Anticipating the Lord of History

It’s been several years since I posted anything in this space, and even longer since a regular posting has been in the offing. But today I was encouraged by the thought that, after receiving some feedback in the past few weeks, that these posts are occasionally helpful to folks interested in studying the scriptures and even other matters of a political or theological nature. So in light of that, I’m going to post below a sermon I preached this morning on Luke chapter 1. I hope its enjoyable and enlightening for anyone stumbling across it online.

PJ Wenzel

Welcome to the advent season!  Advent season – the celebration of the arrival of Jesus.

During this advent season, we’re going to be looking at several key figures in the birth narrative of our Lord, with the purpose of walking in their sandals a bit. To see that they were not only narrative furniture in the story of Jesus, but men and women whose lives furnish us with examples of how Jesus’ advent changed them, and how the Gospel transformed their lives and hearts.

Zechariah was one such man.  We’re going to walk through the first part of Luke 1 together, I’m going to read some of the story with you, and because it’s a longer passage, I’m going to make some contextual comments along the way, and then we’ll examine the story from a few different angles. 

So…Luke 1 beginning in verse 5, please follow along with me…

[5] In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. [6] And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. [7] But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.

Zechariah was a priest from the line of Aaron. Aaron was the brother of Moses, and in the Bible it is through Aaron’s line that the priesthood would be maintained. But not only is Zechariah from this tribe, so is his wife, Elizabeth. It was said in those days that a woman of excellent character was “fit to marry a priest.” But here we learn she is not only righteous in character but is also of the lineage of Aaron, and this would have been thought a double blessing for Zechariah.

Note also that these are older folks. Just like Abraham and Sarah, they are old and unable to have children. From Sarah to Hannah to Elizabeth, again and again in Scripture there is a theme that the Lord delights to show his power and grace in the barren womb. God being glorified in the midst of suffering is also a major Biblical theme, and in the stories of women like Elizabeth, the two themes are beautifully and powerfully woven together. Now, verse 8…

[8] Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, [9] according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.

By this time there were so many priests that the line of Aaron was divided up into 24 different divisions, and even those divisions were so populated that if you were chosen for the honor of offering prayers in the temple like this, it’s the only time you’d be able to do it in your lifetime. One and done. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for Zachariah – so he is thinking that this is the apex of his ministry on earth.

[10] And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. [11] And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. [12] And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. [13] But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. [14] And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, [15] for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. [16] And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, [17] and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

[18] And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” [19] And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. [20] And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.”

[21] And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. [22] And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. [23] And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

Now it was expected that when Zachariah came out of the Temple, he was to stand in front of the people on the steps of the temple and offer to them a blessing. He was to bless them verbally before the Lord. So when he came out and couldn’t speak, he also couldn’t perform this blessing.  Finally we read…

[24] After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, [25] “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”

This is the word of the lord. You may be seated. 

There are three different angles to this story we’ll examine:

  1. The first is the art of waiting on God’s timing
  2. The second is ultimate reality belongs to God
  3. The third is restoration for the glory of God

(waiting, reality, restoration)

The art of waiting on God’s timing

I’ve read in so many devotions and so many greeting cards now that the theme of “anticipation” has become a permanent part of my Christmas vocabulary. Growing up we even celebrated Christmas by doing an advent devotional as a family and putting ornaments on a “waiting tree.” 

To be perfectly candid, I didn’t really care for all the waiting and anticipation in the lead up to Christmas. As a kid it wasn’t the decorating and the devotional evenings that I anticipated, it was Christmas morning! Just in case my parents weren’t sure of my feelings, I’m sure I conveyed my righteous anticipation by asking a million questions about presents and refusing to sit still for any length of time.

Despite my mom’s noble efforts, it wasn’t until later that I began to appreciate the themes of “anticipation” and “waiting” and how they reflect the longing of Israel for their Messiah.

Here at the beginning of our advent season together is the perfect time to reflect on those themes, especially as we look at the lives of Zechariah and of Elizabeth. Focusing in a bit more on Zechariah this morning.  

Luke tells us a few important things about this couple: They were righteous, they were old, they were barren, and they were serving the Lord.

When you are young, there are certain dreams you have, which, being young, you assume will just fall into place as life goes on. There is a certain naiveté, ignorance, and maybe even a touch of arrogance about how we start out our lives as adults. But as time wears on, we begin to see that what we assumed about life, what we took for granted would just happen, doesn’t always fall into place the way we thought it might. Am I right?

Francis Schaeffer once said in the context of an essay on art, that for the Christian, our entire life is our greatest work of art, more than anything we ever do with our hands or produce with our minds.  I’m certain that many of you would agree with Samuel Rutherford that we owe a great deal to the file and the hammer of our Lord, but that process of refinement is painful. And perhaps no struggle is more personal and more painful for a married couple than the struggle of infertility.

Now it is not my purpose or intent to open fresh wounds this morning. But here at Veritas while we’ve praised God on many occasions for the great blessing of children in the church, we’ve also wanted to acknowledge and love on those in our church family here who haven’t yet been blessed with a child, or have walked a long and faith-testing road to parenthood. I can attest, with many others I’m certain, how encouraged and built up in the faith I have been by the godly example of the men and women of Veritas who have walked through the difficult seasons – not only of infertility, but of the loss of children. I praise God for your tenderhearted and steadfast example which brings glory to God.

So church we know a little about what these two people have gone through. But when we meet Zechariah and Elizabeth here they are older, and seemingly they have reached a point where giving birth to a child was a distant dream, one that has long since disappeared like a mirage in the desert of Judea.

Now Luke, our author, is a physician by trade, and a very meticulous author. And when he conveys a thing under the superintendence of the Holy Spirit, I believe we should take careful note.  He says that this couple was righteous. That they were following all the laws of the Lord.

As they waited. As they anticipated. As they dreamed, as they lived day in and day out – what did they do?  They obeyed.

Friends, this is the first thing our souls need to take away from this account: waiting on the Lord is active. It is not stultifying, it is not siloed, it is not paralyzed.

The Bible is replete with story after story of Godly men and women who waited for the Lord. David practically made it the theme of his life. As in Psalm 27:

Wait for the LORD;

                        be strong, and let your heart take courage;

                        wait for the LORD! Psalm 27:14

or in Psalm 25:

                        May integrity and uprightness preserve me,

                        for I wait for you. Psalm 25:21

Waiting is abiding. Abiding is obeying. Obeying is glorifying the Lord in our lives through word, heart, and deed.

If we want to know what it means to wait I can think of no better passage than John 15 where our Lord told us… “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

Notice that there is a “doing” here. Waiting on the Lord requires us to abide in His power while doing His work until He brings about His will for our lives in His own timing, by His own power for His own glory.

At this time in Israel’s history, there were thousands of people waiting for a savior. Para-military uprisings among the Jews were becoming more and more frequent, and the people longed for freedom as a nation once more.

This was a national anxiety felt in the hearts and realized in the daily lives of every Israelite.  Zechariah and Elizabeth were serving the Lord as they waited on Him, and as they prayed for a son and for freedom from Roman oppression.

Now…one of the tremendous marks of a life that waits upon the Lord is that of prayer. A life of waiting on Jesus is a life marked by prayer for the Father’s will to be done.

And in our passage today, we read that it was the angel Gabriel who visited Zechariah in the temple. Gabriel shows up at other points in redemptive history. In Daniel chapter 9 we read of how Daniel was praying to God on behalf of his people.  He was confessing the sins of Israel and appealing to God to rescue them from hands of their enemies and to restore them back to the land – because they were in exile in Babylon at this time. He ends his prayer like this:

Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord, make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. [18] O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. [19] O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.” Daniel 9:7–19

And after this Gabriel comes to him with a remarkable message. He says this:

“O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding. [23] At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision.” Daniel 9:22b–23

I love this passage! As Daniel waits in exile he is praying, he is obeying the Lord, and the Lord wants him to know that he is “greatly loved.”  As you wait upon the Lord, as you pray to heaven for help in your distress, in your anxiety, in your pain, you, too, are greatly loved.

Waiting involved faithful and active obedience and prayer.

One of the most significant things about our passage today is that it exemplifies how God’s timing often brings us blessings that we could never have imagined. We pray for something over and over for years, but only later realize that in God’s mercy and timing, he withheld that gift in order for something more amazing.

While we may not understand – even in this lifetime – the full extent of what his timing means, we can realize that this is how he works in our waiting.  

Daniel was praying for the restoration of Israel and asking forgiveness for the sins of the people.  Gabriel gave Daniel the vision of 70 weeks – a vision even more amazing and of a higher magnitude than his mind could have asked for. A vision which anticipates not only the restoration of God’s people to their homeland, but how events would culminate in the arrival of a Prince. A prince who would be “cut off” in a sacrificial death for the sins of his people.

God delayed the birth of a son for Zechariah and Elizabeth because he had something special planned.

Daniel asked for a lot but got much more than he bargained for, and timing that he probably wasn’t expecting. So it was with Zechariah. And that is what we’ll see next…

The next thing we’ll consider is the nature of ultimate reality. Ultimate reality belongs to God.

As the priest on duty that day, Zechariah was to be offering prayers on behalf of the nation. So he is in the temple, in the outer area of the holy of holies – only the high priest went in the holy of holies and he did that only once a year – so he’s in this outer area praying. 

Gabriel arrives and tells Zechariah that his prayers have been heard. 

What prayers?

Our minds immediately go to the prayers he and Elizabeth must have prayed a thousand times over the years: prayers for a child.

But his prayers in the temple were more likely prayers for the salvation and redemption of Israel. As I mentioned before this is likely the most important day of Zechariah’s life until now, and he has been training for this, and would want to fulfill his priestly responsibility to the letter, and that meant offering prayers on behalf of the nation.

But the beautiful thing about the answer from the Lord is that it fulfills both the prayers of Zechariah and Elizabeth for a son, and the prayers of the nation for deliverance. In sending this couple a baby, God is sending the forerunner of the great Savior of Israel, and of the world!

John is to be the herald of heaven’s great King who would visit this world on a mission of salvation.

Only God can weave such amazing answers together. We read this and marvel at all God is doing in this story.  But was that the reaction of Zechariah?  No…

How does he react?

In verse 18 he questions Gabriel saying “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”

From his words alone you cannot detect all of what is in this man’s heart. But apparently Gabriel knew enough to know that Zechariah had an unbelieving heart because he says “because you did not believe my words” (vs 20).

What seems strange about this reaction is that here is a man who had been praying for years and years for a son. Here is a man whose wife had longed for a child. How many conversations, how many knowing glances shared over the breakfast table? How many shared moments of pain and frustration?  And here – here is the answer to all his prayers. Decades worth of desires!  And he doesn’t believe. He sees the glory and power of the angel – there can be no doubt about the authenticity of this messenger’s identity. We read earlier, in fact, that Zechariah practically wet himself when the angel appeared! He knows this is a messenger from God!

It can’t be a proximity problem. He is not isolated from the faith community or the outward reminders of his heritage. In fact, he is surrounded by the trappings of his faith. He has the priestly garments on. He’s inside the temple. He’s only steps away from the holy of holies! 

Why the unbelief?  How is it possible that he can doubt!?

(PAUSE)

Let me tell you what I think is going on here. 

Zechariah’s “worlds are colliding”, to quote George Costanza.

His perception of reality, his construction of what is possible, is bound up in the plans, desires, and perspectives of his heart.

What a message for us today. Awash in post-modernism, we hear and read again and again that truth is what you make it. Reality is defined by your own perspective.  So important is this worldview that technologists are in a rush to give us power to create our own AI worlds accessible by simply strapping on a headset.

But ultimate reality belongs to God. You cannot make your own truth. You cannot create your own reality.

Live in your fairy land all you want, eventually that bubble will burst on the rocks of God’s sovereign truth, either in this life or the next.

Zechariah wasn’t a post-modernist by any stretch of the imagination. Yet his reality, his expectations, and the norms which he has set as the lens through which he saw how life works, how God works, were being brought into contact with the plans of the Lord of life and history.

I’ve found that the nature of my own perspective, when not governed by faith based in the Word of God, reveals itself as extraordinarily brittle in times of testing. This is what Zechariah was learning. He had set limits on what God could do; laws by which he expected God to act. And the weight of God’s plans were snapping the feeble bridge of his expectations.

Look at Gabriel’s reaction, he says “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.”  He proclaims this gospel, this good news, and hears the words from Zechariah and he’s like “Wait. Wait…what!?” 

Gabriel is trying to reconcile what he lives day in and day out with this man’s reaction, and it just…doesn’t compute.  “Do you know who I am – I see your knees knocking, so you must have an idea.  I mean…I just came from the heavenly throne room…”

There is some discontinuity between what Gabriel knows as true and what Zechariah is willing to believe is true.

Of course, to us, in hindsight, Zechariah’s unbelief looks nonsensical against the backdrop of God’s revealed plans. But…

…we have to ask ourselves…What happens when our prayers aren’t answered in a way we expected? What happens when (in his mercy) God withholds the answer for years? How do we react when circumstances in our lives unfold in unexpected ways?

Do we look for the hand of Providence in the details of life?  Or do we recoil in bitterness and unbelief? 

We may be surrounded by the trappings of faith, and in this season that’s even more the case, and yet have such a contracted and minimized view of the power of God that we look at our lives and say “no…its hopeless. I’m a mess and there’s nothing that can fix this.”  Are we allowing our own narrow view of life’s road to hem in our perspective on God’s capabilities?

Friends, God does not simply stitch together the mess of our lives in order to salvage some kind of decent ending to the narrative.  He is busy in the details.  He is superintending all of reality. Upholding the world by the word of his power, he supervises and intercedes for those who he “greatly loves.”

It’s a wonderful blessing – a good thing – to be surrounded by the people of God and to regularly find ourselves here in this building. But let’s not let our surroundings, our culture, and our doubts construct an artificial view of God. A small view of God. A proud view of God that’s based on our own plans and objectives, rather than faith in his providence, timing, and power.

God’s word calls us to deeper waters: trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make straight your paths. (Prov 3:5)

Now let’s look past the reaction and to the heart of the message from Gabriel, and how it is “good news” – not only Zechariah, but the whole world.

Restoration for the glory of God

Remember how I said that after the priest would finish their prayers in the temple it was their job to go out and bless the people? Well, the Lord’s messenger puts the kibosh on that. It is as if God is saying “I will not have an unbelieving man speak to my people this day. Not today. Today is the beginning of a special new work.”

For years the people of Israel had been led by shepherds who Jesus would later describe as serpents and sons of Satan. But light is breaking through the darkness, and in a sign of things to come, every tongue will be stopped, and every eye will behold the majesty of Jesus.

Zechariah was a righteous man who stumbled into unbelief.

But this wasn’t to be the end for Zechariah. 

The message that Gabriel brought was “good news” – good news that went beyond the hopes and dreams of this righteous couple. Their son was born for a very specific mission.  Listen to the hints dropped by Gabriel.  Look again at verse 16…

And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, [17] and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared

That last line may be the most important. It echoes the words of the prophet Malachi, and indicates that their son John will prepare the people of Israel for someone – and that someone is their Messiah! 

Now as the story continues. Turn with me to verse 57 and we’ll read this together…

Luke 1:57–80

[57] Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. [58] And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. [59] And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, [60] but his mother answered, “No; he shall be called John.” [61] And they said to her, “None of your relatives is called by this name.” [62] And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. [63] And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all wondered. [64] And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. [65] And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, [66] and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him.

Zechariah was restored to speaking once again.

The long months which held him in mute frustration had also humbled him, and increased his faith, so that when the time came to declare before his friends and nearest relations what the will of the Lord would be for his son, his lips found themselves equal to the restored tenderness of his heart.

And in such a small village, this would have been a major event – especially given the circumstances surrounding John’s birth. Before the New Covenant, before Pentecost, God’s people did not have the gift of the Spirit permanently indwelling them. But this child had been filled by the Holy Spirit from before birth! He even leapt in Elizabeth’s womb when Mary came to visit.

Gabriel had said that all of this would happen according to God’s timing.

And I wonder how many moments in the intervening months Zechariah had pondered the timing of God in the events of his life and the life of his people.

His life has been blessed with a baby boy – one who Jesus would later call the greatest man ever born of a woman (Luke 7). Now able to speak, we read that, full of the Holy Spirit, the first thing that Zechariah did was sing out with the following words:

Look at verse 68…

[67] And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,

            [68] “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,

                        for he has visited and redeemed his people

            [69] and has raised up a horn of salvation for us

                        in the house of his servant David,

            [70] as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,

            [71] that we should be saved from our enemies

                        and from the hand of all who hate us;

            [72] to show the mercy promised to our fathers

                        and to remember his holy covenant,

            [73] the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us

            [74]     that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,

            might serve him without fear,

            [75]     in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

            [76] And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;

                        for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,

            [77] to give knowledge of salvation to his people

                        in the forgiveness of their sins,

            [78] because of the tender mercy of our God,

                        whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high

            [79] to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,

                        to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Luke adds his own narrative note, so that we are prepared for what will come in the next part of this amazing story…

            [80] And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.

Now, throughout church history we’ve called Zechariah’s song of praise and prophesy the Benedictus, which is simply the Latin translation for the first word he speaks: “blessed.”

Zechariah has been restored and his faith strengthened and he wants to give God glory. But more than that, God has filled him to deliver a message.  The good news that Gabriel announced 9 months prior was not simply that he and Elizabeth would have a son, but that God was sending his own Son, and that John’s role is to proclaim the coming of Israel’s Messiah! 

The day is almost at hand.  The wait is almost over. The promises made to David, Abraham, and the prophets of old would be kept.

Zechariah declares that God will be faithful to the promises he made to Abraham. Nations will be blessed. The seed of Abraham will continue in the adoption of people from every tribe, tongue, and nation into the family of God. And God will begin his work of re-creation and renewal by making men and women – his image bearers – into new creations in the model of his son Jesus Christ.

9 months prior in the temple Zechariah would have prayed for the salvation of Israel.

Here, inspired by the Spirit, he declares a salvation not linked to earthly political redemption or military conquest, but of spiritual redemption from sin. Verse 77 is key “to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins.” 

Zechariah says that without the light of life we are walking in the darkness and on the precipice of death’s door. He links light and life and peace directly with the forgiveness of sins and relational restoration with God.

For the people of Israel, certainly for Zechariah, the promises of God were coming into tighter focus, even as their own perspectives on God’s plans were widening.  

You might say that while the occupation of Rome was uppermost on the minds of Jews in his day, what Zechariah’s people really needed was a political solution of another magnitude. They had bigger problems. Diplomatic relations between themselves and the King of kings needed restoration. Zechariah says here that the solution was going to be provided in a “knowledge of salvation” by a “horn of salvation” – more specifically, in the strength of the unbreakable life of the embodied Word of knowledge: God’s own Son. (Acts 2:24 and John 1)

For those of us who have been in a season of waiting, a season where it seemed like our lives are in limbo, the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth offers not only comfort, but also a reorientation of our expectations, a reminder of who holds history in His hands, and an opportunity to repent.   

Zechariah was told that everything he had desired for both himself and his people was about to be fulfilled, and though he was found in unbelief, though his entire world was turned upside-down, God in His mercy restored Zechariah for His own glory.

Praise God that His plans for our lives do not stop at the door of our heart’s natural capacity to believe. Praise God that His mercy and providence does not wax and wane on the ebb tide of our emotions, and the short-sidedness of even our best-intentioned plans.

The beautiful thing that we see in the life of Zechariah is that he didn’t get everything he wanted the way he wanted in the time he wanted it. Praise God for that! Praise God for his withholding of the blessings we think we want now – even good things which we know are good things, God sometimes withholds in order to bring us into an even greater plan for our good and his Glory.

Let me mention to you a final word friends.

If you are finding yourself without hope in a season which is supposed to be all about hope, you’re in the right place. This is a message for you.

Anticipation is a theme running throughout the Christmas season, and this seasonal slogan finds its origin in Zechariah’s day (and before) when the people of Israel were anticipating a Messiah, a leader, a savior.

But God being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us did not rescue us from political oppression or social unrest. He rescued us from ourselves. He rescued us from His wrath. He rescued us from our sins so that we may be brought into his kingdom, into his family.  He did this in his own time. And it looked nothing like what was expected.

Friends we no longer have to wait for salvation. The wait is over.  The great message of Christmas is that salvation has arrived! The Sunrise from on high came to live amongst us. He made himself the lowest of low in order to raise up those who were sitting in darkness. As Isaiah says, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone” (Is. 9:2).

That light, that sunrise from on high, is Jesus. Jesus Christ, the son of God, came to rescue a fallen race – you and I no longer wait for salvation – we can receive that now.

I love the gospel of John. He begins his gospel by declaring that the Word of God, the light of the world has come to save men. This is what he says:

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. [10] He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. [11] He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. [12] But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, [13] who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:9–13

Christmas is the celebration that our waiting is over, we can have full forgiveness of sins, by believing that Jesus is who he says he is. That celebration, which begins with our reconciliation to God through faith in Jesus, will be consummated when the great King returns in his time with glory and splendor.

It’s my prayer that you are encouraged by the story of Zechariah, and how God overcame his unbelief, to use him as an instrument of praise and glory. He desires to do the same thing in your life and mine.

Weekend Reading: January 5, 2019

Welcome to the new year and the weekend reading! With the new year upon us, I’ve had a hankering to write a little about all the books I read last year. Maybe some of these thoughts will help you pick out books to read in 2019!

So here’s the rundown (these aren’t all 135 or so of the books I read, just a sampling of the ones I wanted to mention) in the general order in which I read them from the start of the year through December 31:

A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal – I’m always impressed by people who can write history as if its a novel, and that’s definitely the case with A Spy Among Friends. Though there isn’t a lot of suspense to this book (it takes a more analytical approach), its written well and its fascinating.

Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life – Tish Warren is an ordained clergy woman, which in biblical terms is a contradiction. Yet despite this deep theological oddity, and despite a few oddities and errors in the theological composition of the book, this is a work that is hard to ignore. I found it fascinating and helpful. It is hard to get such an honest perspective – not because most authors aren’t honest, but because most humans aren’t – or simply aren’t able to explicate what it means to live out Christian doctrine in the throws of real life. It is for that reason this book triumphs and is worth consideration – disclaimers above apply and theological discernment is recommended.

A Night to Remember – this book about the night the Titanic sunk by Walter Lord was really fantastic. The narrative never lost steam, and the perspectives were first person and fascinating. It’s not overly long, and you will come away with a very good idea of what it really was like to be on the boat that night.

Distilled Knowledge: The Science Behind Drinking’s Greatest Myths, Legends and Unanswered Questions – It’s all here. Everything you want to know about drinking and your Uncle Al K Hall. My only warning is that Brian Hoefling is a smart dude…and sometimes his brains outpace his writing abilities (or my understanding, at least). Still, there’s a ton to learn from in this volume!

From a Certain Point of View – Ben Acker’s book draws you in with a novel idea for experiencing Star Wars from the perspectives of minor characters and folks normally outside the standard view port (so to speak). It fails miserably. What results is not only trite and unimportant, but at times it actually messes up the storyline and how you’ve come to view the characters that actually matter. It puts words in the mouths and minds of characters best left unsaid.

At the Back of the North Wind – Maybe I should just paste in what I wrote on Goodreads, “Tortuously written with overly flowery language, and 10 page poems with nothing to do with the story, I’m so glad to be done.” I continue to be drawn in to George MacDonald works, hoping that he will justify his place in the pantheon and I’m continually disappointed and annoyed by his writing.

Meditations – Marcus Aurelius proves that some works are enduring for a reason – their wisdom never grows old, because its part of the fabric of life. He also shows here that even an image-bearer of God who doesn’t acknowledge His deity, can stumble on self-evident truths about the way things work. Of course you’d be much better served to read Pascal, or better still, Solomon.

Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No – For some people who struggle with priorities and social pressure, I think Cloud’s best seller will be helpful. For others it will seem trite and too simple to require so many pages. It certainly has a tendency to feel at times as though Cloud is pushing his theory too far – using Biblical passages to prop up proposals that don’t quite fit. A more theologically careful/thoughtful book would have been even more helpful.

Dune – So odd and so fascinating is the world that Frank Herbert drops you into in his classic work Dune, that you don’t know what to make of it half the time. But by the time I was half way through, I found myself amazed at his power of description and forcefulness of vision for these characters. It’s a book that, while strange, is a must read for any fan of fantasy literature.

Sojourner Songs: Poems – For several years running I’ve been reading and re-reading Ben Palpant’s poetry, and it never seems to grow old. I highly recommend it to any Christian.

Studies in the Sermon on the Mount – during my time studying the sermon this past year or so (2017 and 2018) I was able to re-read large swaths of this classic by Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and was reminded of how gifted he was as a preacher, and how good it is to re-read his sermons from time to time. I really appreciate his passion and love for God.

Books that Build Character: A Guide to Teaching Your Child Moral Values Through Stories – is it sad that I not only read books but I also read books about reading books??? This little volume is helpful and a good resource for those looking to shepherd their children through the large world of books. Not every recommendation is terrific, and some are obvious, but I have found it helpful as a resource.

A Good Walk Spoiled: Days and Nights on the PGA Tour – No one said that being a professional athlete was easy, but many don’t realize just how difficult it is on the PGA Tour. This insiders look at the 1994 season on tour is fascinating and insightful. It was a little overly long, but it certainly humanizes the stars, and casts a sobering eye over what it takes to make and remain on the world’s greatest golf tour.

The New World (Volume 2 of A History of the English Speaking Peoples) – I’ve slowly been making my way through Winston Churchill’s 4 volume set in this series, and enjoyed it immensely. I enjoyed the first volume a tad more than this one, maybe because of the content being so new to me. Still, it is well worth noting that the writing style of Churchill is so good that anything you read by him is going to be enjoyable and easy to read.

The Loveliness of Christ – This is another annual read that I keep coming back to again and again. I can’t recommend this little volume enough. Buy one, and you’ll be encouraged with the extracts of Samuel Rutherford’s letters in a way only a devote and passionate (and well written) Christian can convey.

Beneath a Scarlet Sky – Riveting history (with maybe a few literary licenses) that was one of the best books I read all year long. It follows the story of a young Italian man who gets caught up in world events, as WWII comes to his doorstep.

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos – I’ve written about this at length in other areas. Let it be enough to say that its much better to watch Peterson on YouTube than it is to read his writing.

Economics in One Lesson – It’s been since High School since I’d read Henry Hazlitt’s excellent book. In fact, I’d totally forgotten I’d read it until I began (at the recommendation of a friend) and the words were so familiar that it seemed almost eerie. Only once I’d finished it did my mom remind me of how she’d had all of us children read it before graduating high school! Still, I enjoyed it and want to make it a book I review every few years.

Steve McQueen: The Salvation of an American Icon – I think that one of the best ways to experience an era of history is through the lens of biography, and while this book does not set the context as well as some others, it DOES paint the man’s life in a unique and honest perspective. Highly recommend.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (book) – Loaned to me by a terrific friend at church, this is a compilation of the original script and some notes, along with parts of the script that didn’t make it into the film. It was hilarious all over again!

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany – my good friend Brian R. Has told me that he’ll have all his children read this book before they grow up, and now I can see why. To watch the purposeful design of an evil and mentally unstable man take control of a strong country led by feckless men was hard to read about. Knowing the outcome and how this menace grew to envelop the entire globe, makes each page to the lead up of the cataclysm and each subsequent description of its result, heavy with anticipation and wonder. There are so many lessons to be learned here. I can’t recommend it enough.

How the Nations Rage: Rethinking Faith and Politics in a Divided Age – Jonathan Leeman’s attempt to get Christians thinking about politics in a way that is Biblical and doesn’t skirt the difficult issues and conversations we’re having every week in this country. I’m planning on re-reading this volume again soon, and referring back to it in the future. An excellent source of wisdom and guidance here.

The Christian Imagination: The Practice of Faith in Literature and Writing – So many gems in this one. This is really just a series of essays mashed together and edited by the great Leland Ryken. Anything Ryken touches is gold, and this is no exception. My only wish is that he’d do more writing and more commentaries on literature! If you love literature and thinking about art, then you need to pick this up and read some of the essays. This is worldview shaping stuff.

The Brothers Karamazov – I think that, much like Tolstoy, Dostoevsky must have written stories in order to preach a message. There are times when he enters into the sublime, with wisdom and character depths that you can’t not underline and discuss with your book club pals. But the story itself isn’t really all that compelling, and sometimes the way characters behave doesn’t really make much sense – they act or speak in ways that aren’t believable. I don’t think that its one of my favorites of all time, but it was good to slog through, and holds plenty of little sermonettes for those interested.

Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles that can Radically Change your Family – This is a Paul Tripp special, and it is very good. It’s better written than Fitzpatrick’s Give Them Grace, and more straightforward. Definitely helpful and a volume I’ll come back to again – maybe even this year.

The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot – Not terribly well written in the sense that it isn’t a page turner, but this classic work on conservatism by Russell Kirk was recommended to me by a fellow politico, and for that I’m very grateful. Not every conclusion is one I’d agree with, but there is a lot of very right and good thinking here – and especially in Burke, I found a lot of inspiration and reminders for why I believe what I believe.

Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune – This was another recommendation from a friend (thanks Dave B!), and it was really fascinating. Not terribly well sewn together or compellingly written, but the story is very compelling. It’s a book detailing a piece of American history I’d never known about, and again, through the genre of biography that delivers perspective so well.

Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation – This was my first read by Joseph Ellis, and it definitely won’t be my last. Ellis’ prose are elevated and a joy to read. He describes the relationships between founding members of the early American political class in an informative and enjoyable way. Excited to read more from Ellis in the future.

The Scarlet Pimpernel – Talk about putting together a heat pounding narrative into a short space! This is a fantastic story, and would likely make a great movie as well. It details the adventures of a man of the aristocracy and his quest to rescue fellow aristocrats from guillotine dominated France during the revolution. He is a sort of masked vigilante ducking into small towns in France, before returning to England. Who is he? The Scarlet Pimpernel, of course.

The Art of Divine Contentment – as only a member of the Puritan movement can do, Thomas Watson logically explains the many reasons Christians have for resting in Christ. This is not a long volume (comparatively speaking), but its very rich, and I highly recommend it!

12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You – Tony Reinke is an excellent writer, and this is well worth the read. This book joins a growing chorus of literature exploring the consequences of all this technology is having on us. I like Reinke’s perspective because he’s not writing from an ivory tower – he’s a lover of tech himself. But he’s also honest, and I think we all need to be sober and honest as well, as we seek to live lives of joy in the years to come. We need to evaluate how technology interacts with living a live that is WORTH living – one that is lived well.

Ike and Dick: Portrait of a Strange Political Marriage – I’ve been wanting to read this book for 5 years! Finally got to it! Before reading this book I had a more idealized perspective on Eisenhower, but when you read this account, you can’t help but feel like the guy was a bit of a tool. Fascinating stuff in here about Nixon – the guy was definitely insecure and neurotic, but how much of that was reinforced by the way Eisenhower and others treated him? Judge for yourself…

The Great Train Robbery – This is the first Michael Crichton book I’ve ever read, and maybe it wasn’t a great sampling. The level of detail was astonishing – it you want to understand 19th century England, this is the book for you. If you want to hear about a great heist and enjoy a great story, then I suggest you enter in with great patience as well. Still, I think that while I found this book annoying to sort through, I may come back to it later and give it another shot to win me over. Certainly the way the story wraps up is very interesting.

A Study in Scarlet – I maintain that this is one of Conan Doyle’s best! I think that perhaps I’ve mentioned this before somewhere, but the illustrious author spent more of his time writing shorter stories of the adventures of Holmes, but its my opinion that the longer the man wrote, the better the story got! This one was fun because I listened to it with my daughter Chloe, who enjoyed it immensely – it was neat to introduce her into the world of Sherlock Holmes.

The War of the Worlds – Most of you will be familiar with this title, and may have seen some silver screen iteration of the novel. But what struck me about actually reading the thing was just how well written it was! Detailed finely, and worth the enjoyment of just listening or reading the way Wells describes each situation. Well worth checking out.

Painting as a Pastime – I wasn’t expecting such a tour de force for someone thinking of what it means to take up the brush. Churchill’s little book is one of the best books I read all year, without a doubt! I was spellbound by the prose, I was inspired by the subject, and I was encouraged by the perspective. I read portions aloud to Kate after I was finished, and I can’t wait to read it again.

A Simple Way to Pray – This is more of a pamphlet than a book, but it was very impactful for me this year. In this short work, Martin Luther gives Christians a way to think through prayer, and also gives a lot of examples which prove very helpful. Highly recommend.

The Character of the Church: The Marks of God’s Obedience People – This was a fantastic book – one of three, actually, that are all very good (well, I haven’t finished volume three yet, but I’m sure I’d say the same thing). I am going to be recommending these tidy little volumes to Christians seeking to understand the church, their faith, and the way to live it out. It’s not easy to write in such a lucid and succinct way. Anyone can drone on, but Joe Thorn has done some remarkable service for the church here.

Fifty Famous Stories Retold – This is a compilation by James Baldwin that I both read and listened to. It was very helpful to me, even as a matter of literary understanding, to know some of these famous stories and myths. Of course they are told for children, but maybe that’s what I needed – I mean who needs a dissertation on the sword of Damocles?

The Testament – I really enjoy a good Grisham, but often find myself frustrated by the same reworked plot line and the unsatisfying endings. Not so with The Testament. This is very creative and totally out of the norm for him in terms of the story line. Very good little read!

The Second World War: Milestones to Disaster – This is the audio title for what is also a volume of Churchill’s WWII narrative. Anyone interested in WWII history has to read this and his other volumes. His is a unique perspective, and his writing is superb. Highly recommend.

American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson – Another great work of literature from Joseph Ellis. Now, the book starts in a bit of a bizarre fashion, so hang in there! Ultimately, this is less a typical biography than it is an exploration into exactly who Jefferson was, and his thinking process (if you could call it that). The more you read about the founders, or any other figure in history, the more you want to understand their thinking and how it evolved. This volume does that with excellence.

Genghis: Birth of an Empire – My good friend Rod recommended I read this piece of historical fiction, and I’m glad he did. This is a book that once started will not be easy to stop – probably the very definition of a page turner. The writing isn’t at a level of, say, Joseph Ellis, but it doesn’t have to be. Iggulden will make history come alive for you, but more than that, he will help you really get inside the heads of men and women you would normally have absolutely zero in common with.

Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery – This is very interesting. Lots of great history here, though Metaxes is overly fawning at times, and you’d be surprised how much that gets on the nerves after a few hundred pages. Still, I learned a great deal not only about Wilberforce, but about the men and women he surrounded himself with. Worth the read, as long as you can get over the unquestionably bias approach.

Tools of Titans – Another giant book by ego maniac Timothy Ferriss. Another opportunity for quick fire starter this coming summer.

And Then There Were None – This was my third Christie book of the year, and probably my favorite. Eerie and well written, it keeps you on the edge until the end, and then (and this was really fascinating) it explains the whole thing from the point of view of the villain! Very interesting stuff. Worth putting on the list!

The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin – As one might expect, this is not a rosy picture of a great world leader. Putin comes across as cold, calculating, and even inept at times. If Meyers could have gotten more access, he could likely have written a story with more connectivity – or maybe he just didn’t want to draw the kinds of conclusions that seemed too obvious to anyone paying attention. Without this perspective, you’re sort of left to sketch the man on your own from the facts as they’re given…and the sketch is not pretty.

Catch-22 – My second attempt at reading this, I decided to give it a listen. It’s just as nonsensical to listen to as to read. Many people who read this consider it one of their favorites. What in the world am I missing here? To me this seemed like the most inane book of all time…

Churchill: A Life – This is the condensed official biography of Winston Churchill by Martin Gilbert. It’s about 1000 pages, and goes along at a pretty good rate. There’s definitely some interesting items here or there that you might not get from The Last Lion (Manchester), but you don’t get the agony of the wilderness years, that’s certain. And you don’t get a neutral perspective. It’s not fawning, so to speak, but its told with a positive assumption/outlook. I’ve just received in the mail the original 8 volumes (maybe 8000 or so pages?) from which this shorter volume is drawn, and am looking forward to reading those for reference in the years to come. I think that if you’re going to read one biography of Churchill, this is probably near the top of the list, though its hard to recapture what Manchester did in his epic three volume set – the man just brought it all together in a way that only someone who fought and lived through those times could do.

A.J. Liebling: World War II Writings – these are fascinating articles by Liebling, many from the front lines, or just behind them, originally published during the war in the New Yorker. For 15-20 page glimpses into what life was like during that period from a journalist’s perspective.

The Last of the Mohicans – In the mode of the very worst of Walter Scott and George MacDonald, Cooper combines needlessly flowery language with a ridiculous level of detail. His prose is horrid to the point that his story is lost in an archaic jumble of speech that wasn’t even commonplace in his day. I have zero clue as to why this is a classic other than my suspicion that his stories’ influence upon the English mind was vast in his day – so vast that it inspired a great deal of emigration.

Them: Why We Hate Each Other – and How to Heal – Other than my complaint that Sasse is short of the latter portion of his title, I think this is a splendid book, and a very good effort at explaining what’s going on in America right now. It’s not a screed, but an honest evaluation from his perspective. Worth reading and contemplating as Sasse becomes an increasingly important player in our culture and political arena.

Democracy in America – Another volume I hadn’t read since my school days, and another volume I wished I had read sooner. De Tocqueville was eerily prescient in his analysis of the weaknesses and strengths of the new nation of America. As soon as you dive in, you need to break out the highlighter, because you’ll be using it…a lot.

The Thrawn Trilogy (Star Wars, 3 volumes) – This was absolutely fantastic. I agree with my friend Tim that these stories were as good as the original trilogy, and at times they’re better. Can’t believe I hadn’t read these before, but all three were interesting, and well written. Timothy Zahn is a very creative guy, and if you choose to listen to them, be sure to listen to the Marc Thompson editions, and bypass the shortened versions that Anthony Daniels did years ago. Thompson is a master at his craft, and you won’t be disappointed by the audio.

Moby Dick – I’ve written about this elsewhere, but I just felt so frustrated by this book. Melville is a fantastic writer, and at times he can have you rolling with laughter. In fact, the entire book seems to have a strain of ironic goofiness to it that you’d not expect going in. But the waste..oh the waste! There is something to be said (a lot to be said) for knowing what to write and what NOT to write, and Melville fails in epic ways in this arena. This is a 600+ page book that at page 500 I resigned in protest. I was sick to death of his detours into the 5 ways to skin a way, and the 7 ways you could use wale fat, and the 3 interesting items (detailed over 5 pages) of the nose of the wale. Awful, awful writing. I know many will be afraid to say that, or aghast to read this analysis, but this is the truth. The man needed an editor, and he needed one badly. This should be one of the best stories from a skilled writer in the history of the English language, instead it sinks down to what amounts to a sad disaster and a squandering of the readers’ time and attention. Pride, and bad editing.

James Madison: A Life Reconsidered – This was interesting and helpful in that I needed to learn more about Madison. But its also overly friendly and mostly an argument for the greatness of Madison than a fair and unbiased accounting of his work. It also lacks somewhat from time to time, and I can’t quite put a finger on why…almost as if the writing style or the personal look at Madison vanishes, and in its place come perfunctory 9th grade history lessons. Still, I learned a lot about Madison, and found him interesting and important for the founding of our nation.

Ship of Fools: How a Selfish Ruling Class is Bringing America to the Brink of Revolution – Very interesting book. Interesting historical detours, good research, and pretty good writing as well. It really is a screed though! Not overly obnoxious though, considering its a diatribe. And I like that it is not simply a GOP pamphlet in disguise. Everyone gets roasted. His suggestions for change are woefully lacking and where they appear they’re not very impression. Still, I found myself agreeing with much of what he has to say.

God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Book of Proverbs – I can’t recommend this strong enough. I really enjoyed the book, and found in Keller’s writing a great deal of helpful explanation and teaching. Winsome and thoughtful, this is some of the best writing on the Proverbs that I’ve taken in.

The Case Against Sugar – This one really educated me, and I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads. It’s pretty well written, and not what I thought it would be – I was expecting some complex argument or some soapbox screed, but it was neither. It was more of a history and a journalistic deep dive than anything. Taubes allows you to draw your own conclusions, but he definitely is making a case against ingesting any sugar! And…by the time you finish the book, its hard not to agree with his assessments.

The Riches of Divine Wisdom – There is a great deal of help and good that is done in this volume. It’s approachable and pretty well written. I think you could read this without having a ton of theological training or even a ton of Biblical training. My main complaint amongst all the helpfulness of this book, is that the classification of the Abramatic Covenant as unconditional, and how that plays out in the rest of his assumptions, isn’t very helpful. The unconditional/conditional nomenclature is in need to revision, I think, because it can lead you away from the correct conclusions that God did have expectations of a faithful covenant partner (Abraham) and that when Abraham failed, God took upon himself the penalty for that failure. Thus it was conditional – and God fulfilled the conditions. It seems unconditional in that we receive the benefits based on conditions God has met for us as we place faith in him. So the nomenclature needs reworked. I also didn’t agree that Gen. 15 and 17 represent two separate covenants, but I won’t go into that here! Despite these things, Gooding is very helpful and interesting and provides many great reasons for Christians to study the Old Testament, and many helpful tools to use in that study.

That’s it! There were many others that I just couldn’t take the time time mention here. And, I mean frankly if you’ve read this far you deserve a medal anyway!

Have a great weekend – and happy reading in 2019!

PJW

Weekend Reading: An Update

Welcome to Saturday, and the middle of a holiday weekend for my readers here in the U.S. 

I realize that its been an on again, off again posting/email of what used to be a weekly publication.  But with a new baby, an election, and an increasingly busy life of politics and ministry, I’ve not had the time I’d like to write about all I’m reading.  

I am hoping to continue to write, comment, and send along articles and book reviews/thoughts in the new year, but I am thinking over what arena/medium that will occur in.  I’ve used Twitter more and more as of late to convey thoughts, and I may use it in the future as a way to pass along the most relevant articles and books in a more timely manner.  But the decision to move from blogging to micro-blogging is still under consideration.

In the meantime, enjoy a few articles for now, and and updated book list (here – I’m way behind my goal!).  Hopefully in the new year I will have a more definite plan for how to steward my time on this front.

PJW

From my friend Adam J: Ben Sasse: By the Book – and whilst you’re at it, check this: Politics Can’t Solve Our Political Problems

From Ligonier: How Jesus Read the Scriptures

Where we are headed: Man, 69, sues to lower his age 20 years. He says it will help him on Tinder

Tech Review: Getting the iPad to Pro

Crazy story revisited: Mount Hood’s Deadliest Disaster

Why Are Antiques So Cheap? Because Everyone Lives in the Kitchen

Which one of these is real news?  …Harvard Adds Anti-Republican Course for Fall 2019…OR…Liberty University To Offer Course In Defending Trump At Holiday Gatherings

Fascinating stuff here: The End of Employees.

Only a slight update here, something to keep an eye on: Beijing to Judge Every Resident Based on Behavior by End of 2020

What I’m reading today: How Loneliness is Tearing America Apart

Weekend Reading: June 30, 2018

So here we are at another 4th of July weekend!  This one is odd because the actual holiday is right in the middle of the week. I hear some friends saying they’re taking the whole week off, and others saying they’ll do Mon-Wednesday or some other combination.  Whatever your plans are, I hope you enjoy them and appreciate the blessings of living in America!

I have a lot of stories and books for you to enjoy as you kick back and enjoy some down time…

In the past week or two, the Supreme Court has ruled in a conservative way on multiple items – including a major victory against public sector unions.  The ruling means that workers won’t have to contribute the the political agenda of the union bosses in DC if they don’t want to. In an argument that has gotten more than stale, one Democrat Congressman said, The Supreme Court ‘just came down on the wrong side of history.’”  That is an invalid and extremely arrogant argument based upon an assumption that events ought to unfold according to a progression leftists (or anyone else using that phrase) envision.  If you put it another way, its like saying “hey this isn’t fair, this isn’t how its supposed to go in 2018!”  Says who?

Of course the real concern is always money.  Unions form a major part of the financial foundation of the left’s election and issue campaigning. For an example check this out: Unions give $1.3 billion to Democrats, liberal groups since 2010

Despite these major decisions (I didn’t even get into the big one on religious liberty), the biggest impact on both the news cycle and history, was the announcement by Justice Kennedy that he’ll be retiring.   David French over at National Review gives some insight on what we might expect from future court decisions based on a more originalist bent.

Staying on politics here for a bit, the New York Times had a story that was really interesting this week titled ‘As Critics Assail Trump, His Supporters Dig in Deeper’ – this is worth taking a peak at.

Keep an eye on this developing problem: The Army Took Over the Spigots, Forcing Thirsty Venezuelans to Pay.  The reason I post this is that I want to draw people’s attention to the humanitarian problem, but also the philosophical problem here and how it became this bad. I’ve heard from leaders in Venezuela recently, and spoken to people from the country, and I can tell you that these problems don’t simply happen randomly.  They happen as a result of a failed political philosophy – that philosophy is socialism.  Socialism leads to economic tyranny. We have seen this again and again over the last 100 years, and what bothers me now is just how ignorant the younger generation of Americans are about the evils (and I mean that) of socialism. The disconnect was never more apparent than this past Tuesday when Democrats voted for a young socialist for Congress, unseating one of the most powerful Democrat Congressmen in the country. This is hardly surprising, given the dangerously naive way in which we’ve allowed our children to be educated under the modern rubric of “liberal arts”, a term and philosophy now completely hijacked.  What will be the wake up call for Americans in the United States? It’s evident that they aren’t paying attention to their South American brothers and sisters, because if they were, they’d run from socialism like a Russian political prisoner fleeing the gulags.

I have often been critical of Jordan Peterson because of just how dangerous his influence can be upon those seeking answers to life’s ultimate questions.  But…there are some very good things that Peterson has done, and one example came this week when he was asked to comment on the Justin Trudeau.  It’s worth watching for a few reasons, the content of his answer being uppermost, but for me the thing to watch here is his thoughtfulness. Look at how long he takes to get his thoughts right, and how careful he is with his answer.  If our politicians were more cautious and gracious in their speaking, they would be less misunderstood, and have a greater impact. Here is a sterling example of how to respond to a loaded question in a thoughtful and respectful way.  Of course the irony is that its posted on The Daily Wire whose headline is ‘Jordan Peterson Takes on Justin Trudeau’ – they do their dead level best to sensationalize what is really a very thoughtful response.

Interesting insight here for politicos: Billionaire vs. Billionaire: A Tug
of War Between 2 Rogue Donors

One last political article…with all that is going on at the border, I was confused at what the reality of the situation really was.  As a Christian I want people who are made in the image of God to be treated with respect and decency, while also maintaining a respect for the rule of law that keeps societies in order.  My friend Aaron B. sent me this article from Rich Lowry over at National Review that I found helpful in sorting out what is really going on at the border.

This is unsurprising, but worth taking seriously: Deleting Your Online DNA Data Is Brutally Difficult

Quartz had an interesting article breaking down how Overnight Shipping works. Here’s a quick breakdown of the timeline:

5 pm: You drop off a package, which is transported to the nearest cargo-shipping airport.

10 pm: The majority of domestic cargo planes begin taking flight. In the case of FedEx and UPS, the majority of planes fly to a central “superhub” in Tennessee or Kentucky.

1 am: Approximately 150 airplanes have landed at the superhub. Packages are removed and placed in an automated sorting system.

2 am: Packages are sorted, placed into shipping containers, and packed onto a new airplane. The second flight takes off.

6 am: Items arrive at the target airport and are packed onto trucks for delivery. For deliveries to more rural areas, the items are often packed onto prop planes and take a third and final flight.

9 am: Most prop planes arrive at regional airports. Items are shipped via truck.

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting story titled ‘These Stocks Have Left Amazon Behind this Year.  And basically its talking about how Macy’s and Dillard’s have rallied from their very low points after being decimated by Amazon.  Points of discussion here: Will there always be a place for the in-person shopping experience?  How much will Amazon be able to chip away at the brick and mortars once they get their in-person stores setup?

One of my favorite preachers to listen to before he left America was Voddie Baucham.  A few weeks ago blogger Tim Challies posted an interview he did with Baucham from Zambia.

Helpful article from Paul Tripp titled, ‘4 Things Dads Should Teach Their Kids about Money’. I think I may have mentioned before that Tripp’s book ‘Parenting’ was very helpful to me, and that I’d highly recommend it to any parent at any stage of that journey.

Two important stories you need to heed this morning: Man On Deathbed Deeply Regrets Not Spending More Time Arguing On Facebook….and Couple Arrested For Selling “Golden Tickets To Heaven”.  Now that you are armed with that information, you’re sure to have a great Saturday!

This was great, Save the Great American Family Road Trip: These journeys help kids develop critical-thinking skills. Excerpt:

Dad would drive, always. He approached the car only after everything was ready, striding like Mariano Rivera across the outfield at Yankee Stadium. I’d say he got behind the wheel only after everyone was seat-belted, but seat belts back then were like flossing: great if you did it, but nobody checked.

This was really interesting ‘How Much Money Do You Save by Cooking at Home?’  I’m going to spoil it a bit with an excerpt:

We found on average, it is almost five times more expensive to order delivery from a restaurant  than it is to cook at home. And if you’re using a meal kit service as a shortcut to a home cooked meal, it’s a bit more affordable, but still almost three times as expensive as cooking from scratch.

Books…what’s up next…

I’ve been working through Ray Dalio’s ‘Principles’ book as well as ‘Empty Mansions’ – a story about the family of W.A. Clark – and I’m very close to finishing Kirk’s ‘The Conservative Mind’.

I’m just starting De Tocqueville’s ‘Democracy in America” and working my way through Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’.  With the kids I’m reading ‘Snow Treasure’, which is a neat story.

NOTE: Thomas Brewer over at Ligonier did a book review of Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules that’s pretty good thus far (I am only half-way through it but want to make sure you get a chance to look it over).

Here’s what’s on-deck:

  • Russell Kirk – Bradley Birzer
  • Get a Grip on Physics – John Gribbin
  • Theistic Evolution – Meyer, Moreland, Shaw, Grudem, Gauger
  • The Case Against Sugar – Gary Taubes
  • The Closing of the American Mind – Allan Bloom
  • Dreamland – Sam Quinones
  • Washington’s Monument – John Steele Gordon
  • China 1945 – Richard Bernstein
  • Llyod-Jones on the Christian Life – Jason Meyer
  • Napoleon – Paul Johnson
  • Is God Anti-Gay? – Sam Allberry
  • The Unfolding Mystery – Edmund Clowney
  • The Miracle of the Kurds – Stephen Mansfield
  • Norse Mythology – Neil Gaiman

Of course I might add to that and do stuff in-between.  In the midst of what I mentioned above, I stopped and read ‘In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin’ by Erik Larson (which was very interesting, although not exactly superb prose).  Sometimes its good to stop and read something less informative and more exciting or adventurous. So the list above is more likely a roadmap than a checklist, with speed bumps and detours likely to be interspersed along the way.

That’s it for now – I hope you enjoy your weekend and the upcoming holiday!  If you have book or article recommendations, please send them along!

PJW

 

Weekend Reading: May 12, 2018

Welcome to another weekend, and another edition of the Weekend Reading. I have a few stories for you before I go enjoy some sunny weather!

This past week or so has been one of the most successful foreign policy weeks for President Trump thus far.  And when you tally up the wins – foreign and domestic – one begins to wonder if there’s been a shift in the political momentum from D to R.  Some of the primary voting turnout numbers in Ohio, for instance, far out-paced the Dem turnout.

Even the libs at Quartz had to begrudgingly acknowledge that maybe Trump knows what he’s doing. When I read that this morning I had to rub my eyes to make sure I was really on the right email!  You see a similar type of thing from the AP here.  Though they couldn’t quite bring themselves to praise Trump.

Some of my friends have noted that I haven’t been afraid to be critical of the President in the past for moral failings, though if you know me well and read me carefully, I think you’ll find most of my fire has been reserved for those evangelicals who, like lemmings, latch onto anyone able to defy the liberals in the media.  That disdain remains. There are a lot of people who refuse to diversify their information intake and consider other opinions outside their own. This is not helpful in a day when news outlets are really just spin factories for one view or another.  My main objective in writing and having conversations with fellow Christians and conservatives on current events, is to get people thinking critically, and carefully about everything they see going on politically.

Some Christians say its not a matter of considering morality per se, but just picking the best of the worst – or the lesser of two evils on the ballot.  Maybe that is so when it comes to elections, but in the time in-between, I think Christians (the church) must shine an unbiased light on leadership while still submitting to, and praying for, that leadership. Thinking critically should lead us to not excuse immorality, but also give praise where its due. On that note, my contention would be that as of right now, if you look at what the President has gotten accomplished policy-wise in his first year and a half, both home and abroad, its pretty impressive. All this despite the constant assailing he takes in the media. Not a small feat.

Which leads to this story: Who is paying Michael Avenatti? from the Hill.  They raise some good questions.

One of the stories that, probably as a political guy, caught my attention recently was on Nancy Pelosi intends on running for Speaker of the House again if the Democrats take over the House in the Fall.  In an interview this week she said the following:

“It’s important that it not be five white guys at the table, no offense,” Pelosi said, referring to the top two leadership spots in the House and Senate and the presidency. “I have no intention of walking away from that table.”

This statement reflects one of the things Jordan Peterson has gotten right about the left in America, which is that they divide people into socioeconomic or gender classes. They have become masters at division instead of seeing everyone as equally made in the image of God.  Outward diversity is supreme at the expense of diversity of thought, or supremacy of character and mind.  I would love to see the next Speaker (from either party) be someone who can unite at least their own party behind a set of ideals, be they economic, social or whatever.  This is usually done better on the Presidential level, but it would be cool have have a Speaker who has that kind of vision and leadership – and, of course, my perspective is it would much better if that person was a conservative.

More critical thinking required here, as Al Mohler discusses a massive survey of college professors across the country, and their political leanings. Here is what I’ve been mulling around in my mind about this: If I’ve worked for 18 years to shape and fashion my child in the best way I can know possible, both morally and from an educational perspective, why would I then send the to be taught by atheist liberals whose worldview is going to skew everything good thing, and magnify every bad thing in science, philosophy, history, art, education, psychology, and on and on. People talk about the cost of colleges, and I sort of begin to wonder at the relevance of colleges (at least in the traditional sense).  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a believer in the well-rounded individual. I love the idea of the liberal arts education in the purest sense of the term. But we’re now facing a situation where 1. the economic needs of our country are going to be more diverse than what most colleges today are preparing our kids for, and 2. the worldview being cultivated in said colleges is so dangerous and unhealthy that it promises to unravel the entire social, political, and economic fabric of our country if left unchecked.

Now, I will say that I absolutely thrived in the secular space of the university, where worldviews were messed up, and where professors were so twisted it wasn’t even funny – but I thrived because I was prepared, and because it suited my personality at the time (I used to enjoy conflict much more than I do now).  But for the 95% of students who have very impressionable minds heading into college, it would be an unmitigated disaster. So….I have been thinking about this and really wrestling with where my kids will go for that next level(s) of education. These stories really bring home the importance of finding a good spot, and not settling for whatever state college happens to be offering the best scholarship….

More…

Chamberlain-like snakes in the grass: Kerry is quietly seeking to salvage Iran deal he helped craft

New Topics…

I have been doing a lot of WWII studying this year, and a friend sent me this excellent video about those who died during the war, and how the death toll stacks up historically.

This promises to fascinate anyone who enjoys data and metrics: Cambridge Analytica: how did it turn clicks into votes?

This was good: The Reality of Disappointment

Also this: How to Pray about What You Say (Jon Bloom)

That’s all I have time for right now!  From a book standpoint, I’m in the middle of several large books that are really keeping my count down haha!  ALMOST done with Shirer’s book on the rise and fall of the third reich. It’s absolutely terrifying, and very good. It’s also like 1200 pages, so its taking some time. I’m about half way done with Russell Kirk’s ‘The Conservative Mind’, which has been very interesting and refreshing.  And I’ve just launched into the first 60 pages of the Brothers Karamazov. Last night, I fell asleep reading Paul Tripp’s new parenting book, which has been full of gems, and the other night I passed the 50% marker on Jonathan Leeman’s important new book ‘How the Nations Rage’ – a work that I will be writing about here in more depth in the near future because of how insightful it is.

So I’m way behind in my goal of getting to 200 books by the end of the year.  Probably only at 50 or 60 right now.  But in the summer that count will pickup once I dispatch of Shirer and Kirk.  More reviews to come!

Have a great day/weekend, and remember the gospel today – as Peter says, “…Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” – let’s live in light of that truth today.

PJW

 

Weekend Reading: February 17, 2018

Well welcome to the weekend!  With basketball season over for the kids, that means I more time on Saturdays to compile a few items for you to enjoy and skim over.  Here’s the weekend reading…

Gonna lead off with this thought-provoking piece from the Wall Street Journal: Did My Mom Have ‘White Privilege’? She arrived from Italy in 1911 and then at age 14 went to work in a factory sewing ladies’ coats.  Key excerpt:

The legal immigrants who came through Ellis Island had to have medical exams and a clean criminal background, not to mention a job and a sponsor. This guaranteed the new arrival wouldn’t be a burden on the country or its citizens. And they weren’t. Ellis Island’s immigrants received nothing from taxpayers. Not a cent. That’s why my teenage mother worked in a factory instead of going to school.

Honestly, I haven’t spent much time thinking existentially about the lives of the generations of Americans who came here and gave up many comforts and dignities we’d unwillingly surrender now in order to make a life in America.  This short Op-Ed provoked my imagination and maybe it will yours as well.

This looks…interesting…’The NBA’s Secret Wine Society’

I was more shocked to learn this wasn’t a real headline: Media Announces Brief Moratorium On Calling Trump A Brutal Dictator To Praise Kim Jong Un’s Sister. But in truth, here’s a real story on the CNN slobber fest over Kim Jong Un’s sister.

Looking back on this article I read about Olympic Jet Lag makes me think that maybe there’s something to this (especially if the American snow boarders did it!).

If you haven’t thought about “enjoying God” for who He is and not just what He provides, then I think this article by John Piper might be a good click for you today.

I thought this was a fascinating article from a perspective that many conservatives might not normally hear: Why the Center-Left Became Immoderate: In polarized times, those without a clear guiding ideology become the most vicious partisans. One of the key excerpts:

The idea of a Trump dictatorship may be compelling, but that doesn’t make it right, particularly when it distorts how one perceives actual tyranny.

Something I didn’t know about Korea: What City Was Once “The Jerusalem of the East?”

Comment Magazine republished an article from Marilynne Robinson from 2011 this week called ‘The Book of Books: What Literature Owes the Bible’.  I like the attempt here (though ironically I think its not as clear as it could be in making the point) to show how one of the heritages we have from the Bible is its rich influence of the drama of life and salvation in our literature. Robinson gives several examples of this and that is the funnest part of the article. Her summation at the end is pretty much what I just wrote about the Bible’s role in enriching literature, but just prior she says, “In its emphatic insistence that the burden of meaning is shared in every life, the Bible may only give expression to a truth most of us know intuitively.”  I’m unsure exactly what “the burden of meaning” means, but I think that the shame of this article is that it doesn’t go on to explain what it is that makes the Bible worth using as an enrichment agent in the first place.  Why are the images and the story and the Man at its center so compelling that they transcend its cover and enrich other great literature?  I think the “why” isn’t answered here, and it ought to have been the first question she asked and the one she came back to at the end….what do you think?

A good piece of writing here from someone formerly in the scientific/medical community: Be Skeptical of Those Who Treat Science as an Ideology.

Something posted a while back by Ligonier that I thought was worth checking out again from R.C. Sproul: Do we have free will? Today on this special Ask R.C. edition of Renewing Your Mind, R.C. Sproul answers your questions about predestination, God’s providence, and free will.  I think I posted this mainly because it never ceases to amaze me how often I’m in some kind of meeting or discussion and someone says something like, “not to offend the Calvinists here, but I think people have to make a choice (in this that or the other thing)” – as if the importance and reality of choice and agency are stripped completely from the minds of orthodox reformed Christians. These are more or less statements of ignorance rather than barbs of serious debate, hence the importance of thinking through the core issues of human liberty and freedom and what is entailed in, and meant by those terms/ideas.

An interesting article by an author of a new book on transgenderism says, ‘The Sex-Change Revolution Is Based on Ideology, Not Science’.  Of course I agree with him, but I’m unsure I agree with his conclusion that this cultural moment is “fleeting”, though I hope he’s right.

Books…

This week I confessed to Kate that I’m on a bit of a distracted reading spree. I seem to be picking up old favorites and reading five pages here, a chapter or two there. It’s probably a healthy thing to do every now and again, but it doesn’t help make progress through the books I’m working on!

The main thing I persevered through this week was William L. Shirer’s classic ‘The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich’.  This is really a story of Adolph Hitler, and his cronies. I’m only 170 pages in, and its truly a fascinating read – actually not as laborious as I imagined it would be after the slow start. If you’ve read anything about Hitler’s rise (and I have), then you’ll not be as shocked at a book like this which exposes all the ignorance of the masses and the willingness to go along with the dictates and philosophical shallowness of men like this. But it doesn’t mean that the well-read won’t (or at least shouldn’t be) shocked again, and refreshed again in those ancient lessons of original evil, and the fallen state of man’s mind and reason.

I’m unsure I have written a post since finishing Lovecraft’s ‘At the Mountains of Madness’, but it was a very interesting and freaky.  I’m surprised I’ve never seen a movie about this one! It’s not overly long, but the powers of description prevent a speed read of any kind. I’m unsure if its the kind of thing one recommends, its sort of a cross between thriller and horror, salted with out of date scientific observations that can seem quaint at best, and farcical at worst.  Yet its an interesting thing to read someone you’ve never read before, and Lovecraft is well known for being influential in this genre, so I’m glad I checked it out.

I’m working on a host of books right now, and hope to finish up ‘A Good Walk Spoiled’ in the coming week.

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

PJW

 

Weekend Reading: January 20, 2018

Good afternoon!  I’ve mentioned before that sometimes its hard to find time to write a weekly post about the news and the books I’m reading, but recent encouragement has enforced the idea that this is a helpful thing to some of you – and personally I find it helps me review as well.  That said, I think that as a writer I feel this inward pressure to write something long and comprehensive, when in reality I don’t think that’s all that helpful.

With that in mind, here’s are few articles and books and such to consider!

Let’s start with the ridiculous and hope you don’t puke. NOTE: this is NOT a parody!

Gold Medalist Michael Phelps talks about his depression. It is a reminder that people – no matter what their social or economic status – are still people. They still have a need for purpose and find some of that outside of themselves.

Similarly: U.K. Appoints a Minister for Loneliness. My theory on why this is going on is that officials in the government are coming to the realization that decades of stamping out religion in the U.K. has its drawbacks.  Now, balance that parliamentary leadership decision with what you see going on over at Buckingham Palace, detailed in this important article: How the Queen – the ‘last Christian monarch’ – has made faith her message.  In fact, if you’re going to read one article, make it that one, because its very encouraging – and relevant as well, since millions are watching The Crown on Netflix.

I’ve been keeping an eye on this story, and talking to medical professionals in this line of work. It’s fascinating: Stem Cells for Knee Problems? U.S. Doctors Investigate.

I have to admit that I laughed pretty hard at this one: Trump Refuses To Let Jesus Into His Heart After Learning He’s From Nazareth.

You’d have to be living under a rock to have missed this one, but just in case: Apple, Capitalizing on New Tax Law, Plans to Bring Billions in Cash Back to U.S.

From The Wardrobe Door blog: Logan Paul and Our Embrace of Two Minutes Hate.  Good points to consider here.

Some wise words here from John Piper: Deep Bible Reading Strategies for the Tired and Busy

So I tried this new google app and didn’t find it all that awesome.  Anyone else find it better than me?

Saved and on-deck for this week: The Sacrifice of Faith. And Trust No One: Kim Philby and the hazards of mistrust.

Books: I saw that Susan Wise Bauer has finally released her new book ‘Rethinking School’.  I’ve read a lot of Bauer’s history books (as have my kids), so I’m really interested to hear her academic and personal take on how parents should approach schooling.

Similarly, this article by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam was interesting. He’s writing about public service as a Christian, and what it means to take up your cross in the political arena. The book isn’t by him but by another (A Theology of Political Vocation: Christian Life and Public Office), but he expresses some of the ideas in hopeful terms. Probably one worth checking out once the ridiculous pricing changes.

Finally, a new book by Nancy Pearcey is looking very interesting: Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality. Some of the questions addressed by Pearcey (from the Amazon description): Are transgender people discovering their authentic self? Is the hookup culture really liberating? Does abortion lead to equality for women? Does homosexuality contradict our biological sex? 

This week I read (and didn’t finish) several disappointing books. Probably got 60% through Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking, my Goodreads review was “A profane literary landscape dotted by tidbits of momentary interest. Sad story – even the funny parts were sad because of how demented they were.” I started listening to this book in the airport during a D.C. trip this week – I figured, hey why not? Wouldn’t it be interesting to hear some of Fisher’s background and struggles? And ya, its interesting, but its also overwhelmingly profane and sad, and really pretty random.

Our family finished George MacDonald’s At the Back of the North Wind. I remembered enjoying this as a kid, but as an adult I found it a complete mess of literary nonsense. Almost completely devoid of plot for large swaths of the 330 pages, I would have quit after page 250 but was overruled. I guess I’ll disclaim that MacDonald was C.S. Lewis’ literary hero, and that I’ve read pretty widely in his prose and always found them wanting. His imagination is good, and sometimes he has brilliant turns of phrases, but his characters are not believable, and he meanders through a plot (if there is one) like a child lost in a cornrow.

Similarly disappointing was the new star wars compilation From a Certain Point of View. This mess is exasperating.  I probably made it through 20 or 30% of the book. It’s a compilation of 40 short stories from the point of view of lesser characters in the Star Wars saga. And by “lesser” I mean REALLY lesser.  We’re talking Jawas and droids you’ve never heard of and imperial henchmen who appear for less than 5 seconds on the screen in the movies. I thought this would be something I’d dig, but for whatever reason it just makes the whole thing seem so…trite…? Not sure if that’s the word…but its awfully boring.

There is hope though – several more good books I’m enjoying right now that I hope to report back on soon.

Until then, have a great weekend!

PJW

 

Weekend Reading: October 21, 2017

Welcome to the weekend!  I’m writing from Charleston, S.C., a beautiful history-rich part of our country.  I didn’t send an email out last week, so there are a few items from last week I wanted to pass along as well. That said, I’m also really under the weather, so not as much commentary as you’re probably used to.

Hard to believe this isn’t fake news!  Man resided in woods for 10 years because wife nagged him too much.

Fascinating stuff here: China Uses ‘Digital Leninism’ to Manage Economy and Monitor Citizens.

They survived six hours in a pool as a wildfire burned their neighborhood to the ground. “Jan watched the moon for clues about time passing. It didn’t move.”

Everyone saw this right? North Korea says ‘a nuclear war may break out any moment’.

This got a lot of attention this week: Ex-DEA agent: Opioid crisis fueled by drug industry and Congress. This is a story that got the attention of President Trump, and for good reason. If you look at anything this week, this is the link to examine.

This may have been missed, but it shows that there’s at least something right going on in Washington: Scalias All the Way Down: While the press goes wild over tweets, Trump is remaking the federal judiciary.

Crazy story from southern OH here. Very sad. 

More of the same from the Boy Scouts of America: First came acceptance of gay and transgender Scouts. Now girls can be Boy Scouts

Similarly…Anger as Oxford college bans Christian group from freshers’ fair

This is ridiculous.  Glad to see my friend Aaron standing up to evil in this world!

Here’s something worth looking at: Vanishing Adulthood and the American Moment: A Conversation with Senator Ben Sasse. The interview is a bit meandering, but the book was good.

Wait…what?  White House Watch: Did Donald Trump Really Shoot a 73 at Trump National?

This was amusingly written. I haven’t finished it yet but enjoyed what I read thus far, some thought-provoking stuff about chain restaurants and their role in American life: Christ in the Garden of Endless Breadsticks.

That’s it for today. I really hope you enjoy the weekend!

PJW

 

 

Weekend Reading: September 16, 2017

Welcome to the weekend reading, my collection of most interesting videos, blogs, news stories, books and more from the past week or two…

Science: As a reminder, I traditionally only post the most obvious news stories here if they are something I’d like to comment on. Usually, I like to post stuff that you may have missed, and here is one such story: Mathematicians Measure Infinities and Find They’re Equal.  I mean, why not geek it out and learn about a big math breakthrough.  I can’t say as I completely understand this, but it is definitely interesting.

Shocker: North Korea Threatens to Use Nuclear Weapon to ‘Sink’ Japan.  Now, I don’t know about you, but Kim is starting to sound like the boy who cried wolf. I don’t know what the end game for him is, but it may simply be consolidating his own internal power. That said, regardless of whether he’s just saber rattling, we effectively have another country threatening to annihilate us – which means we’re in a de facto state of war with that country – and everything those guys do deserves our attention.

There’s a video out that explains more about the missiles: Why North Korea Can’t Build An ICBM (yet).

On the political front, the big news this week was on immigration. And to call it “news” is perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, because nothing really (substantially) happened. Trump had a bunch of Democrat leaders over for dinner, and at that dinner, he supposedly told them he would cave on the DACA program, without getting his southern border wall. This infuriated his supporters, and caused the conservatives at RedState blog to write a post called ‘Amnesty!!’.  Breitbart even called him “Amnesty Don”.  Now, what is getting lost in all of this is the actual policy ramifications of rescinding DACA and not getting better border security. Can the United States be both merciful and wise at the same time?  Can we deal kindly with these children and also secure our border so that we stem the tide of illegal immigration? I highly doubt it given the type of people who inhabit the leadership of our government (on both sides of the aisle). But I do think that is what the President seems to be aiming for.

What is more of a mystery to me is how anyone can be surprised by the President’s actions. This is a man whose supporters trumpet his credentials as a dealmaker. Although some (on the right and left) might characterize his life as closer to that of a serial liar who has a track record of infidelity to both people and ideas. Regardless of how you frame it, the President is a man who makes deals – and unlike our Senate President has done that pretty successfully in years past.

For the first six months of his Presidency, he was clearly out of his depth, making one gaffe after another, compounding those mistakes by a series of uninhibited rants on social media which (I think) tarnished the office and embarrassed his supporters. But I think it’s too early to judge this latest series of policy maneuvers – including the prospect that the southern wall might get addressed later. Those on the right (of which I am one) can’t have it both ways – we can’t complain about the impotence of the GOP leadership in the Congress and then blame the President for wanting to bring Democrats along to make a deal to get things done. Because if the GOP leadership in the House and Senate doesn’t have the requisite leadership skills to get even a budget passed or Obamacare rescinded, what makes us think they can pass meaningful tax or immigration reform?

As far as I can tell, the President is simply tired of counting on House and Senate leadership to get anything done, and so he’s trying something else. Sure it means he might be going back on his word from the campaign – but when has that ever stopped a politician in the past?  Maybe that’s what we’re seeing…Donald Trump is becoming a politician…

Moving on…

Tech + Environmentalism + Liberals + Hollywood Types: Does anyone know what the heck Burning Man is really all about?  For the life of me, I cannot figure out what the point is.  All I know from past news stories over the years is that it’s where a bunch of libs and tech CEOs gather to free themselves from the conveniences of modern technology…of course, that idea died years ago.  So I’m not sure what the point is these days, but I do know that this is ridiculous: Thousands of bikes abandoned at ‘leave no trace’ Burning Man. 

Religion and America….Good writing from John MacArthur here: Can God Bless America?

Gays + Tech = ?  Some off-the-wall technology stuff here…Researchers use facial recognition tools to predict sexual orientation. LGBT groups aren’t happy.

‘Sin in America’, or ‘More stuff on Gay People’: Along similar lines, I thought it would be helpful to link to the Nashville Statement here. This statement was signed by hundreds of prominent evangelicals, along with some conservative media types and many others. If you haven’t been able to read it, go ahead and do so because it’s likely to be a reference point for years to come in the discussion about the sin of homosexuality, and how the church interacts with the issue (was just thinking how after typing “the sin of…” could land me in some hot water before too long…).

Tech: This was buried in the Wall Street Journal a few days ago: Facebook Is Willing to Spend Big in Video Push

Hurricanes: Insightful stuff here:  Best intentions: When disaster relief brings anything but relief

Sociology: This is really fascinating stuff here: From Prison to Ph.D.: The Redemption and Rejection of Michelle Jones.  Of course, I am all for Harvard or any other institution having the freedom to reject or admit whomever they’d like. That is part of what makes this country great. Yet, there are some really interesting things to explore in this article. There are questions to ask – like whether they rejected Jones on academic grounds (it doesn’t seem so), or whether those who are outraged are outraged for the right reasons.  A bigger question is whether we believe rehabilitation is possible in the prison system.  Lot’s to chew on here, and I’d encourage you to read the article and discuss it with someone to flesh out a bit what is going on here and why.  NOTE: the three reasons I think I detect from Harvard as to their rejection are: 1. Jones might be uncomfortable in the high-pressure academic situation, 2. Jones seemed unwilling to dive into the crime she committed 20 years ago in the optional section of her application, 3. Allowing Jones’ into the program would bring fire upon the University politically from the right (Fox News is cited) by promoting a supposed trope that Harvard is P.C. through and through (the double irony of this is mind-blowing…it might be a truism that those who don’t have principles moored in eternal truths find themselves in ironic situations more than they’d like).

Religion in America: I know I just linked to the NY Times, and that may have been hard to stomach for some of my fellow conservative friends, but this won’t help much because I’m now going to link to the pseudo-journalism of Buzzfeed. The article is called, ‘The Joel Osteen Fiasco Says A Lot About American Christianity’.  I find it interesting to view the church through the eyes of the world every now and again, just as it’s interesting to see the world through a kaleidoscope (distortions are often amusing, and more often noteworthy).

More of the same??? Maybe…Perhaps the best title for this article is ‘Whoops……..’

In case you missed it: Dianne Feinstein Attacks Judicial Nominee’s Catholic Faith. Apparently, there is no longer freedom of religion when it comes to serving in the public arena.  This is an extremely important story, with chilling repercussions.  So much could be said, but one thing is that it underscores the importance of elections in America. Elections have consequences. So next time you hear people complaining about how much money is spent on them, or how many ads or calls you’re getting or seeing, remember that the stakes are high, and that’s the reason why so much attention is placed on who wins and who loses.  It goes without saying that to have several U.S. Senators of any variety attacking a judge in this way is egregious, and an example of how liberals in America are desirous to reshape the values by which this country is governed and judged. Feinstein complained of this nominee that “the dogma lives loud” inside her. Feinstein too has a dogma roaring within her, and its ugly sound was heard across the political spectrum with acute clarity. We ignore the roar of this lion at our own peril. 

Freedom, Liberty, and Science: Canada these days!  Jeez! from the Toronto Sun: Canada now investigates ‘climate denial’. Of course, I say that tongue in cheek because we Americans know how close to this America is as well. In fact, we’ve already seen it at the IRS in recent years.

Rando: This is just odd…yet funny: Elvis Karate Fight Plaque.

That’s it for now – I hope you enjoy your weekend!

PJ

Weekend Reading: June 24, 2017

Good morning everyone!  Here are the stories, videos, and blogs I enjoyed or felt were interesting enough to share this week, with one warning – a read a lot of WSJ articles, so if you don’t have a subscription you’ll not be able to access all of them (of course I would highly recommend a subscription).

A few items of interest in the political world this week that you may not have heard about (I’m assuming you heard about Georgia’s 6th CD special and have no need of yet another recap).

I thought this was pretty interesting: Protesters plan to greet Mike Pence in ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ garb at Focus on the Family speech in Colorado Springs. This is a gay rights group working to bring attention to their plight, and the supposed closed-mindedness of groups like Focus on the Family.  Note this quote from the group’s leader, “This is the way they see Focus, this backwards organization that’s promoting stuff that’s far beyond what most of us would consider applicable for modern society.”  Especially note his (am I okay to use that pronoun?) use of the phrase “most of us.”  Even just 10 years ago this might have been a fanciful statement, but we have reached a moment where the tyranny of the minority has taken captive the behavior and speech patterns of the majority of the country.

After the shooting in D.C. (the one successfully aimed at several members of Congress), some interesting stories came out.  First, this video from one of the Congressmen who describes the scene is worth reviewing.  Second, there’s an opinion piece in WaPo about the precarious nature of our constitutional backup plans in the event that certain heads of state get killed.  Third, in the aftermath of the shooting, several Democratic members of Congress got together to pray for their GOP colleagues who were shot at (and wounded). However, NPR changed their action from “praying” to “thinking”, and got caught. I’m not just posting that as a “gotcha” moment to shake your head at, rather I’m making your aware (again) that there are serious prejudices in the media against religion of any kind. Also…why is NPR publically funded in the first place? It’s not a public service – if you provide a good product, people will listen and you’ll get sponsors. Period. If not…goodbye.

And how about conservative columnist Erick Erickson calling for us to contemplate secession, and then tempering that post with another right away. Some interesting points to discuss here. Maybe I don’t have space or time here, but read these, and ask yourself if he’s got a point, or whether he’s taken The Benedict Option too far…

In terms of thinking about the nation’s future, Sen. Ben Sasse is out with a book called ‘The Vanishing American Adult.’  There’s a slightly critical review of the book at Cardus this week, which surprised me, given the positive reviews I’ve seen online. Still there are some good points in the review, points about the nature of automation and the future of work that need to be pondered I suppose.

Something actually worth reading from The New York Times: How We Became Bitter Political Enemies.  Excerpt:

Today, partisan prejudice even exceeds racial hostility in implicit association tests that measure how quickly people subconsciously associate groups (blacks, Democrats) with traits (wonderful, awful). That’s remarkable, given how deeply ingrained racial attitudes are in the United States, and how many generations they’ve had to harden, according to work by Mr. Iyengar and the Dartmouth political scientist Sean J. Westwood.

Foreign Affairs…in this week’s Columbus Dispatch: What can US do to North Korea to avenge death of Otto Warmbier?  (Spoiler Alert: Nothing)

More worth reading: 4 charts on how Russians see their country’s place in the world

And…U.S. Jet Shoots Down Syrian Pro-Regime Drone

These guys crack me up: Atheist Driver Spots Jesus Fish Eating Darwin Fish, Repents

“Ever since freshman philosophy class I’ve believed God is a fiction and humans are the product of natural selection, an accidental collocation of atoms,” Boyette recounted to reporters. “Then I spotted that car decal and heard the sound of crumbling. It was my worldview. I saw that Jesus Christ could eat Charles Darwin for lunch, just as the Jesus fish bearing the word ‘truth’ was swallowing up the smaller, weaker Darwin fish.’”

Tech

There are several stories of interest in the technology sector that you might want to check out.  Wired had something on Quantum computing, which was interesting but didn’t quite help me understand the advantages of the new tech. I’ll be on the watch for more information on this as it develops.

Also….How Facebook’s Telepathic Texting Is Supposed to Work – I found this really interesting.

Here’s an interesting piece from The Guardian about Apple’s manufactuing plant in China:  Life and death in Apple’s forbidden city

The ninnies at major corporations crack me up.  They find themselves in a bit of a quagmire (not ethically, because their branding isn’t based on ethics but on fear) when the people they’re happy to take money from also wander onto political sites they don’t like or watch videos on YouTube that make them uncomfortable. Here’s the story headline: Advertisers Try to Avoid the Web’s Dark Side, From Fake News to Extremist Videos  The issue here is that through advanced programmatic buying (the kind my own firm utilizes), companies like Target (for example) follow people around the internet, instead of camping out on certain websites that cater to their demographics. It’s a great way to advertise – it’s like going to a golf tournament. You have to decide whether to follow the players around the course, or sit on one hole and take in whatever action happens on that hole as the players come through – I’ve always preferred the former!

But what happens when that potential customer ends up watching a video you think is a bit risque (not sexually, Target would never care about that – I mean like terror videos or the like)?  What then?  Well, these big companies get mad when Ad buyers don’t block sites they don’t agree with, or want their brand associated with  – fair enough. But things get harder when you are talking about content within a site – like YouTube – that is harder to monitor for ad men placing bids on real estate on the site, and have little to no control over the content posted on said site. The funny thing is, that I wonder if faced with the ability to not take the money from people watching ISIS propaganda videos, whether Target would actually discriminate in this way. Or put more provocatively, what if they learned that 20% of their target audience was actually visiting Brietbart.com for news? Would they block those people from buying at their stores; tracing their IP’s back to their physical addresses, and then declining their credit cards for online or in-store purchases?  I’m just playing out one of the several scenarios that could be only a few years down the road…food for thought!

There are some interesting goings on in Memphis: Memphis activists target Confederate monuments after failed attempt to dig up general’s grave

Entertainment Stuff:  The Han Solo Movie Just Lost Its Directors Midway Through Filming

And…they’re back!  Drive in movies are making a big comeback.  My family recently benefited from this comeback, as a Friday night trip to the drive in proved to be a ton of fun for the kids (thanks to my friend Britain for the idea!).

This is excellent: Never Read the Bible Simply to Know

Lastly, I’ll leave you with this for your amusement, this was floating around social media circles this week, and it was too good not to repost here!  (h/t Kate):

That’s it!  Have a great weekend!

PJW