Resident Evil

Nearly four years after the massacre, Sandy Hook Elementary School is reopening. In December of 2012, 20 children and 6 teachers were killed when a 20 year old man opened fire.

Thinking back on it I remember a report from The Wall Street Journal, and these lines jumped out at me: “Evil visited this community today”. Those words by Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy were appropriate for the situation and no one would disagree.

However, it should be noted that evil did not arrive that day. It had always been there and still it. The forces of evil that provoked the attack on those children is a present reality all over the world, and at all time. It doesn’t visit. It just becomes visible.

Word To The Wise (Part 12) – Proverbs 23:13-14

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Proverbs 23:13-14 Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.

When it comes to physical punishment, the Scriptures address the parents and not the child. It assumes we’d rather not discipline. It assumes we have a hard time reconciling God’s will with pain.

Why do we do it? Whatever grows must be trained.

How do we do it? We use a measured application appropriate to the situation.

What is the goal? Compliance? No. It’s a loving safeguard against death.

Correcting a child will save them from a Sheol of consequences.

In reality, the ultimate child abuse is letting them do whatever they want.

Word to the Wise (Part 11) – Proverbs 23:12

Proverbs 23:12 Apply your heart to instruction and your ear to words of knowledge.

There are two kinds of people in the world. Some seek after God and his wisdom, others don’t. That’s pretty much it.

Christians are by nature (new nature) in the first category. They know the will of God is clearly stated in the Bible, and they make every effort to submit to it. Instruction leads to knowledge, leads to wisdom, to faith, contentment, and therefore true happiness. That’s the prize at the bottom of the box.

Two questions:

Why bother applying ourselves in the pursuit of wisdom?

What do we focus on when we do apply ourselves?

Instruction, knowledge, and wisdom work together like those bumpers at the bowling alley, keeping the novice on target and increasing the likelihood that he will knock down some pins.

In this simple saying of the wise, the author turns to the spiritual reservoir and inlet of every person.

The heart is the place where all knowledge and wisdom resides. It’s the well you draw upon in the time of decision. The quality and size of that well determines the measure of the man. Therefore, specific effort must be made to guard what goes into it.

So the answer to the first question is that we should apply ourselves because it will make us better people. We’ll have capacity. We’ll have depth. We’ll actually have something worth while to tell our kids and grandkids.

The ear is a figurative way of describing the pipeline leading to the heart. Either it is open, and biblical instruction gets in, or it’s obstructed with debris because it’s been hooked up to what the world offers instead.

This is the answer to question two. Focus on getting something specific from a clean source. You can start with Bible reading. Add to that a good devotional like My Utmost for His Highest. Listen to a sermon on the your commute or during a run. The point is that your ear needs to be tuned to knowledge. Everything else is noise.

Single Issue Dispositive. What it means and why it will matter in November.

Al Mohler is a very bright guy with an urge to articulate.

At a panel discussion a few years back he was on stage with C.J. Mahaney who was acting as moderator. The conversation as I recall it went something like this,

C.J. “Al, what do you think?”

Mohler “I have about 8 different ideas to share on that”

C.J. “Just hit shuffle”

Below is one of those moments. Listen carefully to this answer and ask yourself if it informs your understanding at all. Yesterday I referenced a short video from Russell Moore. He’s on the end of this video too.

Political issues and the pulpit as a filter

A couple months ago I wrote a short article for the 9Marks website about how to help pastors categorize the issues they face in the ministry. It was called “4 Ways to Categorize Complaints in the Church“. It’s a personal filter I’ve used for years and it really helps me weed out the grumbling that doesn’t warrant a response.

It’s also helps me to filter out what needs to be included in a sermon and what doesn’t. Most of the time what doesn’t make it into the sermon would be issues that we might call political. They are policies, usually economic, that I believe are right, but don’t have any moral ground that can be supported by Scripture.

In the short video below, Russell Moore provides a refreshingly balanced commentary on how pastors should use their pulpits.

 

 

Outcome Inequality

Screen-Shot-2014-03-24-at-2.18.07-PM-718x500The words income inequality show up frequently in political speeches. Usually the person is lamenting the gap between those who make a lot of money and those who don’t, and how much tax that high income person pays.

It’s true that Warren Buffet has a lower tax rate than his secretary. He makes approximately 1000 times as much, but pays a smaller percentage of that income to the government.

But what if we started talking about outcome inequality? Since income should be linked to outcome (or output), Mr. Buffet is making a fair salary. If I had received $1000 worth of BRK.A for my 13th birthday, I’d be sitting on over $30,000. Am I really going to complain that he made a pile of money along the way?

Loneliness, aloneness, and confirmation bias

Magnus Nielsson

I first wrote something about Magus Nilsson four years ago and never published it, but don’t know why. Friday night I watched a documentary about Fäviken and had a whole other set of thoughts I wanted to put down. I’ll include both here. The first has to do with loneliness vs. aloneness, and the other is about confirmation bias.

One

Once upon a time American Express approved me for a Platinum card. The privilege included a flattery tax of $450 per year. Apart from airport lounge access, the only perk of note was the delivery of Departures Magazine, which actually is quite good.

In the fall edition of 2012 an article ran called Chef Magnus Nilsson Experiments. The article is really great and you should read it, but the thing that stood out was the following paragraph. The author says,

“I thought: There is a loneliness in what Nilsson is doing, an excitement of discovery that he has no one to share it with. Then I thought: No, it’s aloneness, not loneliness. There is also joy and no sadness, a sense of a science newly found, very 19th century. You can see why he needs to write it up. You are no longer alone when you are telling a story.”

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So true. There is a gigantic difference between loneliness and aloneness. To be alone is a reality. To be lonely is a feeling. You can’t be alone in a crowd, but you can be lonely. This chef is very much alone for most of the time, but he’s not lonely because he is telling his story and that is company in itself.

This was massively encouraging to me as I began my ministry in a new city where I was very much alone compared to my previous situation. Your work, whether it’s preparing food or sermons, becomes a form of company. Enjoy it.images-2

Two

Confirmation bias is the tendency to favor evidence that supports our assumptions. I first read about this in the paradigm shifting book by Nassim Taleb called the The Black Swan. It relates to Fäviken (the hotel where Nilsson is the chef) because it’s just so obvious.

If I travel from San Diego to Heathrow, and then to Stockholm, and onwards to Are/Ostersund, and then hail a cab from there to the restaurant, then I’ve already dropped about $1500. When you add another $500 for the hotel room I’m out two grand before sitting down at one of the five tables in this amazing restaurant. Yes. Five tables.

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Magnus Nilsson

In addition to the $2000 spent getting there, dinner is another 3000 Swedish Krona (prepaid at the time of reservation), which in case you’re wondering, is about $350. Since I would obviously need to bring my lovely wife on this expedition we’re looking at almost $5000 before we even unfold the napkins.

So, what will I think of the meal? The answer is simple. It will be the best meal I’ve ever had, even if it’s not. Why? I’m so heavily invested in it, and I’ve told myself so many times that it’s going to be amazing, that I have no choice. Everything I see, hear, taste, touch, and smell will confirm my preconceived idea. That’s confirmation bias, and that’s why it can be really dangerous.

Word to the Wise (Part 10) – Proverbs 23:10-11

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Proverbs 23:10-11 Do not move an ancient landmark or enter the field of the fatherless, for their redeemer is strong; he will plead their cause against you.

This saying echoes the fourth one found in Proverbs 22:28. But here the author broadens it to include not only moving a landmark, but also encroaching on the fields of the fatherless. The term “fatherless” is often translated “orphan”, referring to the defenseless.

Amos 2:6-8 is a blistering indictment against Israel for her pathological exploitation of the poor. It led to slavery, prostitution, and confiscation of goods like clothing and wine.

Thus says the Lord: “For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals— those who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth and turn aside the way of the afflicted; a man and his father go in to the same girl, so that my holy name is profaned; they lay themselves down beside every altar on garments taken in pledge, and in the house of their God they drink the wine of those who have been fined.

God is not oblivious to cruelty. These desperate people have a Redeemer (it should be capitalized). In the Old Testament the redeemer was a person who could deliver you (think Boaz and Ruth). This Redeemer is God himself, the Almighty, provoked and ready to bring sovereign retribution on the oppressor.

He is strong. He is the one who stands in as an advocate and pleads their case before the Supreme Court of the universe. He prosecutes the oppressor before the sovereign Judge of the living and the dead.

Here’s the point: Don’t take advantage of the disabled, the immigrant (Deuteronomy 1:16), or the destitute. Wisdom is found in James 1:26-27.

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

God says unequivocally that true Christianity includes helping the helpless, but religion without compassion is vacant and hollow.

Pokémon Go, Vanity Fair, and Novelty

 

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Novelty sells.

It makes apps go viral, and drives up stock prices.

Novelty is neutral.

It just means new, and though nothing is truly new (Ecclesiastes 1:9), some things are new enough to get attention.

Unfortunately novelty has an evil twin named Vanity. When he enters the picture something not only sells, but enslaves. John Bunyan, in The Pilgrim’s Progress depicts the dangers in a section about Vanity Fair.

Phillip Holmes, writing for Desiringgod.org appears to put entertainment like Pokémon Go in this category and calls it the evangelical drug of choice. I think he’s mostly right. When entertainment turns corrosive, and a person becomes trapped in a fantasy world, then there is no limit to the how bad things can get.

But…

The entertainment value will fade (remember Angry Birds?).

The stock will fall (it already is as I write this).

This fair will leave town.

The deeper issue is vanity, not necessarily novelty or even fantasy. Once vanity infects you, it’s very hard to overcome. It lays dormant until something new gives it opportunity to flare up again. We need to keep that in mind as we discuss this with others.