Weekend Reading: April 9, 2016

Welcome to the weekend!  It’s Master’s Weekend, and you can find the realtime leaderboard here, and online streaming here.

Speaking of the Masters, if you’re following things then you know that one of the meltdown stories was Ernie Ells 9 on the very first hole of the tournament – here’s the video.  My four top pics for Master’s dominance are heading into the weekend in decent shape: Rory, Spieth, Day, and Rose.  I’m hoping for a Jordan v. Rory Sunday special!

Politically speaking, we’re heading into a part of the campaign season that focuses more and more on winning over the delegates headed to Cleveland for the GOP convention.  Politico took a national survey of their insiders – folks who work in the business of politics – and found that 90% of them think a contested convention is likely. I just post that because I’ve had a few folks ask me this week if I thought it was possible – yes, it’s possible, in fact, its probable. What this kind of scenario means is that campaigns must woo the people heading to Cleveland, and/or get local supporters elected as delegates in each state’s convention process – something that differs across the map. This makes things, well, complex!  Team Trump seems to be unprepared for this style of political battle, and reports were out today about a recent example of issues on this front (here’s another story on this front as well). The conventional (no pun intended) wisdom seems to be that Trump needs to win on the first ballot – at least that’s his best shot for taking the nomination. The next two ballots will likely play to Cruz’s strength, and ballots 3, 4, 5 etc. play more into Kasich’s strength – there’s a reason why Cruz and Trump want Kasich stopped prior to this point – also see: Trump, Cruz Work to Block Kasich From Ballot at Open Convention.

Another question I got this week was, “What in the world is all this talk about Paul Ryan being put into nomination?”  Anyone can be nominated at the convention. You don’t have to win any primaries to win the convention and be the nominee. But the likelihood of a “white knight” coming in to steal the show is very unlikely. It’s not unprecedented, but in the modern era, it hasn’t happened.

The next question I keep getting goes something like this, “Why is there a convention at all – why not just let people vote and be done with it? Aren’t we a Democracy, after all?” The shorthand on this (with some background) is this: We are not a Democracy in the strict sense. We are a Republic. The wheels of government in America were designed to move slowly and cautiously, and you might say that the same goes with our elections. Therefore, in a way, the American idea of politics is at root very similar to that of how its government was designed. The latter was built to check the power of one federal branch, the former to check the passions of the populace. Remember, the founders lived through the French Revolution, which left that government destabilized and left the country at the mercy of idiotic (and bloody) popular whims for decades. Even after the formation of the American Government, the founders did not have an easy time of it. Thousands of people were rioting in front of the President’s residence in Philly during Washington’s Presidency over a proposed trade deal with France. Jefferson secretly funded anti-federalist (anti-Washington) newspaper run at arms length by Madison – all the while serving as Secretary of State to Washington (you think SuperPACs and Glenn Beck are out of control, the vitriol during these years was untamed)!  What I’m getting at is this: craziness in the press, dangerous riots of the populace, and high flung rhetoric from rival politicos is nothing new, in fact, I’d say that we could be reverting back to the days of our founders and the wild west of American politics. At least that’s a working theory…

On similar matters….A while back Politico Magazine did a sort of hit piece on John Kasich entitled, ‘How Kasich’s Religion Is Hurting Him With Conservatives’. I thought it was a pretty interesting piece, though not very flattering. The intersection of politics and religion have always shaped the history of the worlds. This is the case for every religious military and political leader since time began. So paying close attention to how these men speak about their faith is important. Learning about their upbringing is significant.  For instance, Kasich’s faith was formed as a boy growing up in the Catholic Church, but was later informed and forever cemented by the tragic death of his parents. Ted Cruz grew up around faith. He made an early profession of faith (as this article describes), but he grew up in a type of church that seems closer to televangelism than a mainstream evangelicalism.  Trump does not have a faith background, but champions the cause of Christians on the stump.  All of these things matter, they are all factors that go into the making of a man/woman, and help paint the portrait of the next leader of the free world.

On the Democratic side, I found a post today over at WaPo extremely interesting.  They detail how Bill Clinton was getting shouted down by a Black Lives Matter protestor this week, and how he responded. The complaint seemed to be that his Crime Bill (from the 90’s) has incarcerated tons of black Americans, and has gone too far – maybe there is some truth to this, which even Clinton acknowledged. But the protestor was holding a sign with an old Hillary quote that was supposedly damning, but that old fox defended the quote, and did so very well. While Bill Clinton certainly ranks as one of the most immoral political figures of the late 20th century, his political skills are still very sharp.  Key Quote from Clinton’s defense:

Clinton pointed to the signs. “This is what’s the matter,” he said. “I don’t know how you would characterize the gang leaders who got 13-year-olds hopped up on crack and sent them out onto the street to murder other African American children. Maybe you thought they were good citizens. She didn’t! …You are defending the people who kill the lives you say matter! Tell the truth! You are defending the people who caused young people to go out and take guns.”

Now, on to other items…

There’s an important piece in the Columbus Dispatch about a new church document released by the Pope. The document address several social issues, and the biggest headliner from the theological treatise is that church members should follow their consciences rather than strictly stick to church rules. From what I could tell, this was aimed especially at matters of birth control and allowing divorced members of the church to eventually be allowed to take the sacrament again. The language is very gracious, but what comes screaming off the page of this story is this question: to what are the consciences of these church members bound? If they are to follow them so closely, what is informing them if not church rules? It is the consciences of men that MAKE church “rules/traditions” – and this is nothing short of an accidental admission that church rules aren’t sacrosanct in every single situation in life. What is missing from this is the role of SCRIPTURE. This is what started the Protestant revolution hundreds of years ago. Crisis points in life came, the church had their own rules, and valued them so highly that they couldn’t change them, so they allowed the conscience of church leaders to stomp out objections. But Scripture must be our guide as Christians – it is what binds our conscience! It is the ultimate authority – not a parallel authority to the church, which has just tacitly admitted its own imperfection. I hope my Catholic friends see this amazing story and realize how significant it is. I’ll leave you with the words of Luther when he came to the crisis point before the Council of Worms:

Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.

The Wall Street Journal has a good piece on the continuing Clinton Email probe. Here’s a key excerpt, “The judges have taken unprecedented steps to resolve this case. It is exceedingly rare—almost unheard of—for a judge to allow discovery in a FOIA proceeding. This is a testament to how grave Mrs. Clinton’s email problem is.” This is a painful reminder to the Clinton Machine that this problem isn’t going away – and it isn’t simply the figment of a partisan group of GOP conspirators.

This one is kind of silly, but some good points pervade the writing, “Sheep Tragi-Comedy #1,317: ‘The Draad Kruiper'”

Jon Bloom has a good piece this week over at Desiring God called, ‘How to Resist Temptation’s Mirage Moment’. Good insight here, “Satan manipulated Eve’s God-given desire to be happy and used it against her.”  Then, “Don’t allow your passions to be your dictators (Romans 6:12). Remember, emotions are gauges, not guides. They are indicatives not imperatives. They are to be directed, not to be directors.”

Interesting: ‘LaCroix Bubbles Up in Sparkling Water Brand Competition’ – if you’re house is like mine, then you don’t even have pop/soda stocked on your shelves. Instead, we have LaCroix, and a variety of other like-products. Guess we’re just part of a larger trend…

I’ve tried to be more regular in my updates of what books I’ve read this week in addition to the articles and blogs. Only have two for you this week as I’m in the midst of some larger works that are taking more time:

  1. The Passionate Preaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones – Steven J. Lawson – I really enjoyed learning more about Lloyd-Jones, but whether or not this was the best rendering of the Llyod-Jones story, I’m not so sure.  I’ve enjoyed Lawson’s other works a great deal, but felt this wasn’t his best work. It was a bit repititious, and I would have loved to see Lawson dig deeper into the personal details of the great man’s life. The focus, of course, was specifically on the Llyod-Jones’ preaching, and the book certainly maintained a lazer-like focus on that topic. However, some more context about who the man was, including his personal experiences, and interactions with friends and family would have provided me with more appreciation for his life as a whole.
  2. When I don’t Desire God – John Piper – I’ve been wanting to read this book for several years now. It’s been on my shelf staring down at me, and I have often averted its gaze, putting off what I hoped to get done “soon”. Well, it was worth the wait!  More direct and refined in style than ‘Desiring God’, Piper has done something really special here. Not only does he summon the right Scriptures in the right way in the right places, but he also brings luminaries from 2000 years of wisdom to bear on his topic. The topic is really the desires of the Christian, and how to “fight for joy” in everyday life. So very practical is this book, and so very well done, that I would whole-heartedly recommend it to any seasoned Christian. You will find perspective, and practicality in these pages, all supported by the weight of Scripture, and the wisdom of a man whose walked the trails of this life for decades.

That’s it – enjoy your weekend!



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