Weekend Reading: October 22, 2016

Good morning from sunny Orlando!  I’m at a series of meetings this weekend for Ligonier Ministries, where some amazing work is being done, and planned.  Therefore I’m going to have to keep today’s blog/email really really really short.  Nonetheless, here are a few things you may want to take a peak at…

Scientists Wonder If the Common Cold May at Last Be Beatable – boy oh boy wouldn’t THIS be a good one to figure out!  I remember playing the game of Life growing up, and one of the things you could win major money for was “curing the common cold”!

Here’s one I didn’t get to read but am looking forward to….9 Things You Should Know About Planned Parenthood Founder Margaret Sanger (good follow up to the abortion discussion from this week’s final Presidential debate).

Speaking of the Presidential debate, Al Mohler had a very good podcast summing it all up.  I highly recommend listening and thinking about what he says and how he says it. You can always learn something from Al Mohler!

Red State has 5 takeaways from the debate. I don’t always agree with these guys, but its interesting to read their perspective.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Chris Wallace was an amazing debate moderator. The other previous moderators were simply terrible.  Wallace deserves all the praise that’s coming his way. 

Politics is changing – here’s another sign of that change: How 10 mega-donors already helped pour a record $1.1 billion into super PACs. Keep in mind this is written by the Post, which means that they won’t even consider the way Union money affected elections for the liberals prior to the Citizens United ruling. The only mention of unions at all is in a blurb about how liberal activist Tom Steyer is giving them millions to turn out the vote.

TECH ALERT: Switch Is the Dream Console Nintendo’s Been Working Toward for Years

MORE TECH: Fact checking is coming to Google News (h/t Marty G.)

VIDEO: Last week I finished reading David McCullough’s ‘The Wright Brothers’ (h/t Rod K.), and boy was it good. Very enjoyable – especially for someone from Ohio!  Anyway, I stumbled on this old sound-less video this week when during further research into the brothers, and its really cool!

Here’s another one I didn’t finish all the way but really look forward to thinking more about:  Use Anxiety to Your Advantage

Probably the most infuriating news of the week: Duterte aligns Philippines with China, says U.S. has lost.  Douglass MacArthur would be spinning in his grave!

THEOLOGY: If No One Is Lost, Then the Mission of Christ Was a Waste of Time

Finally, Jon Bloom eloquently says some things about judging that are helpful – especially as it concerns the election.  A nice follow up to my post from last week.

That’s it!  I hope you enjoy your Saturday!



Weekend Reading: October 15, 2016

Good morning, and welcome to your weekend reading!  It’s a beautiful Fall day, and I have a few articles, videos, blogs and books that you might enjoy.

Let’s get started…

Since I last wrote in this space, we’ve seen some extraordinary changes to the Presidential race. I don’t like to devote a lot of time in my writing to the stories that you’ve already seen though.  So let me do some bullet points of items that you may not have seen since the Trump sex scandal, and the Clinton WikiLeaks revelations…

Details of a past speech from Clinton surfaced in which she said those with religious beliefs that ran contrary to her conviction that reproductive rights (read “ability to kill babies whenever its convenient”) needed to have their beliefs “changed” to fit her contemporary vision.   The speech video here.  I can’t emphasize enough the importance of this video and the worldview from which these sentiments sprang. These were carefully chosen and thoughtfully delivered words. They aren’t words from the ancient past, but rather very recent sentiments from a speech given before she launched her Presidential bid.

Make no mistake about it, if you are a Christian, if (when?) Hillary Clinton is elected you will not have a friend of religious liberty in the White House.

Because I want to address another matter in length, here is a quick summary of a few articles/videos you might enjoy:

Interesting: Russian Government Officials Told To Immediately Bring Back Children Studying Abroad………

Federal Courts actually doing their job for once: The Unconstitutional Mr. Cordray

A few good points here: The Cheapest Way to Score E-Books and More

Challies this week: You, Me, and the ESV

New Star Wars Rogue 1 Trailer…looking good!

James K.A. Smith says we need to think more clearly about all this “revolutionism” going on in America.  He asks the question, “…what if unbelief is precisely the problem? What if it is precisely the secularization and naturalization of our political life that ends up absolutizing it, engendering an intolerance and reign of terror for any who violate its orthodoxy?”  There’s a lot of stuff in here, but I think he has some thoughtful points we ought to consider – even if he does hide them amongst some pretty thick intellectualism! (h/t Nick N. who urged me to check these guys out).

This was awesome: 4 Reasons Spurgeon Died Poor. 

Stephen Nichols: Does Even the Smallest Sin Deserve Eternal Damnation?

Just…Odd: Charlie Rose interviews…a robot?


Also – FYI – Wayne Grudem rescinded his endorsement of Trump. 

Now, I want to depart from the news links for a moment and conclude with some thoughts about what has been occurring at Liberty University, and how this might inform the way we think and talk about the difficult choices we face in November. 

Jerry Falwell, Jr., an ardent Trump supporter and defender, was dealing with dissenting students at the university this week who were tired of having their institution associated with Falwell’s personal (though very public) endorsement and now DEFENSE of Donald Trump. Let’s discuss this by examining a few excerpts from the article.  First, what the students are saying:

“Donald Trump does not represent our values and we want nothing to do with him,” the statement said. “… He has made his name by maligning others and bragging about his sins. Not only is Donald Trump a bad candidate for president, he is actively promoting the very things that we as Christians ought to oppose.”

Further, the students explain their reasoning for why they’re speaking out:

“Because our president has led the world to believe that Liberty University supports Donald Trump, we students must take it upon ourselves to make clear that Donald Trump is absolutely opposed to what we believe, and does not have our support,” the Liberty students wrote. “We are not proclaiming our opposition to Donald Trump out of bitterness, but out of a desire to regain the integrity of our school.”

I am struck by the humility and clarity of purpose from their statement. But I am not mainly concerned about the students here, but of the University’s leader.

Now, here is Falwell’s (condescending) response:

“I am proud of these few students for speaking their minds but I’m afraid the statement is incoherent and false,” Falwell said in a statement. “I am not ‘touring the country’ or associating Liberty University with any candidate. I am only fulfilling my obligation as a citizen to ‘render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s’ by expressing my personal opinion about who I believe is best suited to lead our nation in a time of crisis. This student statement seems to ignore the teachings of Jesus not to judge others but they are young and still learning.”

I want to set aside the man it issue, Donald Trump, and focus on Falwell for a moment – and for good reason. After all, this is one of the largest (if not the largest) institutions of higher learning in the country – certainly if enrollment is any guide.  It’s leader is a powerful figure in Christian circles, in political circles, and in academic circles. That makes this worth examining closely.  After all, many people have thought of Liberty University as a special and safe place to ensure their children get a quality education, and my belief is that’s quite still possible. That being said, it is worth considering that any school who has for its head such an ignoramus, might be lacking the moral courage and intellectual firepower to execute its high calling successfully.

Falwell’s response tells us two things about himself. First it shows his arrogance, and second it shows he is not a great biblical scholar (or perhaps worse, someone willing to twist Scripture to fits his own means). Unfortunately arrogance and ignorance usually go together, and produce a odious stench that is off-putting to those curious about the truth claims of Christianity, not to mention it dulls the ears and pains the hearts of The Faithful.

Falwell’s arrogance is seen in the statement “This student statement seems to ignore the teachings of Jesus not to judge others but they are young and still learning.”  He makes it seem as though the student who wrote the statement was a single voice crying in the wilderness, when that is obviously not the case. Second, he hasn’t listened to the humility in which the students’ (note where that apostrophe is located) presented their case or the reason for their concern. Instead he chalks it up to their immaturity – “they are young and still learning.”  There is nothing in the student’s statement that hints at immaturity, and I’m reminded of what Paul said to Timothy in the midst of his urges that Timothy focus on holding fast to the gospel and good doctrine:

Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. (1 Timothy 4:11-12 ESV)

Next, Falwell shows himself either a poor interpreter of Scripture, or someone willing to twist Scripture to fit his own means. I’ll let you be the judge.  He seems to be sticking with an earlier line of reasoning, which was posted in an editorial for WaPo earlier in the year:

Jesus said “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” Let’s stop trying to choose the political leaders who we believe are the most godly because, in reality, only God knows people’s hearts. You and I don’t, and we are all sinners.

Falwell is quoting from the Sermon on the Mount, the beginning of the 7th chapter of Matthew where Jesus is coming to the final stretch of his teaching.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the great English preacher of the 60’s has long been thought of as one of the most insightful preachers of the 20th century – especially when as it regards the Sermon on the Mount. In his day he was speaking to a culture not unlike our own – a culture that says “the truly Christian man should never express an opinion about others.”  Further, “This is not a time for these particular judgments , they say; what is needed today is unity and fellowship. We must all be one together.”

But as Llyod-Jones points out, this is a misinterpretation of the text. You can’t even make sense of verses which come shortly after with this mindset – as in verse 6, how can you not “cast your pearls before swine” without making a judgment as to who the “swine” are?! And how can you beware of false prophets (vs. 15) without exercising judgment?  You can’t; its impossible. The reason is that Falwell misunderstands the way in which Jesus is using the word “judgment.”  

Lloyd-Jones even says, “We must go further and put it like this: the Scripture itself teaches us that judgment has to be exercised in connection with the affairs of the State. It is Scripture which teaches us that judges and magistrates are appointed of God and that a magistrate is called upon to deliver and pronounce judgment, that it is his duty to do so.” He goes on to say judgment must also be used in the church and also in matters of doctrine.

Llyod-Jones concludes with several pages of explanation which could be summed up this way: Jesus is not saying not to use judgment in the selection of our leaders, but to avoid a spirit of condemnation, of delivering in our hearts and subsequently by our mouths, a “final” sentence of condemnation. This final sentence is one we arrogate to ourselves, but which in fact only belongs to God.  Put more succinctly, when we say “go to hell!”, we are doing what Jesus told us not to do.  Those three words sum up the heart attitude Jesus was preaching against.

Let’s also take a moment to note that the second part of Falwell’s statement, sandwiched in between the statements on judging, is that we shouldn’t try and choose political leaders who are “godly.” This is a logical absurdity. We all know that we aren’t voting for a priest or a pastor. However, this statement betrays a lack of intellect and/or thoughtfulness. We all have a worldview, and the Christian worldview is shaped by the idea that there are ultimate moral rights and wrongs. These ideas find their basis in the character or person of God Himself. They are revealed in the Word of God, the Scriptures. From this Word we can see the moral shape of God’s character, and His desire for man to be holy as he is holy. We are called “image-bearers”, after all.  Therefore, we don’t need to give up realism about the nature and general character of political leaders in order to be informed by how we measure their character. We measure all men by the yardstick of Christ, so to speak. And though we all fall woefully short, that doesn’t mean we chuck the yardstick, and therefore dispense with all forms of rational and coherent thought!

Unfortunately, the student’s seemed to have come to the scriptures with a much clearer head. Their logic is hard to deny, and the Post concludes its’ story by including the end of the student statement:

The students at Liberty University ended their statement by noting that “while everyone is a sinner and everyone can be forgiven, a man who constantly and proudly speaks evil does not deserve our support for the nation’s highest office.”

In summary,  Christians are called to look at the character of a man, and how he measures up and what he says with his mouth, and make decisions (judgments) based on what we see.  But we are not to condemn any man as if we were the final arbiters of that man’s soul.  Falwell jumps to this second use of the word “judgment”, misapplying our Lord’s words in order to condescendingly dismisses the critical thinking of his students, and those working to make an informed decision.

Why did I spend so much time discussing this?  Because I want to show that we have to be thoughtful about the choices we have to make in November. There is a solid, and fair case to be made that voting for Donald Trump is a vote to protect religious liberty (as seen above). But an equally fair argument is that Donald Trump is a pervert and sexual miscreant who has said he doesn’t need forgiveness, and seems to have been drunk on power more than once in his life – is that the kind of leader we want making decisions for the country?  The choice isn’t easy – and it isn’t as though Americans aren’t (for the most part) aware of 1. what’s at stake and 2. the lackluster nature of our choices.  That is why I want us to examine what religious leaders like Falwell say very closely. It is during such times as we’re living in, that the minds of leaders are revealed to us, and we can discern better who they are and what they are about.

That’s all I have for this week, I know that a longer-form discussion on this seems off the beaten path for me, and I appreciate your patience. These are big issues of our day and they take discernment and prayer and discussion within community. I certainly have my own opinions – I’m not trying to be unbiased. But I also hope you understand my heart, and that I don’t want to steer anyone in the wrong direction. Rather it is my goal to illuminate issues of concern and provoke thoughtfulness and discussion.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!


Weekend Reading: October 8, 2016

Good morning and welcome to the weekend!  I apologize for missing last week, and hope you weren’t too disappointed.  I did receive a few emails, but here’s the situation – I blog every week mainly because its fun and gives me a good outlet to write some thoughts down. If you don’t get an email, its not because you were taken off the list or because anything is wrong.  I am not a professional writer, so from time to time I take a break and don’t post anything.  Today’s blog will actually be pretty short. I’m supposed to be taking in the Word at my church’s men’s retreat, but instead find myself sidelined by illness.

So, a brief post now follows about the week, what I read, saw, heard and what’s worth passing along…

The biggest “news” of the week hit yesterday when old (recordings?) of Donald Trump leaked out to the press.  They feature extremely lewd comments (probably not endorsed by Jerry Falwell, Jr….we think).  I get the question on a regular basis “have you decided whether you’ll vote for Trump yet?”  Just when I think I’ve convinced myself, and I’m around 95% read to pull the trigger and “safeguard our supreme court” (hahaha), something like this happens and makes it all the more odious to even enter the voting booth. He isn’t making it easy, is he?!

Shifting gears, this is a bit of philosophical mumbo-jumbo, but in an interesting piece posted on the American Conservative, and reposted by Mohler later in the week, you can see some intramural outrage among liberal (communist?) philosophers over one man’s opinion on homosexuality. I think the point here is not that the guy they’re denouncing is correct as much as it is that whenever someone argues anything opposing the liberal dogma on homosexual behavior, they are denounced violently and not simply argued with in an academic manner. The merits of an argument are no longer considered or dealt with, they are simply denounced as hate-filled homophobes who must be tossed from their philosophy chairs. It is intolerance in the name of tolerance.  Of course I saw this in my own undergrad days in many a philosophy course. So nothing surprising, but here we’re seeing it spill over into the public discourse, and its not simply a professor shouting down an intelligent student, its prof. vs. prof.   The response by the left is seen as possibly communist because of the manner in which rationality and true arguments are tossed to the wind. Two legs bad, four legs good! 

This is a perfect segue: France plans ban on pro-life websites.

From the Wall Street Journal: Ohio State Is Showing a Historic Lack of Mercy. Pretty interesting stuff here statistically.  I’m not even a big football guy, but as a sports fan in general, stuff like this is fascinating to me.

Speaking of fascinating, this one caught my attention for you weekend readers: Younger adults prefer to get their news in text, not video, according to new data from Pew Research.

In what was probably one of the best blogs of the week, Ray Ortland is blunt: Sunday Soccer and Small Christianity.  Here’s an excerpt:

Christian conversion is not God sprinkling his pixie-dust blessing on our typical routines. It is a paradigm shift for the whole of our lives, with new categories and new capacities. We see this throughout the New Testament.

Book Reviews: Tim Challies looks at Sarah Young’s new sequel to Jesus Calling. 

Tomorrow night is debate number two between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Here’s the SNL from last time. People seem to think Mike Pence won the VP debate, and since no one really cares, the libs in the media were fine conceding that one. They did not, however, concede it based on the principle of arguments and what the men expressed – it was all about how they expressed it.  Kaine was said to have interrupted so much that he shot himself in the proverbial foot. Pence was said to have dodged all the questions that would have forced a defense of the indefensible GOP nominee.

From the Twitters:  A century of presidential elections, in one GIF

And, because I missed the week where I’d get to blog on the Ryder Cup, check this one out (ICYMI): Ryder Cup heckler makes putt to win $100 bet – video

Also ICYMI: Glenn Beck apologizes for endorsing Ted Cruz

NOSTALGIA: Photos: BlackBerry Over the Years: Smartphone maker will stop making its own phones as sales dwindle

Last week Ligonier released their ‘STATE OF THEOLOGY’ (in America).  It’s a very well put together large sample of people’s opinions and thoughts on theology and doctrine in America. Of course there are a few shocking things in here, and others not so shocking. For those of you who think we’re basically a Christian nation, well, you might have a hard time getting through it.  This basically shows that not only are we not basically a Christian nation, but that most of those who are self-proclaimed evangelicals don’t know the first thing about what they believe.

Sometimes its good to keep in touch with what some of these movie/tv stars say and do, as a reminder of what worldview is behind their behavior. Such is the case here: Andy Richter Is ‘Eternally Grateful’ His Wife Aborted His Child.

Gosh darn it – why are those Honeycrisp Apples so expensive???!!  Basic economics, Watson!

For you book lovers: 13 Ways Book Lovers Make More Time for Reading.

Tim Challies defends video games – no really! 

In the past week, two prominent men died. Shimon Peres, the former Israeli PM, and Arnold Palmer, one of Golf’s greatest heroes.  You’ve likely read and watched videos all about this, but a few linked stories above in honor of their passing seemed fitting.

HAHAHAHA!  To save their sinking city, Venetians are dressing like pirates and chasing cruise ships

Interesting final bits……new bible series without anything but the text……uber is researching vertical takeoff vehicles……new archeological discoveries dating back to the reign of Hezekiahthat whole water thing on Europa……Similarly silly questions……the Weiner-in-Law (what a messed up family!)……Obama’s fancy headgear……cool interactive map of middle earth.

That’s it!  Go enjoy the weekend!



Weekend Reading: September 24, 2016

Good morning and welcome to your weekend reading, a summing up of my favorite blogs, stories, videos and books from the past week.

NOTE: There are newer weekend readers, and by way of explanation, I don’t always just post the big stories from the week here. That does seem to work out most of the time, but I sort of assume that you’ve seen or heard some of the obvious stuff.  So if I post something its because I felt it relevant to comment on, or worthy of your attention.  Many stories happened in the last week that everyone heard about (i.e. Brad and Angelina breaking up) but I don’t really care about all of them (i.e. Brad and Angelina breaking up).

Let’s start on the lighter side.  Challies reposted something from a popular grammar blog exploring the origin of the phrase “Roger That”.  I really enjoyed it because its a phrase I use pretty much every week.

And I finally got a chance to read ‘Dilbert Explains Donald Trump’ (h/t Dave B.) and enjoyed it.  Pretty funny stuff. If you’ve ever read Dave Barry, I read this interview in the same was I would if I were reading a Barry column. You pick up its flavors here and there.  Like when Adams (the Dilbert writer) says that he endorsed Hillary out of safety concerns:

He notes that detractors “have literally been comparing Trump to Hitler—an actual comparison to Hitler. . . . That is a call for assassination. There’s no other way you can [expletive] interpret that. . . . And you’ve seen how many Trump people have been beaten by crowbars for wearing his shirt, or beaten up [outside a rally] in San Jose, my backyard.”

Next up is a story sent to me by my Kate from the New York Post: It’s ‘digital heroin’: How screens turn kids into psychotic junkies.  This was a pretty startling, yet completely believable, article. Worth the read parents.

And a nasty little segue here: A Family Affair: How Incest will Expose the Philosophical Inadequacy of Contemporary Sexual Ethics.  I don’t care about the story itself, but rather wanted you to check out Trueman’s point about how the word/concept of “consent” isn’t strong enough to bear the weight of an entire county’s law on marriage and sexual relationships.

Candice Millard’s new book about Winston Churchill is out (my copy arrived this week!). The link above is to the Wall Street Journal book review.

Speaking of WSJ weekend reads, they had one that I have not yet read but intend to because it appeals to my sense of rebellion against the new normal: Get Your Children Good and Dirty.

In case you hadn’t heard, there’s a Presidential Debate on Monday evening. National Review’s Rich Lowry thinks that the Dems have set themselves up for failure.  Maybe he’s right.  All I know is that it ought to be most entertaining…

Maybe I read too many alarmist kinds of stories this week, but this one simply confirmed why its good to have a water filter – from CNN: New report finds ‘Erin Brockovich’ chemical in US drinking water. From the story:

“Whether it is chromium-6, PFOA or lead, the public is looking down the barrel of a serious water crisis across the country that has been building for decades,” Brockovich said in a written statement Tuesday, blaming it on “corruption, complacency and utter incompetence.”

Incompetence, corruption, complacency…yup, sounds like the government to me.

And in another h/t to Challies for the able curation of cool content: Collecting the World: Inside the Smithsonian. 

Switching Gears: Has Rome Really Changed Its Tune?  This is a slightly long post from a former professor of mine about the Catholic Church, and whether they’ve really changed since the Reformation. It’s the 500th anniversary of the Reformation next year, and Allison (the author) looks at several key points where reformers had taken exception to the church’s teaching…have they changed?  Unfortunately, I think the answer is clearly “no”.  This is the kind of thing that I think is worth really pondering for my Catholic friends.  I understand the draw of the church, I really do.  Stability, beauty, community – and the knowledge that its not simply local but worldwide community. You can step into a parish anywhere in the world and hear the same mass, and feel at home. You’re part of a worldwide community.  The issue is that at its core, the Catholic Faith is broken, and broken badly. We see the results of this every day as the Pope flails about as he deals with the culture – sometimes adeptly, and sometimes very poorly.  The problem is there is no anchor to his teaching – the Bible, the truth of God’s Word, is no longer the only thing he must contend with. The church has elevated church leader’s words to the authoritative level of the Scripture, and now these Popes must navigate a hundred differing and evolving opinions from past ages. Therefore, the church has abandoned the fundamental principles which made it Christian years ago. The outward beauty and its forms of community remain, but they are a shell which covers a rotten core – a core without the gospel, and the absolute truth of the Word to govern everyday life.

My heart aches as I write this because I know how difficult it is to leave a church. To leave friends and familiarity and the warmth of community isn’t an etherial concept to me. But when the core principles which bond that community together are perverted beyond recognition, and men’s writing and traditions have stollen away all semblance of cogency from the initial Biblical designs, then a break must occur. Community and fellowship can only go so far when not rooted in absolute truth. As our Lord said the night before He died on our behalf:

I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. (John 17:14-17 ESV)

This sanctifying Word is no longer taught as singularly authoritative in the Catholic Church. It’s power has been covertly denied when the church subverts its authority with its’ own traditions, councils, and writings.

They say that people hate congress and yet love their congressman. I can equally say that I detest the Catholic Church, while loving my Catholic friends – each emotion strongly springing from a worldview shaped by Scripture, and a sinful heart transformed by Grace alone, through faith alone, by Christ alone, and for God’s glory.

Along similar lines, R.C. Sproul and Al Mohler did a question and answer session about the nature of Luther’s conversion, his affect on the church, and the coming anniversary of the Reformation.

This was pretty nifty: Archeologists are virtually unraveling ancient hidden texts that could rewrite biblical history. NOTE: I published this having read the story without seriously considering the headline. The headline is a bit deceptive. This story isn’t about re-writing Biblical history, its about technology. I’ve read enough to know that archeology has time and again proven, rather than disproven the history we’ve read about in Scripture. So don’t get the wrong idea!

The Chinese may hate individual liberty and freedom, but they love wine: The red planet: China sends vines into space in quest for perfect wine.

You can form your own opinion about Donald Trump, but Erick Erickson has lost his marbles...have others?

War Zone Chicago: Homicides are spiking again in some big U.S. cities. Chicago has seen nearly half the increase.

Olive Oil can come in handy when your beach trip goes south…

The Daily Signal has a story on how more people are using medical sharing plans to take care of catastrophic health care coverage while avoiding Obamacare penalties. I can attest that this works pretty darn well if you don’t have a lot of reoccurring medical costs and simply need catastrophic coverage.

Sinclair Ferguson from a few weeks back: Endless, Bottomless, Boundless Grace and Compassion.

Books: This past week or so, I read: The Prince (old Niccolo) , Tolkien and the Lord of the Rings: A Guide to Middle Earth (Duriez), True Community (Bridges), Man’s Search for Meaning (Frankl).   I’m almost done with Ayn Rand’s ‘The Fountainhead’ which has taken up a lot of my time, and have been enjoying a dozen other books, including the poetry of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  Last night Chloe and I read ‘The Ancient Mariner’ and found it a little creepy, and yet still enjoyable!

That’s it!  I am especially thankful for the gospel this morning, and the fact that no confirmation or sunday school class, no sprinkling, no works, no words of mine will save me. Only the grace of God working through faith He gave me will save me and keep me. I am thankful that the Bible is both available for me to read, and transformative when I do read it. I’m glad it serves as a solid truth upon which I can base my morals, ethics, and daily decisions. These are reassurances which I treasure as we head into another crazy election season!

Go enjoy your weekend!


Weekend Reading: September 16, 2016

Good evening, and welcome to the weekend!  Normally I don’t get a chance to write this post until Saturday morning – it has become a sort of ritual, I suppose.  But tomorrow I’m traveling with the family to Western Michigan, where we’ll enjoy a weekend with long time friends.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this week’s collection of stories, videos and blog posts. At the very end, I update you on books I’ve read and am reading.

Not sure where to begin…but let’s start on the lighter side.  Fallon had Trump on the show this week, and man this video is pretty hilarious. HINT: It has to do with the Donald’s hair.

And, more seriously, and thought-provokingly, Politico wrote a story up about how Trump seems to be very close to overtaking HRC in almost all the key battleground states. It wasn’t but a few weeks ago when the press seemed sure that though HRC was losing ground nationally, she was still ahead in the key battleground states like Ohio and Florida. Now, after a disastrous week, that assumption seems shaky.

Speaking of that disastrous week, I wonder who had a worse week, Wells Fargo, or Hillary Clinton?  Or, maybe Fox News who lost yet another key anchor.  Nah, not much of a competition – I say Clinton by a mile.  Oddly enough, it was the New York Daily News’ Gersh Kuntzman (whoever that is), whose story on the HRC faintness/whateverillnessitisness captures the issue the best with this headline: Clinton’s cover story for her pneumonia diagnosis further proves her first instinct is to lie.  And, there you have it. I don’t need to make any more comment, except simply to say that the reason why this illness won’t work to her favor politically is that whatever happens to her politically because of it won’t have anything to do with it at all.  Follow me?  In one exposing moment in front of millions of voters, HRC reminded them than their suspicions about her were correct: she’s a liar and not to be trusted. Talk all you want about illness…that isn’t what made her week bad.

Okay, I don’t talk a lot about the sexual revolution, per se. I don’t feel I have to – there are many already writing much more eloquently and poignantly about it. If you want to know how new sexual mores affect us in our Christian walks, then read Desiring God’s blog. If you want to keep up on the cultural impact of this stuff, then listen to Al Mohler’s podcast (just not around your children).  But from time to time I will post something on this front, because occasionally it reaches a level of ridiculous that can’t be ignored.  This week, the ridiculous arose from the Daily Caller: Overpriced Fancypants University Festoons Campus With Absurd ‘Ze, Zir, Zirs’ PRONOUN POSTERS.  I don’t know whether to be spitting mad, intellectually incredulous, or simply to laugh out loud at the preposterousness of the whole thing.  But there it is. Judge for yourself…judge rightly.

Since we’re on the topic of the ridiculous: Daniel Craig ‘offered $150 million to return as James Bond’.  I mean…I like Daniel Craig’s acting, but man that’s a lot of dough!  I can’t resist at this point to air a few thoughts about the Bond series…I think Craig has been the most authentic Bond to date. The rest were really just caricatures; Craig is a character, he’s created a character.  He’s made Bond human. The old ones were horrid, you didn’t know whether to laugh or what. Yet I still watched with guilty enjoyment. They were extremely degrading of women – something I always cringed at. The Craig ones didn’t seem that way. He was a real person; he was human. Relationships came at a human cost to him, and this made all the characters more human. Also, Bond actually fell in love – not simply lust. This deepened and enriched the story.  The irony of it is that I doubt the Hollywood producers recognized any of this…blind squirrels?

Something to Watch: More parents believe vaccines are ‘unnecessary,’ while a mumps outbreak grows. I am not going to say a doggone thing about this. I’m not sure there’s any social topic that is more decisive among friends over a casual dinner than to discuss this topic! Everyone seems to have an opinion, and an attitude to accompany it. I find it fascinating, and continue to learn more and more as time passes.  I will note that it seems this particular article is a bit tilted in favor of the traditional medical establishment’s opinions.

I think this probably flew under the radar this week, but it caught my attention: The Man Who Tried To Kill Reagan Walks Free — With Conditions

A weekend reader sent this to me and I got a good chuckle: John McIntyre’s “trigger warning” to new students at his editing class at Loyola University Maryland.

Interesting video about the 9/11 Boatlift – I had no clue this was a thing, but its pretty neat. This was making its way around social media this week, but I think I need to give credit to Marc W.

Call it clickbait, or whatever, but it still caught my attention: Here are the weirdest presidential eating habits (or maybe I just feel bad for poor neglected AOL.com).

I know very little about college football – except that I enjoy watching it from time to time. But this was really interesting: Finding the Small Stories in NCAA Football Data

Crrrreeepy: Kuwait plans to create a huge DNA database of residents and visitors. Scientists are appalled.

Haven’t gotten to this one yet…but it might be worth checking out: Lay Aside the Fear of Man

And this was excellent: If God Is Sovereign, Why Pray?  Snippet:

There is something erroneous in the question, “If God knows everything, why pray?” The question assumes that prayer is one-dimensional and is defined simply as supplication or intercession. On the contrary, prayer is multidimensional. God’s sovereignty casts no shadow over the prayer of adoration. God’s foreknowledge or determinate counsel does not negate the prayer of praise. The only thing it should do is give us greater reason for expressing our adoration for who God is. If God knows what I’m going to say before I say it, His knowledge, rather than limiting my prayer, enhances the beauty of my praise.

My favorite post of the week: LESS REDEEMING THINGS AND MORE ENJOYING THEM.  Excerpt worth reading, then re-reading:

Is it wrong to find the 8 gospel themes in The Revenant? Of course not. But it’s also okay to watch the movie simply for fun and to observe Leo’s bear skills. That too is a gift from God. An activity doesn’t need to be overtly “spiritual” for it to be deeply spiritual.

Someone over at the Federalist was perturbed…and rightly so: If You’re Not A Dad, Don’t Go To Dad Events At School.

This will get you thinking…despite the annoying nasal V.O.: Transistors – The Invention That Changed The World.

Would this surprise you? Study: Religion contributes more to the U.S. economy than Facebook, Google and Apple combined.

This is kind of a no-brainer, but Jim G. over at National Review says what needs to be said, and repeated, and thoughtfully digested on a regular basis I think: The Problem with Partisan Faith

For you golf fans, David Love III has chosen his Ryder Cup captain’s picks…I like Fowler, I really do, but I’m not sure he’s really broken out enough to deserve this.

David Mathis is at it again: Dad Enough to Sing.  I think my kids would disagree now, but maybe agree later on! haha!  I’ve been singing some twisted silly version (with my own silly lyrics) of the following Tolkien song from the Fellowship of the Ring all week long (much to their chagrin!).

Sing hey! for the bath at close of day
that washes the weary mud away!
A loon is he that will not sing:
O! Water Hot is a noble thing!

O! Sweet is the sound of falling rain,
and the brook that leaps from hill to plain;
but better than rain or rippling streams
is Water Hot that smokes and steams.

O! Water cold we may pour at need
down a thirsty throat and be glad indeed;
but better is Beer if drink we lack,
and Water Hot poured down the back.

O! Water is fair that leaps on high
in a fountain white beneath the sky;
but never did fountain sound so sweet
as splashing Hot Water with my feet!

Isn’t that pretty silly? I thought so as well…simply delightful!

And what in the world is going on here: Why a Chemical Banned From Soap Is Still in Your Toothpaste.  There’s some crazy stuff in toothpaste!

This one will make you a little hot under the collar, unfortunately: Zika Funding Bill Blocked Again by Senate Democrats over Planned Parenthood.

Okay…there are two more items to cover this week.  The first is media bias creeping up on my iPhone, and the second is literature.

I don’t get “shocked” or annoyed by media bias. It’s on both sides of the political spectrum, and so ubiquitous that it doesn’t phase me much anymore. Nonetheless, I decided to take two screenshots of my iPhone this week to show you what I encountered. One was a list of opinion articles from WaPo and the second was curated news items from Apple. Why do I display these?  Because these examples got me thinking about how, though we are familiar with media bias from both sides, there’s a difference between these two images that goes a bit beyond that…if “beyond” is the correct word. There is a newer phenomenon now: it is the bias injected into the curation of stories to our devices, to our social feeds, and to our inboxes. This is the new form of messaging control, and its becoming more and more prevalent. We ought to take care to ask ourselves “why are these stories populating?” “what are the assumptions behind these headlines?” etc.

Apple Bias


Now, on to literature.  Many years ago I made myself the promise and the goal to read 100 books in a year. This week I finally achieved that goal, and I’m both excited about it and disappointed. I’m excited because it wasn’t that hard, and it was very enjoyable. I’m disappointed because I sometimes allowed myself to become a little too obsessed with the number, and the goal, and the prestige of the goal – pure pride. God has some work to do on me here, and I’ve felt is acutely in the last week or so. Yet He is gracious and has given me great enjoyment in literature.  This same enjoyment I sincerely wish for everyone.

Here’s the list of what I’ve read – I’m currently working on 7 or 8 books, including Ayn Rand’s ‘The Fountainhead’, which has been very interesting. I both despise it, and enjoy it at the same time. I’m not stopping reading just because I hit the goal.  One of the startling things I’ve learned this year, startling and shameful, is that I’m still learning how to read better, and have a long way to go in that department.

I’m not going to give any top tens or top whatevers list at this point. I’ll save that for later or at the end of the year, maybe.  For now, I hope to encourage you to read, and enjoy reading. Even if you only read 5 or 10 books a year, its important to be reading, to be learning, and to exercise those imaginative muscles that God gave you for the benefit of yourself, and others, and for his Glory.

That’s it for now – I hope you have a wonderful weekend!







Weekend Reading: September 10, 2016

Happy Saturday!  This is your weekend reading; a list of my favorite blogs, videos, books and more from throughout the week (with some editorializing from time to time!).  Something that hit me this week during a discussion with a weekend reader was that you may not realize this is actually a blog post, and not simply an email.  You can see the original online versions by visiting http://www.pjwenzel.com.

Speaking of feedback…I’m actually looking for some input from everyone. Right now I send this email in separate groups through my native email client, but the list of folks is growing and that’s becoming more onerous. I’ve stayed away from blast email services like Mail Chimp because I want you all to know that this is not some impersonal newsletter, but rather its something between friends, and that you can always respond back with thoughts. Anyway, let me know what you think about that, one way or another, and in the meantime I hope you enjoy the post…

The Washington Post had a story this week about how literary reading is on the decline. I’m unsure I buy the results wholesale, but there are some concerning trends here. They sort of bury this bit at the bottom, but I think its what was so thought-provoking:

A number of recentstudies have demonstrated that fiction — particularly literary fiction — seems to boost the quality of empathy in the people who read it, their ability to see the world from another person’s eyes. And good works of literature, particularly novels, can grant you direct access to another person’s mind — whether it be the mind of the author, or of one of their imagined characters — in a way that few other works of art can.

Over at Desiring God a post was written by one Paul Maxwell called ‘The Price Isn’t Quite Right’.  If I were to talk directly with Mr. Maxwell I’d tell him that he needs an editor, and badly (its just not very well written).  BUT, the topic fascinated me because he was taking aim at entrepreneurs and their love of money and success.  I count myself as an entrepreneur, and I thought much of what Mr. Maxwell had to say was a good reminder.  Here’s one of my favorite parts:

Do we have the luxury to believe that our hearts are money-love-repellent? “When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot me” (Hosea 13:6, NIV). “Entrepreneurs” don’t struggle with greed — we are tempted by all the satisfactions we pursue through monetary accumulation: safety, worthiness, love, comfort.


As Christians, it’s easy to be caught in an insane back-and-forth between feeling guilty for wanting money, and rabidly seeking financial gain. In that process, it becomes easier and easier to think that the laws of the market apply to God’s ways with us.

A little bit of brilliance by Kevin DeYoung this week: Stop the Revolution. Join the Plodders. There are some big things to digest before you even finish the first graph.  But he hits his stride here:

My generation in particular is prone to radicalism without followthrough. We have dreams of changing the world, and the world should take notice accordingly. But we’ve not proved faithful in much of anything yet. We haven’t held a steady job or raised godly kids or done our time in VBS or, in some cases, even moved off the parental dole. We want global change and expect a few more dollars to the ONE campaign or Habitat for Humanity chapter to just about wrap things up. What the church and the world needs, we imagine, is for us to be another Bono—Christian, but more spiritual than religious and more into social justice than the church.

From beginning to end, DeYoung is on to something here. If you’re a Christian, being part of the church isn’t just “a good habit” or “socially responsible” or something to do on a Sunday to make you feel better. It ought to be part of the very oxygen that keeps you alive. I’ll go one step further than DeYoung and say that Christians ought to cultivate and experience (to some degree!) a desire for it, a need for it, and enjoyment of it.

This was really funny: Nice Trash Can! Let’s See What the Bears Think

From Quartz: FAA on the Samsung Galaxy Note 7: Don’t turn it on, don’t charge it, don’t pack it in your luggage

The Presidential…this was all over the place this week: Inside the collapse of Trump’s D.C. policy shop.  Lot’s to ponder here about how the campaign interacted with these folks, and the seemingly tenuous relationship between NYC and D.C.  Others might wonder why all the work was done in the first place when it seems NYC wasn’t using it.

Fascinating: To Launch a Nuclear Strike, Clinton or Trump Would Follow These Steps

Breitbart: Confirmed: Obama’s $1.7B Tribute to Iran Was Paid in Cash to Circumvent Sanctions

New York Times: Evangelicals Ignore G.O.P. by Embracing Syrian Refugees.  I’m always interested in reading the depraved (and often very warped) perspective of the liberal media on Christian activity. But no matter what the writer was going for here, its cool to see the church being the church. What the author misses is that many Christians  who don’t think its wise to have these refugees come to America (by-passing the years-long immigration line), will still serve them like we serve everyone else because they’re people created by God in His image.

SIDEBAR: There ought not to be division of mind here, and I don’t think there is (despite what the NYTimes may suppose).  Christians – like many Americans – understand that its both unfair and potentially dangerous to allow a mass importation of refugees into this country. Yet, Christians follow a higher calling, even when politicians (read President Obama) do stupid and even lawless things. These truths go back to our nation’s founding in two ways. First, Christians recognize that there has always been a motive for coming to this great country – freedom and liberty. There Syrians aren’t coming here from a heart-swelling desire to assimilate into our great society. They don’t value our liberty, and they might even misunderstand it. Second, true Christians don’t see (ought not to see) a Syrian as someone less than human, less than an image bearer. Jesus radically broke down all national boundaries time and again in his teaching (think the Good Samaritan), and the church has always sought to make disciples of all people everywhere.

This is hilarious: Groggy, Bound Wayne Grudem Awakens In Warehouse To Discover Evil Twin Endorsed Trump In His Name.  Don’t get all worked up Mr. and Mrs. Trump supporter, I’m not bashing the GOP nominee here, just too funny not to post!

Well that was quick……..Fox settles with Gretchen Carlson for $20 million, Greta Van Susteren departs.

Soooo….goooood……Treat Yourself to the Voice of God

Interesting: The McMansion’s day has come and gone

Spooky: Promoting Infanticide in Newsweek.  Excerpt:

But beneath that veneer, the infanticide message is the same today as it was in the 1920s and 1930s. We ignore the approaching darkness at our own peril.

My buddy Ben sent this little gem along: Thank God For Your Job (Doesn’t Matter What Your Job Is!)

Creepy and Startling from CNN reporting on a story from Ohio: This is the devastating effect of heroin that police want you to see

I haven’t finished reading this yet, but its critical of Andy Stanley, so it must be good (I jest, I jest): Andy Stanley’s Statements about the Bible are not Cutting Edge—They’re Old Liberalism

In case you missed it, this was a huge financial story this week: Wells Fargo to Pay $185 Million Fine Over Account Openings.

Nate “sometimes I’m wrong, sometimes I’m right” Silver:  Election Update: Clinton’s Lead Keeps Shrinking

Okay, I know there wasn’t a ton of politics in there today, but that’s all I have!  I hope you enjoy the weekend!


Weekend Reading: September 3, 2016

Good morning and welcome to your Labor Day weekend!   I just woke up from an enjoyable camping experience in central Ohio with friends, and while some of the others locate the restoratives (coffee!!) I’ll pass along the best stuff I read this week before I leave my tent…

Here goes…

There were several stories about how The Donald was closing the gap on HRC in the polls.  I saw a few of those, though when you examine the battleground states, it’s still an uphill climb.  What’s shocking is that after all that happens he’s still right in the margin of error – she’s just THAT bad.  In fact, one of the big stories earlier in the week was how HRC’s Favorability Ratings had plunged to the same level as The Donald’s. So it should be no surprise that they’re running neck and neck. Who can offend and turn off fewer people? That seems to be the question at this point. 

And breaking: Vacationing President Obama Dedicates 18th-Hole Birdie To Louisiana Flood Victims.  Actually, though these are funny stories, I agree with my friend Chris who says that we could leave the POTUS alone about his golf…(I certainly have no room to speak!)

RC Sproul asks the question some of us might have wondered: Can Salvation be Lost because of Sin???

This was short but good: How Reliable Is Your Conscience? 

Piper Video: Does Baptism Save You?  He works through a difficult passage of scripture. 

This was pretty interesting: How The Catholic Church Documented Mother Teresa’s 2 Miracles.  I believe in the supernatural, but to attribute it to any saint and not to Christ is clearly counter to Scripture. “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” – 1 Timothy 2:5.  Hard to explain that one away. 

Two great photo essays this week. First: The Mammoth Pirates and Second: Tomato Slinging in Spain Sparks Food Fight Trend. Interesting stuff! 

SCANDAL: Secret exemption for Iran and Secret Payments for Iran.  There really are no words.  John Kerry will go down as the most ineptit diplomat since Chamberlain. 

Gene Wilder is dead at the age of 83.

Liberal, Moderate or Conservative? See How Facebook Labels You.  

FUNNY: The joy of betrayal: Bob Ross’ famous hair was the result of a perm.  

Erickson bemoanes the liberal media: Peak Trump Hatred. 

Oh man….Children’s Services launches Anthony Weiner probe

In case you missed it: Tim Cook: Apple tax ruling ‘political,’ ‘maddening’.  

Also: Senior ISIS Strategist and Spokesman Is Reported Killed in Syria

Wha??!!?? REPORT: One of the 100 Desks in the U.S. Senate Chamber is Full of Candy.  No wonder they’re able to talk so long…

Haven’t read this yet but looking forward to it!   20 Quick Tips to Improve Your Productivity  

That’s good enough I think!  Go enjoy your weekend!