Kim. You can stream the recording of this service here.
Sometimes, I have a hard time stopping myself from arguing with memes on Facebook.
Some time ago, I began blogging on our Sunday sermons to help myself review; today, I’m continuing that by covering our Oct. 25 sermon, on Deuteronomy 8:1-7, by Pastor Peter Chung. You can stream the recording of this service here.
This recent article, “Stop Being Shocked”, raises a number of issues worth carefully considering. Bari Weiss, its author, was until recently on the editorial staff of the New York Times (her resignation letter is worth reading, too). She writes from a relatively liberal, Jewish perspective, and her article is a bit of an exhortation to American Jews to stop being shocked that they’re being excluded from what she calls the “new progressive coalition”. However, it touches on ideas far broader than the Jewish community – ideas about the foundations of our country and society. I want to quote some key highlights here, and link to a variety of related sources. I regret that I don’t have time and space to do a deep dive into all the issues, but hopefully this will suffice.
This week, I read 1 Timothy 2:1-8 and these verses really grabbed me as I thought about current political discourse as we head into our November election which, for many, is controversial and stress-inducing. What caught me first was this:
Some time ago, I began blogging on our Sunday sermons to help myself review; today, I’m continuing that by covering our Oct. 18 sermon, on Hebrews 11:4, by Pastor Peter Kim. You can stream the recording of this service here.
I’m blogging through Nancy Pearcey’s excellent book Total Truth as part of a book discussion I’ve been doing. Last time, I covered the fourth chapter, which covers quite a bit of ground, including covering some competing worldviews which are common at present. This time, I’m hitting some highlights from Chapter 5, “Darwin meets the Berenstain Bears”, which is the first chapter of “Part II: Starting at the beginning” dealing with origins. This chapter deals with Darwinism – specifically, the idea of universal common descent – and some aspects of the evidence about it. As such, it’s more familiar material for me and I’ve got less to say about it. I’ll briefly touch on a few key highlights, however.
Some time ago, I began blogging on our Sunday sermons to help myself review; today, I’m continuing that by covering our Oct. 11 sermon, on Hebrews 11:3. There were A/V problems this Sunday so there’s no recording.
I’m blogging through Nancy Pearcey’s excellent book Total Truth as part of a book discussion I’ve been doing. Last time, I covered the third chapter, which deals with how our culture limits religion to the realm of values and morals. This time, I’m hitting some highlights from Chapter 4, “Surviving the Spiritual Wasteland”. This chapter deals with some competing worldviews that are prominent in our culture, or at least that’s the part I found most valuable. Here, I address that portion near the end of the post, so if you don’t find the beginning that helpful, scroll down.
I’m blogging through Nancy Pearcey’s excellent book Total Truth as part of a book discussion I’ve been doing. Last time, I covered the second chapter, which deals with living for God. This time, I’m hitting some highlights from Chapter 3, “Keeping Religion in its Place”. This chapter deals with how we typically end up being taught not to bring a Christian worldview into the workplace, and how critical it is to bring a unified perspective to our lives.
Some time ago, I began blogging on our Sunday sermons to help myself review; today, I’m continuing that by covering our Oct. 4 sermon, on Hebrews 11:1-2.
Some time ago, I began blogging on our Sunday sermons to help myself review; today, I’m continuing that by covering our Sept. 27 sermon, on Matthew 5:38-40, by Pastor Mark Lim.
Some time ago, I began blogging on our Sunday sermons to help myself review; today, I’m continuing that by covering our Sept. 20 sermon, on Hebrews 10:32-39. This was part two of a two-part series.
I’m blogging through Nancy Pearcey’s excellent book Total Truth as part of a book discussion I’ve been doing. Last time, I covered the first chapter, which deals with what’s in a worldview. This time, I’m hitting some hightlights from Chapter 2, “Rediscovering joy”. This chapter deals with what “living for God” means, and how it might connect with our “secular” work.
Recently, we watched the excellent documentary American Gospel: Christ Alone after having it recommended by several friends. This is a documentary dealing in large part what some have called the “prosperity gospel” or the Word of Faith movement, something that’s very common in America and which represents a distortion of the good news of the Bible. The documentary is excellent, and provides some great food for thought.
Some time ago, I began blogging on our Sunday sermons to help myself review; today, I’m continuing that by covering our Sept. 13 sermon, on Hebrews 10:32-39. This was part 1 of a two-part sermon.
Some time ago, I began blogging on our Sunday sermons to help myself review; today, I’m continuing that by covering our Sept. 6 sermon, on Hebrews 10:26-31.
I’m blogging through Nancy Pearcey’s excellent book Total Truth as part of a book discussion I’ve been doing. Last time, I covered the introduction. This time, I’m hitting some hightlights from Chapter 1. Part I of the book deals with “What’s in a Worldview?” and Chapter 1 is called, “Breaking out of the Grid.”
Some time ago, I began blogging on our Sunday sermons to help myself review; today, I’m continuing that by covering our Aug. 30 sermon, on Hebrews 10:24-25.
Lately, I’m re-reading Nancy Pearcey’s excellent book Total Truth as part of a book discussion. I haven’t read it since my late 20s, and at that time it was really influential on my thinking as a Christian. It’s interesting re-reading it, because some things in society have changed in the interim, and I’ve matured and changed in some respects, so now I’m visiting it from a rather different perspective.
Some time ago, I began blogging on our Sunday sermons to help myself review; today, I’m continuing that by covering our Aug. 23 sermon, on Hebrews 10:19-25.
Some time ago, I began blogging on our Sunday sermons to help myself review; today, I’m continuing that by covering our Aug. 16 sermon, on Hebrews 10:1-7. I’ve again missed posting about several sermons because of deadlines and a short vacation, but hopefully I can get more consistent again.
Today I’ve got a few links I’ve been accumulating on a couple of different topics I wanted to share.
Some time ago, I began blogging on our Sunday sermons to help myself review; today, I’m continuing that by covering our July 26 sermon, on Hebrews 9:11-14. Life intervened, so I missed posting on several of our sermons from Hebrews, but now I’m trying to get back to it. As you’ll see if you look at the video, we’re now doing church outdoors and socially distanced due to COVID-19, but we continue to meet.
I wanted to pass on, and briefly comment on, a few pieces of COVID-19 news and science I saw recently. One particularly notable item was on the apparent effectiveness of masks to prevent infection; the CDC is reporting on two hairstylists who got COVID-19 and then worked with 139 customers and none got COVID-19. Yet even an (unmasked) asymptomatic person in an elevator can spread COVID-19. Back in March, I didn’t understand that the point of masks is to protect others, but that’s definitely had time to sink in now, and stories like this drive it home.
The Financial Times (FT) just updated their “excess deaths” data. For anyone who doesn’t yet believe COVID-19 is killing lots of people, this data is the best source – it looks at how many more people are dying (of ALL causes) than normal for this time of year. Upshot: Lots more.
Some time ago, I began blogging on our Sunday sermons to help myself review; today, I’m continuing that by covering our June 28 sermon, on Hebrews 8:1-8.
Some time ago, I began blogging on our Sunday sermons to help myself review; today, I’m continuing that by covering our June 21 sermon, on Hebrews 7:26-28.
Some time ago, I began blogging on our Sunday sermons to help myself review; today, I’m continuing that by covering our June 7 sermon, the third in a series on Hebrews 7:1-10.
I’ve mostly been fairly silent about current events relating to racism, Black Lives Matter, and the George Floyd protests, partly because talk is cheap. I’ll fight and speak against racism, discrimination, and persecution wherever I personally encounter it, but I don’t think it’s necessary to speak up and say that the George Floyd incident was wrong. Everyone I’ve heard from about the incident, wherever they stand politically, seems to universally agree that this was a horrible and unacceptable event – as they should, because it was.
Some time ago, I began blogging on our Sunday sermons to help myself review; today, I’m continuing that by covering our May 31 sermon, based on Hebrews 7:1-10. This was the second in a series of several on this passage, and this week’s main focus was 7:1:
Some time ago, I began blogging on our Sunday sermons to help myself review; today, I’m continuing that by covering our May 24 sermon, based on Hebrews 7:1-10. This marks a return to our pre-COVID19 series on Hebrews.
A while back, I started a series on worship and argued that why we do things often matters as much to God as what we do. God wants our love and worship, not just outward conformity. Then, I went on to talk about how these ideas have helped to see I need to focus less on externals and superficial obedience, and more on obeying from the heart. Today, I want to wrap up that series by connecting it to a couple other ideas. I’d planned on doing this back in March, but COVID-19 intervened so I’m only now revisiting it.
Recently, I began blogging on our Sunday sermons to help myself review; today, I’m continuing that by covering our May 17 sermon, based on John 15:1-11. We’re currently in a series on Jesus’ “I am” statements in the book of John. These are key statements he uses to reveal his person, work, and relationship to God and they form a core part of the gospel of John.
Recently, I began blogging on our Sunday sermons to help myself review; today, I’m continuing that by covering our May 10, based on John 15:1-11. We’re currently in a series on Jesus’ “I am” statements in the book of John. These are key statements he uses to reveal his person, work, and relationship to God and they form a core part of the gospel of John.
There’s been much talk of curve-flattening in the context of COVID-19, but I realized there’s another type of curve-flattening going on that doesn’t really get as much attention. I first started thinking about this in the context of my work, and put together this cartoon:
Recently, I began blogging on our Sunday sermons to help myself review; today, I’m continuing that by covering our May 3, based on John 13:36-14:6. We’re currently in a series on Jesus’ “I am” statements in the book of John. These are key statements he uses to reveal his person, work, and relationship to God and they form a core part of the gospel of John.
Today I’ve got a few links I’ve been accumulating on diverse topics to share – some directly COVID-related, some not so much.
I’ve noticed a lot of polarization in people’s responses to COVID-19. While a good fraction of folks I know seem to be taking a reasonable approach, I also see a good deal of polarization from different places on the political spectrum – and not just from end end or the other. If you’ll allow me to oversimplify a bit, I’d say that some seem to think the whole thing is an overblown, overhyped artificial catastrophe created by the liberal media and folks who stay home are essentially cowering in fear. Others seem to think the entire thing a fiasco created by a combination of Trump, science deniers, and a lack of universal health care/adequate support for the poor in our society. And many seem to be trying to figure out how to blame someone for our present predicament.
Recently, I began blogging on our Sunday sermons to help myself review; today, I’m continuing that by covering our March 19 service, based on John 8:12. We’re currently in a series on Jesus’ “I am” statements in the book of John. These are key statements he uses to reveal his person, work, and relationship to God and they form a core part of the gospel of John.
I’m convinced that, in a post-COVID world, the new normal will look quite different than the old in a number of ways. Many of these are as yet unclear, but today I want to look at a few ways that things might change, as well as some ways in which I hope they will change. These span a wide range, from work and work-related travel, to academic publishing and online education. I’ll look at that last topic in a later post, as I’ve got a lot to say on it. For now, though, it seems save to say that, as former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb wrote:
This pathogen has altered history and changed our world.
Recently, I wrote about the need for us as Christians to take a Biblical lens to our culture, examining what we do, why we do it, and whether it’s Biblical. As I pointed out, we pick up our own culture from how we grew up, and from those around us – both inside the church and outside it – and it’s important to test that against the Scriptures. Times of culture shock provide a good opportunity to reassess.
Tim Challies just had a nice post, I Miss the Ordinary the Most, in which he argues that part of what’s so hard for Christians in this time is that we lack one of the great means of support God has provided for us – that of meeting together, one of the “ordinary means of grace”. Meeting together as a church body, in Christian fellowship, is part of how God provides for us so, in a way, we *ought to feel something is wrong when we cannot do this.** Challies writes:
Over the years, I’ve grown a lot in my faith and life through moving to very different places. It’s forced me to do something I think every Christian should do – take stock of which of my habits are truly Biblical versus which I’m doing just because they conform to the surrounding culture, whether it’s the church I’m part of or the surrounding society.
I’ve been trying to build a habit where I reflect, mid-week, on the Sunday sermon so that it will stick with me better and I’ll benefit more. This week, I realized I could better reinforce that habit by writing about it as well, since writing about something helps me get even more out of it. So today marks the first in what I hope will be a weekly series of posts about Sunday sermons from my church, Berean Community Church.
I just finished Eric Metaxas’s excellent biography, “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy”, and wanted to highly recommend it. I’ve mentioned it a couple of times already on this blog – including how I was challenged by his death and how he wanted to worship with his fellow believers even when apart – but it’s time to provide a proper review and note some more of the things I took away from the book.
I’ve had a few things piling up that I wanted to share, so today I’ll do a bit of a mish-mash. I’ll give a few more resources I’ve run across that seemed helpful, share a way in which God was challenging me today, and link to a number of news/analysis articles about COVID-19 that I thought were worthwhile.
As a bit of a statistics and numbers geek, I wanted to provide a set of links to the resources I’ve found most helpful in understanding the latest on COVID-19 and where it’s likely headed, in case they are also helpful to others. Some of these give direct access to regularly updated stats and data, and thus I find them particularly valuable. Others give key pieces of analysis, which will go out of date, so I’m separating these.
I’ve been reading Metaxas’s excellent book, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, and wanted to share something from it which connected with Sunday worship today as we gathered separately to live stream our worship service. The book is great, and makes me want to read more of Bonhoeffer’s works – but I’ll write more about that after I’m done with it.
COVID-19 has upended daily lives, work, and livelihoods for many of us. Entire industries are shutting down at least temporarily or dramatically changing, unemployment claims are surging, and people worry about their futures and how to make ends meet. As Christians, we can trust God’s sovereignty and cast our cares and concerns on him (Romans 8:28-30, Phil. 4:4-7, etc.) but this doesn’t mean we or those around us won’t have material needs. Today, I want to remind us – and me – to look for and be ready to help meet those needs.
Our kids are already feeling isolated from their friends, even though we homeschool so this is less disruptive for us than I imagine it is for others. I think the same thing is going to happen for us adults, though perhaps not as fast. I’ve been trying to collect some ideas for activities the kids can do online with their friends so they will still be connected, rather than just watching movies and playing computer games, etc. Our kids range in age from 3 to 13, so I’m mostly thinking of kids in that age range.
My friends, church leaders and workplace take COVID-19 quite seriously and have made drastic moves towards social distancing, so I thought it was time to shift towards figuring out how best to cope with the new reality – until I ran an errand and saw how many people are still out and about. Yesterday I went out to the library to return our books before they go overdue, and was horrified to see how crowded it was. On the way, I passed by the playground in our neighborhood, and it was busy with kids and families playing together. Some of my contacts on Facebook also mentioned that they haven’t changed anything voluntarily, and recommended going on with life as normal except for avoiding large crowds and doing extra handwashing. This is dangerous, and I want to explain why. For a visual illustration, check out this Washington post simulator where you can see the effects of different containment strategies.
Yesterday, I wrote about how we need to take COVID-19 very seriously. Today, I want to give some additional information I’ve found helpful and also express my concerns about the school system – in general but also specifically here in Orange County.
Previously, I wrote about COVID-19 and noted how we should take reasonable precautions, trust God, and not be overly concerned. While I still agree with much of that, I think the situation now appears to be significantly more serious than it appeared at the time, and more drastic “reasonable precautions” seem warranted.
I read a few things lately that I thought were helpful or interesting and wanted to comment on:
Recently, I started a series on worship and argued that why we do things often matters as much to God as what we do. God wants our love and worship, not just outward conformity. Today, I want to explain how this realization has impacted my life and my understanding of what church should be like.
*Update March 11, 2020: The situation now appears far more serious and I have an updated post on this.**
Errors usually come in pairs, offering two “ditches” on opposites sides of the path of truth which we must avoid in order to ensure we truly follow Christ. I am not sure that every truth occupies the middle ground between two wrong extremes, but certainly in Christian doctrine this is true of a great many truths. Thus I find this idea of the two ditches extremely helpful in trying to ensure that I don’t fall into one error (ditch) by trying to avoid the other.
A while back, some of the dads from our church had a video call to discuss family devotions with kids, and to encourage one another in doing these. Today, I’m posting a summary of what we talked about, including some of the materials which were suggested, in case it’s helpful.
In the last several days, I read a couple other things which I thought were worth passing on:
I’ve learned a lot in the last few years about the importance of the heart in the Christian life – that my motivation often matters to God as much or more than what I do. For example, I might go and help fix something at church for various reasons. Maybe I go because I was asked to and I’ll feel guilty or disappoint someone if I don’t. Or maybe I go because I believe it’s the right thing to do. Or perhaps I go wanting to help take care of the church because the church matters to God, and I want to express my gratitude and worship to God. My action might be the same in each case, but my motivations are very different. And my motivations determine whether my service is downright sinful, or simply an act of going through the “right” motions, or true worship which I really enjoy and which pleases God. Today, I want to look at why this is.
Today, I’m doing something I haven’t done before on this blog – linking to a few things I enjoyed and only commenting on them briefly. It’s my first post in what might be called the “mishmash” category.
As you scroll through this on your Samsung S10 or iPhone XR, XS, or 11, I’m here to tell you why to don’t need it. If you were to ask me five years ago which phone to get, I would have probably prescribed a “flagship” phone of some kind. A “flagship” phone is a phone from a given manufacturer with the latest and greatest features, best performance, and flashiest style. For these reasons, these are the most expensive phones in that manufacturer’s line up. For my first three smartphones, I used flagship phones, namely an iPhone 3GS, a Google Nexus 4, and then a Google Nexus 6. And to my liking, they were indeed excellent phones. But for my latest phone, I opted to change course and try something new – a midrange phone, namely a Moto G6+ There a lot of reasons that motivated me to opt for one of these over a flagship. Here are a few:
I grew up in a very moral family, but not one where I learned Christian teaching as truth. I thought life was about being a good person. I grew up with at least some exposure to different religions, one of which was Christianity. I learned some of the basics of the Bible, but I thought Jesus was a good teacher, like all of those other guys - Buddha, Mohammed, Gandhi, and so on. Christianity was just one of many religions, all teaching about how to live a good life, I believed. God has made his existence plain through creation, so deep inside I knew that He existed, but I would not admit this. Rather, I argued that there was no way to know that God exists. I was one of those people who would tell Christians that they were wrong, that there was no God, or at the very least that there was no way to know for sure that there was. But, secretly, I knew He existed, but I remember this being almost a subconscious knowledge – one I wouldn’t admit to anyone, not even really to myself. At the same time, I grew up around a good number of professing Christians, partly because I was home-schooled and many others homeschool for religious reasons. If anything, though, this exacerbated my opposition to Christianity. I could easily see that many of these professing Christians did not live out their faith. Many of the “Christian” kids my age seemed less loving and moral than moral non-Christians, and they would lie to their parents about their interests and priorities. So, I thought that even if God did exist, I would be fine since I was living a more moral life than most of these people. Although I denied God’s existence and lived a selfish, self-centered life, I lived in an outwardly “moral” way. That is to say, my great sins were pride, arrogance, a sense of superiority, being a know-it-all, that sort of thing. As I entered college, I was beginning to grasp the emptiness of living a moral life. I had been taught that living a moral life was “better”. But, if there is no God, no real right and wrong, why not just live how I please? I was ready to start chasing my desires.
Recently, one of my posts kicked off a discussion of worldviews. In my last post, I began by explaining what worldviews are, but this didn’t really answer the question I was asked, so today I want to recap the question and then get to the meat of it. Here’s the question:
After my post on how internet search results often come with a worldview, I fielded this question on Facebook and will be posting the response here as it may be of broader interest. Here’s the question:
Nowadays, we easily and instantly access a vast percentage of the world’s knowledge online via a simple Google search. Gone are the days of browsing card catalogs and digging deep in the library to find out basics of a topic of interest. These changes empower us, give us access to vast stores of information, and can dramatically improve our quality of life in many areas.
[Editor: This is a guest post by my friend Paul Pak, who posted this on Facebook and gave me permission to repost here. I liked his sentiments and perspective. - DLM]
Recently, I wrote about how God’s design includes using a flawed church to help me grow. In other words, in His sovereignty He wants me to be part of a flawed church in part for my good. Just as God used conflict in marriage to help me grow, He uses challenges in church to sanctify me. I believe this is part of His plan for church. And, of course, all churches are flawed, so I don’t have to worry about missing out.
At times, the number of things I need to do gets nearly overwhelming. I think the main reason I still manage to stay afloat, aside from the grace of God and the huge amount of help I get from my wife, is a reliance on systems to keep track and organize things. These have helped me a huge amount.
The Bible pictures church like a family, and Christians are adopted into that family when we are born again in Christ. That family is, first and foremost, a global or universal family, consisting of all Christians everywhere. All Christians are now fellow citizens and members of God’s household (Eph. 2:19). We are even called members of Christ’s family — siblings, as it were (Mark 3:33-35, Ro. 8:29, etc.). However, we are also called to belong to a local community of believers, a local church. Today, I want to talk about what that means and how I got it wrong for some years.
We live in a time of great division, it seems. The rhetoric, hatred, and blame-casting in politics seem to get worse each election cycle. In academia, even to mention conservative ideas or certain other topics often earns a tongue-lashing or can seemingly ruin a friendship. Many seem to see the world in terms of “us versus them” and if you’re not with “us” then you’re the enemy.
The Bible takes a clear, strong position on sexual sin and lust: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28, NASB). Jesus explained that we’re breaking God’s commandments if we so much as lust, let alone act out sinful sexual desires.
Life is busy. Some days it seems we’re just barely staying above water, and others, not even that. Maybe the to-do list ends the day longer than it started or, worse, maybe I didn’t even get to look at it. Surely you know the feeling. It’s a feeling that can get overwhelming, at times.
A decade or more ago, I wrote a blog for a year or two. I’ve always enjoyed writing, and this was no different. I covered a wide range of topics, from politics, to science and faith issues and Christian apologetics, to current events and even aspects of theology. However, my writing lacked real purpose, unless it was to make a name for myself within some circle of blogs.
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