Friday, January 30, 2009

The music of Athens

Today's featured article over at Wikipedia.

The diversity of Indonesia

The Big Picture recently did a piece on Indonesia:
"Ecologically blessed, economically challenged, vast and diverse, Indonesia is a country of contrasts. made up of 17,500 islands (only about 6,000 of those inhabited). Indonesia is populated by over 230 million people, speaking over 740 different languages and dialects within 300 distinct native ethnic groups - it is the fourth most populous country, after the United States. Impoverished conditions amongst people living in an area so rich with natural resources has also put extreme pressure on the environment, as increased mining and deforestation make more of an impact."
The Joshua Project sheds a little more light on these numbers. They report 768 individual people groups. Out of these, 191 people groups (~54 million people) are reported in the unreached category (less than 2% evangelical Christians). There is still much work to be done.

Our True Elder Brother

Somewhat related to my post yesterday, Keller describes Jesus as our true elder brother. He says:
"The point of the parable is that forgiveness always involves a price—someone has to pay. There was no way for the younger brother to return to the family unless the older brother bore the cost himself. Our true elder brother paid our debt, on the cross, in our place.”
And on the cross:
“There Jesus was stripped naked of his robe and dignity so that we could be clothed with dignity and standing we don’t deserve. On the cross Jesus was treated as an outcast so that we could be brought into God’s family freely by grace. There Jesus drank the cup of eternal justice so that we might have the cup of the Father’s joy. There was no other way for the heavenly Father to bring us in, except at the expense of our true elder brother.”

Thursday, January 29, 2009

I am an elder brother

This is true in two ways. For one, I'm an older brother to my sister Kara. I'm also an elder brother in Jesus' story in Luke 15. I recently read The Prodigal God by Tim Keller (see sidebar of the blog for more details). In the book, Keller looks at this familiar story and analyzes it a bit. The following quote was probably the most convicting quote in the book for me:
"Elder brothers are under great pressure to appear, even to themselves, happy and content."
This definitely describes how I live a lot of my life. I'm addicted to approval and I want others to think things are going well in my life. He goes on to talk about how elder brothers typically lack a real assurance that God loves and delights in them. He gives three different signs that reveal this lack of assurance:
"1) Every time something goes wrong in your life or a prayer goes unanswered, you wonder if it’s because you aren’t living right in this or that area.

2) criticism from others doesn’t just hurt your feelings, it devastates you. This is because your sense of God’s love is abstract and has little real power in your life, and you need the approval of others to bolster your sense of value.

3) But perhaps the clearest symptom…is a dry prayer life."
Although all of these show up in my life, none is more true than #2. I need freedom.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Piper gives 15 pro-life truths

From Desiring God:

1. Existing fetal homicide laws make a man guilty of manslaughter if he kills the baby in a mother's womb (except in the case of abortion).

2. Fetal surgery is performed on babies in the womb to save them while another child the same age is being legally destroyed.

3. Babies can sometimes survive on their own at 23 or 24 weeks, but abortion is legal beyond this limit.

4. Living on its own is not the criterion of human personhood, as we know from the use of respirators and dialysis.

5. Size is irrelevant to human personhood, as we know from the difference between a one-week-old and a six-year-old.

6. Developed reasoning powers are not the criterion of personhood, as we know from the capacities of three-month-old babies.

7. Infants in the womb are human beings scientifically by virtue of their genetic make up.

8. Ultrasound has given a stunning window on the womb that shows the unborn at eight weeks sucking his thumb, recoiling from pricking, responding to sound. All the organs are present, the brain is functioning, the heart is pumping, the liver is making blood cells, the kidneys are cleaning fluids, and there is a fingerprint. Virtually all abortions happen later than this date.

9. Justice dictates that when two legitimate rights conflict, the limitation of rights that does the least harm is the most just. Bearing a child for adoption does less harm than killing him.

10. Justice dictates that when either of two people must be inconvenienced or hurt to alleviate their united predicament, the one who bore the greater responsibility for the predicament should bear more of the inconvenience or hurt to alleviate it.

11. Justice dictates that a person may not coerce harm on another person by threatening voluntary harm on themselves.

12. The outcast and the disadvantaged and exploited are to be cared for in a special way, especially those with no voice of their own.

13. What is happening in the womb is the unique person-nurturing work of God, who alone has the right to give and take life.

14. There are countless clinics that offer life and hope to both mother and child (and father and parents), with care of every kind lovingly provided by people who will meet every need they can.

15.Jesus Christ can forgive all sins, and will give all who trusts him the help they need to do everything that life requires.

Friday, January 23, 2009

I am Second

Roy just pointed me to this really cool site called I am Second.

This video, from that site, is pretty awesome. It's the ex lead guitarist of Korn sharing his testimony of how he met Jesus.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Lincoln had some pretty good logic

From John Piper:

On January 12, 2009 Samantha Heiges, age 23, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for drowning her newborn in Burnsville, Minnesota. If she had arranged for a doctor to kill the child a few weeks earlier she would be a free woman.

What are the differences between this child before and after birth that would justify it’s protection just after birth but not just before? There are none. This is why Abraham Lincoln’s reasoning about slavery is relevant in ways he could not foresee. He wrote:
"You say A. is white, and B. is black. It is color, then; the lighter, having the right to enslave the darker? Take care. By this rule, you are to be slave to the first man you meet, with a fairer skin than your own.

You do not mean color exactly? You mean the whites are intellectually the superiors of the blacks, and, therefore have the right to enslave them? Take care again. By this rule, you are to be slave to the first man you meet, with an intellect superior to your own.

But, say you, it is a question of interest; and, if you can make it your interest; you have the right to enslave another. Very well. And if he can make it his interest, he has the right to enslave you. (“Fragments: On Slavery")"
There are no morally relevant differences between white and black or between child-in-the-womb and child-outside-the-womb that would give a right to either to enslave or kill the other.

Who was/is Jane Roe?

This is pretty fascinating. From Justin Taylor:

The "Jane Roe" of Roe v. Wade was Norma McCorvey. In 1969 she was 22 years old, divorced, homeless, and pregnant for the third time (she had placed her first two children for adoption). Somehow an adoption agency connected her with two young lawyers fresh out of law school who were eager to challenge the Texas statutes on abortion. McCorvey only met with her lawyers twice--once for beer and pizza, the other time to sign an affidavit (which she didn't read). In order to speed things up McCorvey lied and told them she had been raped. She never appeared in court, and she found out about the infamous ruling from the newspapers. The baby she was seeking to abort was born and placed for adoption.

Today Norma McCorvey is pro-life, advocating for the unborn. You can read her sworn testimony recounting her experience as the plaintiff in one of the most significant cases to appear before the Supreme Court

Crime pays in Mexico

Monica Lopez recently wrote an article for Adbusters describing the rise of crime in Mexico over the last few years. Corruption seems to permeate all levels of government. Check out the article here.

Here's her conclusion:
"The outlook for 2009 is not bright. The worst-case scenario is that violence will continue to intensify and include terrorist attacks, leaving both the government and private citizens powerless against organized crime. The best-case scenario is that we might react as a country in a way that strives to understand where the source of the current problems so that we may attack them at their roots. The next time somebody asks me if Mexico is a dangerous place where people shoot each other over disagreements and the authorities are corrupt, I will have to answer, with great sadness, yes."

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama's 27 year old speechwriter

The Washington Post covered this story about a guy named Jon Favreau, a 27 year old who is Obama's cheif speechwriter. It's a pretty interesting read expecially because of his age.
"During the campaign, the buzz-cut 27-year-old at the corner table helped write and edit some of the most memorable speeches of any recent presidential candidate. When Obama moves to the White House next month, Favreau will join his staff as the youngest person ever to be selected as chief speechwriter. He helps shape almost every word Obama says, yet the two men have formed a concert so harmonized that Favreau's own voice disappears."

Ways to go green at church

This is hilarious

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Being thankful and prayerful for Barack Obama

On this Inauguration Day:

Irish Calvinist has some good reasons to be thankful for Obama.

Al Mohler writes a prayer for Obama

Arnold also cites a prayer for him.

Back from Beaver Creek

For the one person that complained, I apologize that I've been blogless for the last 7 days. I left last Thursday with my family and my buddy Dan to head to Beaver Creek, CO. We had great weather. It snowed a good bit before we got there and was sunny the whole three days that we skied. We skied at Beaver Creek the first and last day and drove over to Vail for the second day. I had a lot of fun using my new camera (Nikon d40) and even got to start and finish This Side of Paradise, once highly recommended by Ethan, and now by me. And I definitely enjoyed the beauty and serenity of God's creation.

Here are some of the pics:

Aspens at Beaver Creek

Dan and I at Beaver Creek
Fun times in Vail
Vail again
me at Baever Creek

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

More on Facebook and narcissism

In the same vein as my last couple of posts, Roy's post yesterday was a good one.
"...our Facebook profile has worked itself into another ‘mirror’ in our life. Many of us/me are in love with our profile, our reflection. Our friends, favorite books, quotes, or where we have been as all worked us over."

He stood up for those who have no voice

I came across another article recently in Relevant Magazine written by the founder Cameron Strang. In the article, he talks about his desire to communicate untold stories through the magazine. And he goes on to describe one such story about the creation and impact of PEPFAR by George W. Bush. Here are a few key paragraphs:
"Recently, I was reminded of one of the most significant untold stories of our generation, and it happens to center on our outgoing president. It's a story so important that I contend a hundred years from now, it will actually be the primary thing history uses to define President George W. Bush's administration. And it has gone virtually unreported by the media.

...It was at the 2003 State of the Union address that Bush announced the formation of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). At the time, only 50,000 people living with AIDS in Africa were able to receive anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs. PEPFAR's ambitious goal was to increase that number to 2 million in five years--a milestone they've actually now surpassed.

Those people getting treatment and education have actually led to another 8 million people not contracting the disease who otherwise would have. Ten million lives saved. And of those, 4 million are orphans, the majority of whom were orphaned because both parents died of AIDS.

PEPFAR is touching every aspect of African society, providing hope to a generation that has been dying off at an alarming rate.

So why has PEPFAR worked where other efforts failed? President Bush insisted on collaboration with African leaders--partnering with them instead of merely pushing our strategies--and then holding those partners accountable for results.

...As we look at these closing weeks of the Bush administration, it's easy to see the challenges our country is facing and forget monumental, positive initiatives like PERFAR. I want to publicly applaud President Bush for taking a stand when others hadn't, and doing so without the motive of political benefit. He has stood up for those who have no voice, and he did so because it was the right thing to do."

Friday, January 09, 2009

Longing to be Known

In the latest Relevant Magazine, there's an article entitled The Problem of Pride in the Age of Twitter written by Brett McCracken. In it he looks at the rise of technology and social sites that provide virtual community. Although his tone is rather bleak (I disagree that we are fundamentally boring), I think he has a good point regarding our desire to be known. Similar to my post yesterday, if we are not careful, we can allow our "status" and info on Twitter or Facebook (or blogs!) feed our narcissism.

Here's a couple paragraphs:
"We've become obsessed with 'status,' but not status in the sense of being objectively measurable (as in our class or social status), but status in the attention-deficit sense of 'what I am doing right now.' Communication is no longer about learning things from people or sharing experiences; it's about knowing what they're doing and how they're feeling--or at least how they want the world to perceive them as such.

Our lives have suddenly become much more dramatic, worthy of being 'performed' on a stage visible to millions. But since when are our lives so interesting that we feel compelled to share them with the world? Do we have delusions of grandeur? Perhaps it's not primarily the fact that we can tell our stories to the world, but that--more so than ever before--we desperately long to.

There is a real sense of emptiness in this generation. We've grown up in relative stability and lived borderline boring lives. For most of us, mo major wars, crises, famines or holocausts have plagued our lives. Meanwhile, we've consumed more media than ever--living in movies, television shows, video games and other fantasy worlds. There's been a dissonance between who we are (boring, unknown) and what the media has made us want to be (interesting, glamorous, famous). The result is a massive cultural longing to be known. Not by a few, but by many."

Thursday, January 08, 2009

I love me some me

This phrase, once made famous by Terrell Owens, was recently used by Adam "Pacman" Jones in a brief interview with ESPN. He said this shortly after the news broke about a shooting in Atlanta that he was involved with.

Although most of us aren't as outwardly narcissitic and destructive as these guys, I think their words reveal the temptation that every one of us face daily, and are capable of expressing unto our OWN destruction.

Never had a woman endured so many terrible tortures

Last night, my discipleship group was discussing Stephen's martyrdom in the book of Acts. Someone made the comment of how it must have encouraged and emboldened the Christians at the time to see someone joyfully enduring a painful death in order to make Christ known.

I started thinking about stories I've read about martyrs throughout the ages of have given their lives in similar ways. I remembering reading and being amazed of what they were willing to endure for the sake of Christ. Blandina was one such martyr who died in 177 AD in Lyon.
"For while we all trembled, and...feared that on account of the weakness of her body, she would be unable to make bold confession, Blandina was filled with such power as to be delivered and raised above those who were torturing her by turns from morning till evening in every manner, so that they acknowledged that they were conquered and could do nothing more to her. And they were astonished at her endurance, as her entire body was mangled and broken; and they testified that one of these forms of torture was sufficient to destroy life, not to speak of so many and so great sufferings...

...on the last day of the contests, Blandina was again brought in, with Ponticus, a boy about fifteen years old. They had been brought every day to witness the sufferings of the others, and been pressed to swear by the idols. But because they remained steadfast and despised them, the multitude became furious, so that they had no compassion for the youth of the boy nor respect for the sex of the woman.

And, after the scourging, after the wild beasts, after the roasting seat, she was finally enclosed in a net, and thrown before a bull. And having been tossed about by the animal, but feeling none of the things which were happening to her, on account of her hope and firm hold upon what had been entrusted to her, and her communion with Christ, she also was sacrificed. And the heathen themselves confessed that never among them had a woman endured so many and such terrible tortures."
"Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come." - Hebrews 13:12-14

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

God is the first principle of all truth

You've probably heard of the atheist bus ad campaign in Great Britian. If you haven't, several months ago, an atheist campaign raised money to put several ads in the city buses with the tagline: “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

Al Mohler responds:
"I do not believe in God because I have become convinced that his existence is probably true, but because I am convinced that the existence of God is the first principle of all truth. The Christian conviction is not based in probability, but in the assurance of God's existence and self-revelation.

So, in an odd and completely unexpected sense, I am actually thankful for the atheist bus campaign in Britain. When the best atheists can come up with is a message that God probably does not exist, the weakness of the atheist intellectual position becomes clear."

Latest Occurances in Gaza

The Big Picture shares recent scenes from the Gaza strip.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Strobel responds to a barrage of quesitons

After answering the first question over at Friendly Atheist's blog, Strobel now responds to the many questions/comments he received from the readers.

Check it out

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Strobel answers questions at Friendly Atheist blog

Over at the Friendly Atheist blog, Hemant has asked Lee Strobel to answer some questions sent in by atheists who read Hemant's blog. If you didn't know, Lee Strobel was an atheist for many years before he noticed some attractive qualities in his wife after she became a Christian. After more investigation and hearing the gospel in a way that made sense to him, he became a Christian as well. He is now regarded as one of the leading apologists of our day.

Here's Part 1, where he answers the question:

What is your own background with atheism? What caused you to become a Christian? Is there a difference between your former atheism and the “New Atheism” of today? In other words, how hard-core of an atheist were you?

Here's a snippet of his answer:
"For nearly two years, I investigated science, philosophy, and history. I read literature (both pro and con), quizzed experts, and studied archaeology. On November 8th, 1981, alone in my room, I took a yellow legal pad and began summarizing the evidence I had encountered. In light of the scientific evidence that points toward a Creator and the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, I came to the conclusion that it would have required more faith for me to maintain my atheism than to become a Christian.

Essentially, I realized that to stay an atheist, I would have to believe that nothing produces everything; non-life produces life; randomness produces fine-tuning; chaos produces information; unconsciousness produces consciousness; and non-reason produces reason. Those leaps of faith were simply too big for me to take, especially in light of the affirmative case for God’s existence and Jesus’ resurrection (and, hence, his divinity). In other words, in my assessment the Christian worldview accounted for the totality of the evidence much better than the atheistic worldview."

Improving the quality and quantity of our sleep

As I mentioned yesterday, I recently read an article by Ginny Graves at MSNBC about sleep. In her research she gathered a lot of interesting information. For instance, before the invention of the light bulb, the average person slept 10 hours a night. And that begs the question, "How much sleep are we supposed to get?" It's often stated that 8 hours a night is what is best, but these days that seems like an unneeded luxury to most people. This issue is addressed in the article:
"Our society doesn't value sleep," says Phyllis Zee, a professor of neurology at and director of Northwestern University's Sleep Disorders Center. "We see it as a sign of laziness or a waste of time" — so much so that sleeplessness has become something to brag about. Plus, "the culture we've created is geared to keeping us awake," Zee says. Our minds are constantly aroused by stress, caffeine, and even e-mail. "Scans of metabolic activity in the brain show that people who suffer from insomnia have more activity than people without sleep problems when they're trying to get to sleep," Zee says. "When people say, 'I can't turn my brain off at night,' they're actually right."
In the rest of the article, Ginny lays out in detail ten different ways that we can help improve the quantity and quality of our sleep:
1. Free your mind - from anxious thoughts
2. Get physically tired - via aerobic exercise during the day
3. Increase darkness - light suppresses melatonin
4. Cut back on caffeine
5. Limit alcohol
6. Reset your body clock - through the use of light in the morning
7. Take a supplement - of melatonin pills
8. Investigate sleeping pills - for temporary use
9. Adjust your attitude
10. Restrict sleep - temporarily to build up sleepiness
I would encourage you to read the whole thing for more detail on any of these steps.

Friday, January 02, 2009

How Important is Sleep?

This morning I read an article by Ginny Graves at MSNBC about sleep. I'll blog about that article specifically tomorrow. First I wanted to write a little about my own experience in learning and thinking about sleep.

I've often struggled with being tired throughout the day. In college I thought a lot about it in relation to the amount of sleep I was getting. I was getting 7-8 hours a night but still would be drained throughout the day. I wondered, "Do I need more sleep than other people?" or "Should I be eating differently or exercising more to get better sleep?"

I also wondered how sleep affected my spiritual and emotional state. Struggling with some mild forms of depression in college, I began wondering how much is related to the quantity and quality of my sleep. And I remember John Piper saying once that one of the first things that he asks a spiritually depressed person is "How much sleep are you getting?" Even the Psalmist talks about how sleep is a gift from God and is counter to spending time in anxious toil.

And on the other hand, like the Psalmist says elsewhere, I want to rise before dawn in anticipation to meditate on God's Word. And from experience I know that it's wonderful thing to forsake some sleep to meet with God early in the morning, and then be more dependant on Him throughout the day for strength.

Though I haven't fully reconciled these two ideas to come up with the perfect plan for my life, I have figured out that I should live somewhere in between them. And it also seems to be slightly different for everybody. And I can agree with something John Piper wrote about in 1982 about a theology of sleep. Here's his conclusion:
"Sleep is a daily reminder from God that we are not God. “He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4). But Israel will. For we are not God. Once a day God sends us to bed like patients with a sickness. The sickness is a chronic tendency to think we are in control and that our work is indispensable. To cure us of this disease God turns us into helpless sacks of sand once a day. How humiliating to the self-made corporate executive that he has to give up all control and become as limp as a suckling infant every day.

Sleep is a parable that God is God and we are mere men. God handles the world quite nicely while a hemisphere sleeps. Sleep is like a broken record that comes around with the same message every day: Man is not sovereign. Man is not sovereign. Man is not sovereign. Don’t let the lesson be lost on you. God wants to be trusted as the great worker who never tires and never sleeps. He is not nearly so impressed with our late nights and early mornings as he is with the peaceful trust that casts all anxieties on him and sleeps. "

Lloyd-Jones on Resolutions

David Mathis at the DG blog offers Martyn Lloyd-Jones' thoughts on resolutions:
"Would you like to be rid of this spiritual depression? The first thing you have to do is to say farewell now once and forever to your past. Realize that it has been covered and blotted out in Christ. Never look back at your sins again. Say: ‘It is finished, it is covered by the Blood of Christ’. That is your first step. Take that and finish with yourself and all this talk about goodness, and look to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is only then that true happiness and joy are possible for you. What you need is not to make resolutions to live a better life, to start fasting and sweating and praying. No! You just begin to say:

'I rest my faith on Him alone
Who died for my transgressions to atone.'"

What does it mean to love Jesus?

Piper offers his answer:
- I admire Jesus Christ more than any other human or angelic being.
- I enjoy his ways and his words more than I enjoy the ways and words of anyone else.
- I want his approval more than I want the approval of anyone else.
- I want to be with him more than I want to be with anyone else.
- I feel more grateful to him for what he has done for me than I do to anyone else.
- I trust his words more fully than I trust what anyone else says.
- I am more glad in his exaltation than in the exaltation of anyone else, including me.