Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Books I've Read - In the Garden of Beasts

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin
by Erik Larson

This book gives a fascinating insider's peek into both Hilter's Germany in the early days of his power, and also into the world around him and how things were allowed to get to the state they did.  I'm sure most of us have read or studied some of the history of World War II and are familiar with how the events unfolded, but I found this book fascinating for providing us with a view of how events got to where they were.  There are several things that this book helped me to get a better grasp of.  One is how the rest of the world allowed things to get to a state where a massive world war precipitated. The other was how the German people ended up in that state.  This book provides a glimpse into the fear that the German powers used (and it wasn't just Hitler) to keep their subjects in the place they wanted them to be. 

This book draws heavily from the writings of the American Ambassador to Germany in the early 30's and his daughter.  We are given a personal perspective on what they saw going on around them.  We also get the perspective of two very different people.  One, the conservative ambassador with official concerns, and the other of the younger generation with much more social concerns.  This book is masterfully written and is informative, intriguing and a page-turner.  Well worth the read.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Monday, December 19, 2011

Books I've Read - Living at the Crossroads

Living at the Crossroads: An Introduction to Christian Worldview
By Michael W. Goheen and Craig G. Bartholomew

This book is written by two philosophy professors and is about the intersection between the Christian worldview and some of the other worldviews that have become popular in our society.  It looks at some of historical philosophical movements that have brought popular culture to where it is today and talks about the importance of understanding those underpinning views of the world that colour the way we see everything around us.

I found this book to be a fairly accessible introduction to modern day philosophy although I did find it a little slow at times and I think that it suffers from the same flaw that almost every book that is delving into philosophical matters has; the authors try to hard to be utterly precise in everything they say, to the point of losing readability.  I understand that in a book that is largely about the hidden presuppositions we are taking into every discussion, you would not want to leave it up to the reader to 'fill in the gaps,' but this still does make it a somewhat dry read. 

There was a not a lot of 'new' material in this book, but I don't think the authors intended there to be.  This book works well as an introduction to the topic.  If you are interested in epistemology or a basic philosophical understanding from a Christian perspective this could be a useful book. One thing I would have liked to see more of in the book is how to take you worldview understanding and do something with it.  It is useful to understand where someone is coming from, or what presuppositions you have, but how to do we go about changing those things in ourselves or others?

Random Quote:
...Thus it can be easy for any of us to assume that we are seeing our world in an unmediated, objective, neutral fashion unless we pay deliberate attention to the fact that all experience of the world is mediated through a worldview. (Page17)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Fear and Facination

Take away the supernatural and what remains is the unnatural – G.K. Chesterton

 It has become widely accepted that supernatural beliefs and science are mutually exclusive. This is usually portrayed as a debate between religion and science, but I think the problem runs much deeper than that.  What we are really looking at is a debate between naturalism and supernaturalism.  This can be seen in the Intelligent Design debate.  Supporters of that theory will often leave religion out of the picture all together, and yet many scientists come down hard on this theory simply because it posits a supernatural explanation for the world around us.  Science seems to be scared of the supernatural.  Why is this?

Philosophical Reasons

Many scientist hold to a philosophy known as Naturalism.  Naturalism says that only 'natural' things, or things that are a part of nature, or real.  They say that  reality only consists of things that are controlled by and obey the laws of nature.  If there is anything outside of nature, they maintain that it cannot act on nature or interfere with the laws of nature.  They see the goal of science as being the discovery of these laws.  I am not going to enter into a critique of Naturalism here, except to point out that part of the reason many scientists cannot stomach the idea of the supernatural existing has nothing to do with what they have observed in their lab and much to do with what they believe.

When doing scientific study, it is essential to approach your data under the assumption that these laws of nature exist.  If they did not exist there would be not point in searching for them, but the assumption that they  exist does not lead to the conclusion that they cannot be broken.  In fact, supernaturalism also requires that these laws exist, since a law of nature cannot be 'broken' unless it is first understood to exist.

However, many scientists will not believe that it is possible for these laws to be affected by sources outside of nature (like God or angels) since they claim that we destroy the reason for science in the first place.  If we are looking for the laws that rule nature, we need to assume that they are there and we need to assume that they cannot be changed or broken on the whim of a supernatural being, otherwise what is the point of looking for them? Many scientists feel it is necessary to exclude the supernatural from the equation since they feel that including it would destroy the basis of science.

I would like to turn that thought on its head.  The reason a supernaturalist looks for laws of nature to exist is that he believes those laws were put in place and designed by a Lawgiver.  He assumes they exist and so goes looking for them.  The fact that they can occasionally be 'interfered' with does not matter, because the normal course of things is that the Lawgiver will work through his laws.  For the supernaturalist, there is no reason to look for laws (except for the pragmatic reason that 'they work')  unless there is a Lawgiver who put those laws in place.  Thus, I think that a supernaturalist has a much stronger motivation for seeking out the laws of nature since he assumes that a Lawgiver will make laws whereas there is no logical reason for assuming that 'nature' will create laws. Of course, the supernaturalist scientist has to guard against laziness (i.e. too quickly attributing something to the supernatural without seeking out natural causes), but then again a naturalist scientist has his own dangers to watch out for in the form of excluding possible explanations for a phenomenon, simply because they don't fit into his conception of natural events.

Historical Reasons

Historically the Catholic church in the middle ages (and even into the more modern era in places like Spain and Portugal)  had discouraged any deviation from official church teachings, which included matters of science.  This led to conflict between the church and some of the scientists of that age and this historical conflict is still alive in the memories of some scientists.  Since the church often used either its authority or else supernatural explanations as a way of dismissing what scientists were saying, many of those in science have a deep suspicion of the church and its teachings on supernaturalism.

Of course, this is to forget that the vast majority of the great scientists that laid the foundations of modern science and opened up these doors for us, were supernaturalists themselves.  Great men like Kepler, Newton, Pascal, and many others, firmly believed in the supernatural and were part of the church.  Obviously these two things can be used to hinder science, but just as obviously they do not necessarily need to do so.

Religious Reasons

We don't like to admit that there might be something beyond our understanding and compression out there, especially if this Being says that he is in control of us.  We like to be in control.  We like to think that we can figure everything out eventually.  We like to think that this world can be fit into our little minds.  The conception of a supernatural being grates on our pride and self-reliance and is a little bit scary.  People get angry if you suggest that there is a God out there that holds them accountable for their actions, because we want to be in control and we want to have the power and we to be able to 'do what we want'.  The fact that even our scientific endeavors might be subject to the will of a greater being is more than many scientists can stomach. 

There isn't much to be said on this point aside from pointing out the obvious contradiction between the representation of science as a system based only on cold hard facts, and the fact that there is so often such a powerful emotional and antagonistic response by scientists to the idea of a power greater than themselves. In the end we have to make a choice.  Do we choose to only believe what we can observe with our senses and deny the possibility of anything greater than nature existing, or are we willing to explore the idea even if it means putting ourselves in position of humility and being under the control of God?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Books I've Read - Letters To a Young Calvinist

Letters to a Young Calvinist: An Invitation to the Reformed Tradition
by James K.A. Smith

There is a movement in Christian circles that has become known as the 'Young Restless and Reformed' or YRR for short.  This movement and the teachings of men like John Piper, Mark Driscoll, CJ Mahaney and many other dynamic Christian leaders, has led a surge of interest in Calvinism, particularly among younger Christian adults.  It would seem that many young Christians have become disillusioned with lack of intellectual food that 'pop' Christianity has to offer and are increasingly attracted to the depth and riches of Calvinistic thought.  As a Calvinist myself, I find this to be an exciting and encouraging thing, but as with every movement, the YRR movement comes with its dangers and so I was happy to see this book come on the market. This is a book which contains fatherly advice from someone who came out of a charismatic background and into the reformed movement 25 years ago.  He is looking back on the transitional stage in life that he went through and trying to impart some advice to those who might be going through the same stage in life themselves.

In this book, James Smith is writing to young man who has recently discovered the Reformed tradition and is giving him some of the advice that he wished he had received when he was in that stage of life.  On the whole I rather enjoyed this book and found it to be full of a lot of practical and Godly advice that it would be well for anyone (not just a new student of reformed thought) to listen too.  I did not totally agree with Smith on every count and found that he leans more  heavily towards the Kuypierian branch of the Reformed tradition than I would like, but on the whole I enjoyed this book, particularily the first half of it when he is laying down the groundwork and basis of what Calvinism means. 
Random Quote:
It seems to me very un-Reformed to prop up Reformed theology as a timeless ideal, a consummated achievement, when one of the Reformers' mantras was semper reformanda  - always reforming. You shouldn't expect a lifetime of pursuing the truth to result in constant entrenchment into what you thought when you were twenty. (Page 29)

Tuesday, October 04, 2011


A person who has many friends either has a lot of money or is a good listener. – H. L. Mencken

How many friends do you have? According to Facebook I have 575 friends.  Of course we all know that is a bit of a misnomer.  It actually means I have 575 acquaintances who probably 'Facebook stalk' me once in a while.  But with that being said, the face of human communication has changed dramatically and continues to do so.  Friendships of the Facebook sort are ever easier to strike up, and I think the tools of the digital age have changed us in many good ways.  They have broadened our friendships and expanded our perspectives and perhaps even enabled us to stay in touch better, particularly with those who no longer live close by or aren't in the circle of friends that we are the closest with.  Social networking and cell phones and technologies of that sort have certainly changed us and empowered us in many ways, but I sometimes wonder if we have lost anything along the way.

Do these tools that we have ever fool us through misrepresentation?  Don't get me wrong, I think they are great tools, but sometimes we mistake them for being able to do things that they can't.  Take Facebook for example,  because it's easy to pick on and you're probably reading this on Facebook anyways.  The misnomer of 'friends' may make you think that Facebook is good at keeping you connected with your friends.  It's not.  What it is good at is keeping you connected with acquaintances.  For a friendship to be maintained you need a lot more than a status update and a comment on your profile picture. 

True friendship has always been hard to find and I certainly don't think that the communication tools we have at our disposal have made it any harder, but I don't think they have particularly helped either.  It's a good selling point because we all want to have that close friendship and we all want to have lots of friends (i.e. be popular), but if you think these things are going to create close friendships, you are popping the wrong pill my friend (did you see the irony?) True friendship takes work and sacrifice, two things that you can never buy, or get from technology.  Some things just have to be done the old fashioned way.  So go ahead and fill up your 'friend' list on Facebook, but don't forget to invest time and energy into those friendships in life that really matter.  You may not need money to have lots of friends anymore, but you still need the kind of friends that are there for you when Facebook crashes and you are suffering from withdrawal.  Cultivate those true friendships in your life!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Books I've Read - The Masculine Mandate

The Masculine Mandate: God's Calling to Men

By Richard D. Phillips

Our society seems torn between two extremes when it comes to what it means to be a man.  One the one side we have the 'TV dad' who just sits and watches football like a bit lump of jello and is pretty much just an older version of the teenager, except with a bald head and a beer belly.  On the other hand you have the 'WWE dude'.  This guy is held up as a manly man who can smash heads and take a head smashing all while pounding his chest and roaring like a spartan warrior.  In this book, Richard Phillips comes along and shows us how a masculine man should really look like. 

The path he sets out for us men certainly isn't as easy one.  Its not a path of lazy indolence and its not a path of macho bravado, but its a path of selflessly using the strength that we have to help others.  Phillips writes in an easily readable and very accessible style.  This book only took me a few hours to read and I found it well worth the read.It was both challenging and helpful at the same time. This is certainly a book that is worth picking up and reading.

Random Quote:
Have you noticed that, almost every time, the second subject that comes up when two men meet involves work?  I sit next to a man on an airplane, and what does he ask? "what's your name?" I answer, 'I'm Rick Phillips' The next question is amazingly consistent "what do you do?" How we answer tells people what to think of us. page 20

Sunday, September 11, 2011

10 years later

Ten years ago today America suffered the worst terrorist attack in its history. The atrocity committed that day has changed our culture in many ways. In a small way, it has probably changed each and every one of us. For the man in this video, it touched a little closer to home. He was the man who was supposed to have been piloting American Flight 11 and got 'bumped' at the last minute. This is an incredibly powerful video!

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Getting Advice

Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn't. – Erica Jong

"If only someone could tell me what to do."  I'm sure all of us have said, or at least thought, this at some point in our lives.  Maybe we are wondering about that guy or girl that is interested in us.  Maybe we are wondering if we should buy a house or keep renting.  Maybe we are wondering what career to peruse or whether or not to take that job offer.  Maybe we are wondering what to do about that sticky personal situation.  Whatever the situation, we have all been at that place in our life where we didn't know what to do and we wish there was someone who could give us an easy answer to our problem.

This wish-fulness has led to people adopting the 'lucky dip' method of reading their bible, or to people 'putting out a fleece.'  Hopefully I don't have to point out the folly of the first method and the presumption of the second, so I am going to instead look at the method I think most of us use, which is to ask those that we trust for advice. I want to outline a couple of principles that I think are important to keep in mind when asking for advice

Ask someone who knows

When you are getting financial advice, you probably don't want to ask someone who has spent the last 5 years building up a mountain of credit card debt and if you are asking for marriage advice you probably don't want to go to your triple divorcee friend.  It seems like a very obvious thing, but I think many of us wind up making this mistake.  We ask those who are easy to talk to, or we ask those who are in our peer group, instead of going to those who would have real insight into the situation.  The teenager looking for advice about a career to pursue, probably isn't going to get to much useful information by asking his buddies who are all in the same boat as him.  When seeking advice we need to find those who we can reasonably expect to provide wisdom and insight into the situation.

Ask someone who knows you

Just because someone has expertise is a certain area, does not mean they will apply it correctly to your situation.  Something that may be good advice for one situation could be bad in another.  Find someone who knows at least a bit about your life situation and what your value system is.  In spite of what you may believe, getting advice from someone who knows you and has a level of care for you and your situation actually tends to give better 'search results' than Google can! Hard to believe, I know! Advice from someone who is involved in your life will be better tailored to your needs and will often be more in line with what your really need to hear.

Ask more than one person

If you only go to one person for all the advice you need, be that your spouse or your dad or your sister or whatever,  you can easily get stuck in a feedback loop with each other.  You can end up going a certain way simply because of missing the view of other possibilities.  This isn't to say, of course, that every decision needs multiple inputs or even that one certain person (like your spouse) should not be involved in every major decision you make, but it is to say that occasionally branching out to get advice from people outside your normal circle will help you see new avenues and open you up to options you may not have otherwise considered

Think for yourself

When we voice the question at the start of this article we often mean something like 'I want someone to decide for me so I don't have to accept the consequences of this choice.' That is an option we do not have. No matter how wise and caring the people that you talk to are, you are still the one that has to live with your decision.  Don't blindly accept advice without thinking it through for yourself and making sure it is applicable and wise in your situation.  Advice from others is not a way to pass on the responsibility for what happens.  If someone gives you bad advice and you follow through with it, the consequences and responsibility lie on you. 


You don't need to 'put out a fleece' for prayer to be an effective tool in decision making.  Not only is it a spiritually up-building experience to bring your troubles to God, it can also be a great way of thinking through the issues.  People sometimes complain that there is no point in praying since God doesn't respond with a booming voice from heaven telling us the answer, but perhaps we are missing the point.  Perhaps it isn't about God verbally answering our prayers but instead is about God hearing our prayers.  A God who doesn't interrupt you is a good listener and sometime a good listener can help you understand your situation.  God does not take away our responsibility for our actions by telling us what to do at every step, but he does delight to hear us tell him about our decision (or indecision for that matter).  Cast your cares on him who cares for you, and watch as your burden lightens in the peace that exceeds your understanding.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Books I've Read - Molecules at an Exhibition

 Molecules at an Exhibition: Portraits of Intriguing Materials in Everyday Life

by John Emsley

This little book takes a delightful idea and executes it perfectly.  In this book John Emsley, a British Chemistry professor, puts on exhibit for us a series of molecules.  Each molecule has a few pages dedicated to it, which explain a few interesting facts about it and current uses for it.  This book stays away from the 'boring' parts of chemistry and isn't worried about chemical formulas or the mathematical details of chemical reactions, but rather looks at the real life uses and applications of the chemicals and 'stories' about its use.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and recommend it as a book worth picking up if you happen to have any interest in science  You need little to no science background to understand what he is talking about, and you will find out many fascinating facts that you never realized about everyday products that you use.

Random Quote:
The most notorious real-life thallium poisoner was the serial killer Graham Young, who in 1971 put thallium sulphate into his workmates' coffee at a photographic equipment factory at Bovingdon in Hertfordshire, England. He posed as a research chemist and bought the thallium from a chemical suppliers in London. Several workers were taken ill, and two died of the mysterious 'bug'. It was only when Young himself suggested to a visiting health expert that the cause might be thallium that the strange illness was correctly diagnosed... page 223

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Books I've Read - Safely Home

Safely Home
By Randy Alcorn

We all hear about China in the news a lot.  A new superpower coming into force.  The next economic giant in this world.  This book brings a bit of the side of China we don't like to talk about.  The side the censors Google and persecutes those who won't walk the state declared line.  I think Alcorn got to the heart of a lot of what goes on.  We in the West adore our consumerist, materialistic idols and we are willing to overlook a lot of wrong in a those that can meet our idolatrous needs. China provides us with the goods that we desire and at prices that we can't turn down, so we turn a bit of a blind eye to the evils of this country. 

This book focuses in the story of one man and his family who are repressed and persecuted for believing something the Chinese government does not agree with, and also points to the fact that we do have the some of the same in our culture as well.  Although it may not be as obvious (and certainly isn't as extreme as the example is this story), there still is an element in which the governments of our countries do not allow for large deviations from the official 'story' of our culture. 

Although this book was largely about the persecution of Christians in China, it raised a lot of interesting questions for me in terms of the balance between governments keeping order and the freedom of individuals.  The example in the book was clearly an abuse of authority and hatred of Christian ideals, but there are certainly times when things are not so clearly cut.  Obviously the government needs to have power so that it can keep the peace and maintain order in society, but how far should those powers go?  In this book Alcorn has a story of how discrimination and harassment laws were used by one of the characters to fire someone for what he believed and said.  Is that within the realm of maintaining order?  Is there a moral difference (beside the 'magnitude of response') between someone being fired for what they believe and someone being jailed and abused for it?  When has the government crossed the line?  I found it interesting that a book about Christian persecution also brings up a lot of political and cultural theory. 

I enjoyed the story in this book and found it challenging to my own faith.  How strong is it?  Do I really desire God's word as eagerly as many in that book did? Would I maintain what I believe in the face of such strong opposition?  All in all I found that this book was a well done story that used story telling to leave me with a lot to chew on. It was a good read.

Random Quote:
'"Wife and husband must be more than lovers. Must be comrades, soldiers fighting side by side for same great cause. Ming's mother say, 'Wife and husband should not only lie down face-to-face, but stand up shoulder to shoulder.' They must face together the worst Mogui can do to them. And when they draw strength of Yesu, he bind them together"

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Debt: The Ruin of us all?

There is nothing wrong with making mistakes. Just don’t respond with encores. – Unknown

It would appear that we are starting to reach the end of our financial ropes in The West. Greece has been in trouble for a quite a while along with several other European countries, while the rest of them are desperately trying to put out the financial fires.  The USA has just gone through a massive debate about their 'debt ceiling' and the American government's credit rating has been cut for the first time in modern history.  It seems that we have us a full blown debt crisis.

This Site's Calculation of the US debt situation does not paint a pretty picture.  If you add together all the debt held by all levels of government and then combine that with personal and corporate debt you end up with close to 55 trillion dollars in debt.  That's quite a bit of debt.  At least I think so.  Now, I'm not going to talk about what I think the solution is to this problem other than to say the obvious 'you need to spend less than you make,' and I'm not going to say that there should be no debt (I have a mortgage myself).  Instead, I want to talk about the cultural implications of this.

This kind of debt load shows us something about the culture we live in. It show us that we live in a culture of immediacy. After all what is debt besides getting something now that you (or maybe your grandkids) pay for later?  I want a new couch?  NO PAYMENTS FOR 18 MONTHS!!  well I better get one.  I want a new car?  0% down!!  Well I better get one.  We want a new road?  Hey look, this banker has money!!  We better build one.  Patience and contentment seem to be a long forgotten virtues. 

It can be hard to be content with what we have.  Others have so much more.  We keep getting bombarded with messages about all the things we 'need.' The bigger house, the nicer car, a newest electronic device, these things keep tempting us to buy, buy, buy. It makes one wonder if there is a way to find contentment and patience in this discontent and hectic world that we live in?  Well, the Apostle Paul claimed to have found it.  He said  that he had learned in whatever situation he was to be content.  I wonder what his secret was?

'I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.' (Phil 4)  So that's the secret.  A friend who strengthens us.  A friend who keeps us.  a friend who fulfills us.  I wonder what friend that might be?   Well let's keep reading and see what he says.

'And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.'

So that's where our needs are met!  That's where we find fulfillment and contentment and patience.  In God working through his Son, Jesus Christ.

I suppose that in the end I have proposed a solution to the debt crisis.  Find your satisfaction in Christ and not in the things that you have, and certainly not in the material things that you want!  Look to him and he will provide for your needs in a way that will make those wants and desires fall into their right place. Why overextend yourself to get what will not make you happy when you can get that which will make you happy as a free gift of God?

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Books I've Read - The Millennials

The Millennials
By Thom Rainer and Jess Rainer

This was an interesting book.  It was full of statistics and information about the current generation of young people and was very informative.  I found I tended to skim it a bit as the authors sometimes spent a bit too much time in detailing things I didn't care about, but it was certainly interesting to see the main points of the book and see the overall trends of this generation pointed it.  I can see much of it in looking at myself and my contemporaries, but it is always nice to have it reviewed in a nice summary like this.

One of the main points brought out by the authors is that we are a connected generation.  We tend to be very connected to our families and parents and we tend to use technology to enhance this.  Another observation is that our generation has seen what divorce and separation have done to our friends or ourselves and have vowed not to do the same thing to our kids.  The authors found that most Millennials who were planning to have kids intended to never put their kids through the pain of divorce.  One other defining characteristic of our generation seems to be a lack of interest in religion.  There isn't usually animosity towards religion, but rather disinterest or little to no knowledge about it. We are a massive generation; as big or bigger than the baby boomers, so it will be interesting to see how our culture changes as we continue to grow up.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Books I've Read: Intentional Parenting: Family Discipleship by Design

Intentional Parenting
by Tad Thomson

A small practical book that is easily read in a couple hours, this book is still full of good advice and theology.  This book comes from Cruciform press, which is a new kid on the publishing block.  The publish one book a month and focus on short, easy reading books that still pack a powerful punch.  This book certainly met those criterion.  In a hundred pages or so Tad Thomson gives an quick overview of parenting and gets his message across:  Be intentional about your parenting.  Take advantage of the opportunities to parent that God puts in you way. Plan to parent.  Don't just react, but be active in parenting.  There is plenty of practical advice in this book and yet he does not veer into legalism, but keeps the emphasis squarely on Christ. A book well worth the read for those of us that are parents or have parenting in our future.

Random Quote:
Failing to pray before a meal is not a sin, but it is a lost opportunity, and family discipleship is all about seizing opportunities. Shared meals provide us with regular occasions to express gratitude to God and model prayerfulness to one another. (page 63)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

To smart for your own good

"whereas men in the earlier times said unscientific things with the vagueness of gossip and legend, they now say unscientific things with the plainness and the certainty of science.” – G.K. Chesterton

Have you ever listened to nerds argue?  Being a bit geeky myself, not only have I heard these arguments, I've been involved in them.  Spending hours discussing whether gravity affects everything, or whether things like ideas are exempt from the laws of nature, or talking about if I can know whether the floor will still be there next time I take a step, or discussing why the magnetic forces in that last Indiana Jones movie only acted on certain things.  Sometimes, we are just a little to smart for our own good.

I am not trying to tell anyone to stop being inquisitive, nor am I trying to say there is not merit in delving into philosophical realms.  What I am saying here is that some things are simple and that simple things need to be kept simple.  Sometimes we have the tendency of the super smart kid in the class who writes up 4 pages of equations to solve a problem, (and perhaps even ends up with the right answer at the end) when there was a very simple 2 line solution.  Just because there are complicated ways of looking at things and finding answers, does not mean we always need to use them. 2+2 can equal 4 without a 5 page proof. 

The scientist or academic may know words that send the rest of use scrambling for our dictionaries, or equations and mathematical theories that could give my computer a headache, but does that mean they know why the stars are there?  Perhaps they could give you complicated argumentation and theories and proofs, or even write a book on this, but isn't the answer really quite simple?  Ask a 3 year old girl.  She'll tell you why they are there.  'They look pretty.' 

You may be able to explain all kinds of things in terms of those equations you learned in school, and you may be able to spend hours arguing about the epistemological certainty of the latest philosophical theory, but do you really have more clarity about the world than you did when you where 3?   Learning may give you knowledge, but does knowledge give you truth and does truth give you wisdom?  Obviously, those steps can (and should) work that way, but do they? are you pursuing knowledge for the sake of knowing, or for the sake of truth? And are you pursuing truth for the sake of wisdom, or for the sake of superiority? 

Reality is, well, real. Its also all encompassing.  Facts, on the other hand, are just facts.  They are meaningless apart from some structure of reality. "The grass is green." is a statement of fact, but it does not have any meaning in and of itself.  Green grass only means something if I have eyes that can see it, and construct of reality in which the terms green and grass mean something.  Of course once you have that conception of reality, the statement becomes so much more than a statement of fact.  It conveys emotions. It speaks of springtime, and worms and lying on your back looking at the clouds, and freshly mowed lawns, and so much more. 

Education isn't about learning facts.  It's about understanding reality.  It's not about defining reality based on the facts, but rather about defining the facts based on the reality in which we live. If we start with green grass we have nothing, but if we start with reality, we suddenly have green grass!

When teaching our kids we shouldn't be focused on cramming their heads with facts, but rather on helping them understand reality.  We need to bring back the senses of touch and taste into education.  We need to keep God in education.  We need to see and understand the world and glory in the magic of it all.  If you can describe the motion of an atom with an equation you have achieved a certain kind of beauty, but don't forget that other kind of beauty.  The kind that comes from not knowing the details, but marveling in the wonder, joy and miracle of it all.  Your equation may be beautiful because of the way it so perfectly mathematically describes what you see, but don't forget about what it is that you are describing.  Why does that atom follow those mathematical forms?   Because its efficient?  Because it's beautiful? Because it just happens to be that way?  Because it was made that way? Sometimes the facts just can't capture the full picture!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Programs I use

I just got a new computer at work and so I thought I would lean into the geek side of thing and share several programs that I find are essential enhancements for my windows experience. Interestingly these are all freeware, so you can easily try them out yourself!

MultiMonitor TaskBar
I love having 2 monitors, but the one thing I can't stand is having all my programs from my second monitor crowded onto the Task Bar on my first.  This handy little tool extends the task bar onto the second monitor and also gives keyboard options for moving applications from one screen to the other.

If you have ever tried searching for a particular file on your computer using Windows Explorer you will understand why I use this app.  Everything indexes all files on your computer in real time and gives instantaneous (i.e. orders of magnitude faster than Windows Explorer) results.  It supports wildcard searching and oh, did I mention that it's faster than Windows Explorer? I use this program frequently and have found it to be very helpful

There has got to be an option for text file editing that falls somewhere between the uselessness that is notepad and the other uselessness that is Word.  That something is Notepad++.  Maybe its just because I live in a primarily Windows world, but I love this text editor.  It has customizable language support for dozens of programing and scripting languages. Its actually manages to correctly display files that have either dos or unix lines endings. It has wonderful text highlighting capabilities.  It has an extremely powerful search capability (supporting full regular expression syntax should you really want to go hardcore) and it allows for tabs and split screen and so much more.  I have used quite a few different text editors and this is my all around favorite.

Process Explorer
Once again, here is an app that makes up for windows deficiencies.  Puny little Task Manager? Hah!  This progam will blow that out of the water.  Full reporting of what is going on with each of your processes and what handles and dll etc. are being called. Details on processes like time it has been running etc.  Details on each core on your machine. Information about memory usage. Yes, this program has it all.  My favorite tool offered by this program is the Find Handle or Dll option which allows you to see what handles are running in a given folder.  Very handy if you are trying to delete said folder and are told that it is being used by some process!

Although the split screen option in Notepad++ comes in handy, there are times when you need just a little bit more power when trying to compare two text files.  That's where this utility comes in. Offering both file and directory comparisons, this is another program I have come to rely on.

This is my personal favorite of all the programs on here.  This is a cross program text substitution app.  What does that mean?  A lot less typing for you.  If you have a string that you commonly type (say your good buddy`s email address, or the path to that favorite command line utility, or maybe just `Peace Out Yo`at the end of your email) you enter it in here once and set up a short string to activate it, and viola! you have saved yourself hundreds of keystrokes in no time.

This program is basically and drag and drop web server.  You put the executable in the folder you want to share and start it up, and just like that all files in the folder are accessible on the web. This is a wonderful app for doing a quick test of you site, or file sharing something quickly, or doing a demo, or any number things.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Vancouver - city of insanity

Two news stories came out of Vancouver in a very short time.  I'm sure you heard that the Vancouver Canuks lost to Boston in game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals and that riots ensued, but you might have missed the other news story: Vancouver home prices average $800,000.  Ok, why mention these both in one place?  Isn't the answer obvious?  No wonder there were riots in Vancouver. Anyone living in that kind of housing market is obviously insane and so why wouldn't they riot? I think Vancouver has become a haven for nutcases.  Clearly the Sedins need to get out of that kind of environment and should come play for Toronto.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Books I've Read: Letters to Philip

Letters To Philip
By Charlie W. Shedd

This little book of practical advice is well worth the read.  The book is a series of letters that a father wrote to his son who was approaching marriage and give him advice about how to handle things after the knot is tied. Much of it should be obvious advice, but I fear that for many it might not be, and even for those that know this, its never a bad idea to be reminded of some of the simple basic truths that make for a good marriage.  Some of the stuff in this book is perhaps a little bit a product of the culture of a few generations ago, but much of it is timeless advice that every man should be reminded of in his dealings with his wife.  Overall it was an excellent book!

Random Quote:
The rule has got to be that troubles are for sharing, and you deny your wife a lot if you don't believe it. For one thing, you have cut her out of that sense of partnership, which is among the deeper reasons for marriage. "Together' is one of the most beautiful words in our vocabulary and it take on special beauty when it indicates that two people are closing the gaps between them by drawing shoulder to shoulder against all comers. (Page 80)

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Happy Playoffs

Ice hockey combines the best features of figure skating and World War II. – Alfred Hitchcock

Enjoy the playoffs :)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Books I've Read - A God-Sized Vision: Revival stories that Stretch and Stir

God-Sized Vision
by Collin Hanses and John Woodbridge

The idea behind this book is to retell some of the stories of revival that God has sent in the past several hundred years.  There are stories in this book about revival in Wales, America, Korea and more.  I really think that authors of this book are correct in their assessment that we need to understand the great works of God in the past if we want to be a part of the great works of God in the future, but I found that I was somewhat underwhelmed by this book.  Maybe it was just me, but I couldn't fully get into the book.  I did enjoy the stories and found that it was still a useful read, but I just found it didn't enthrall me like I had a hoped a book on revivals would.  God has truly done some wonderful things in the past and we know he can do those same things again, and so a focus on the saints of the past, whether they were part of a revival or not, is a study well worth doing.  Let us look at our glorious past and work and pray towards even greater glory in our future!

One thing that did stand out to me from reading this book, was how often revival is opposed by those within in the church.  Revival almost always brings with it excesses and of course that means those excesses are the things we need to warn against if we were in a revival situation, but it made me wonder how often in those cases were people just scared of change?  How many of us truly want a revival?  Are we ready to have our comfortable world turned upside down by the Spirit of God?

Random Quote:
Dwight identified several means other than gospel preaching that God uses to reveal himself. These include Bible reading, prayer, talking with Christians, catechism, and self-examination. Not coincidentally, these are the same means Dwight employed as he promoted revival among Yale students. Yet even this moderate position that held God's absolute sovereignty and his ordinary means of grace in balance did not persuade everyone to support revival. Just as in his grandfather's [Jonathan Edwards] day, many venerable pastors wanted nothing to do with such outbreaks of religious fervor, no matter how orderly or biblically defensible. (page 67)

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Books I've Read: Opening up Genesis

Opening Up Genesis
By Kurt Strassner

I believe there is a whole series of these coming out, and I found this book to be quite helpful.  It was a simple, practical and applicable book that helped draw out some of the application of the book of Genesis.  The intention of this book wasn't to be a commentary or to delve into the nuances of the theology, but rather  to give draw out some easily accessible application to our daily living.  My wife and I read this book together for our family devotions while we were reading through the book of Genesis, and found it a useful tool to get us thinking about what the passage or story we just read meant for us.  I would recommend this book as a gentle introduction to the wealth of wisdom that the stories of scripture can give us in our daily living.

Random Quote:
Maybe Lot's wife is the most modern of all the character in the account. Her life, it seemed, consisted in the abundance of her possessions. Is that true of us? If someone were ask us, "What are your chief ambitions in life?", would our answers be given in terms of job status, pay scale, and retirement possibilities? Would we speak of the dream house we've always wanted to build, the vacation we've always wanted to take, the financial security we hope to achieve, or the popularity we hope to attain? If so, there is a good chance that, when God calls us out of the world, we will find ourselves looking back...and left out of the kingdom. For Jesus says, "Remember Lot's wife. Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it" (page86)

Monday, May 02, 2011

Guilty! (and forgiven)

After watching that video, ask yourself this question: aren't we all a little like that dog? We do something wrong and what happens? We don't want to face the person. We try to placate them. We avoid them as much as we can. Of course the same thing also happens in our relationship with God.  When we are in sin, we avoid him. We don't talk to him. We try to appease him with our actions or try to ignore him and pretend that he doesn't exist.

This is why confession of sin needs to be a daily part of our lives.  We need to constantly turn our sins over to God and leave them at the cross. Those of us in the Protestant tradition do not go to the confessional and tell all to the priest, but nonetheless there is something we can take to heart from that tradition. We do need to confess our sins.  We need to confess to those we have wronged, and every sin that we do wrongs God, so we need to continually be bringing our sins before him.

Many Evangelical Protestants seem to think that salvation is a one time thing.  "I was saved on May 16 when I asked Jesus into my heart." or maybe for some, "I was baptized as a baby and grew up in a Christian home."  I'm certainly not trying to belittle any of these experiences, but salvation is so much more than that! In some of our lives there is that pivotal 180 turn point.  The point were we suddenly saw the light clearly and turned our faces away from sin and towards the Saviour. But, that's only one tiny point in the story we call Salvation.  The rest of the story is about walking towards the Saviour that we now love, and unconfessed sin is a barrier to that.  We become like that dog, unwilling to look at our Master, and we lose sight of where it is that we are heading.

Salvation isn't just about asking Jesus into my heart, and salvation certainly isn't just about being born and baptized into a Christian home and church.  Salvation is about walking towards the Saviour we love.  Its about gazing on him and growing closer to him day by day.  Its about daily struggles.  Struggles to know him better.  Struggles to love him better. Struggles to obey him better.  Its about his loving help in these struggles. Its about confession of wrongs.  Its about forgiveness that he gives again and again and again. Its about his unconditional love for us.  Its about the swelling notes of music in our hearts that rise as we think about these things. 

Are you saved because you were baptized? No!  Are you saved because you asked Jesus into your heart?  No! Its not what your pastor has done, and its not what you have done that can save you, its what Christ has done. Many of those who were baptized go on to live a life that shows no signs of salvation or walking towards the Saviour. And many of those who answered the alter call also walk away from the faith.  These things do not save you! If you are trusting in the fact that you were baptized or that you walked down the church aisle to save you, you are in trouble! 

You are saved because you are in relationship with God. That is where your trust needs to be.  You are are saved because your gracious loving Saviour sent his Spirit to stir your heart towards him.  Cultivate that relationship!  Treasure it! Confess your sins. Bring them to the cross and leave them there. Keep that vision of your Saviour clear and walk in his paths.  Work out your salvation with fear and trembling!  And what if you don't have a relationship like that?  Ask God for it and He'll give it to you.  He's not a stingy God. Just ask Him for this gift, and when he gives it to you, cherish it like that treasure that it is. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Books I've Read: Boys Adrift:

Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men
by Leonard Sax

Ideas from this though provoking book have come up in conversation several times already since I read this book. I'm sure many of us have heard stories or anecdotes of how hard it is to find someone who can put in a honest days work, or how simplified some college courses have become due to the lack of basic education that many come into them with.  I know I've heard the stories of laziness from many who work in the trades or construction, and I have seen it myself in offices and factories as well. There was a professor that I knew that had his college math class complaining that his tests were too hard, so he had my highschool aged cousin do the test, which she easily passed. These types of stories seem commonplace and in this book Leonard Sax looks into some of the possible reasons for this.  He focuses in the book on problems that are specific to boys, although I'm sure a book could also be written on what out culture is doing wrong when it comes to girls as well.

The 5 factors that he looks at are:
1) Education system flaws
2) Excessive use of ADD/ADHD medications
3) Video Games
4) Endocrine Distruptors
5) Devaluation of Masculinity

I was a little skeptical on some of these, but even then he gave me a lot to think about.  My favorite point was that of the devaluation of masculinity.  We live in a culture were its just not cool to tell a boy that he needs to be a man, and even if we where to tell him that, how many boys would actually know what 'being a man' look like? Boys need to grow up into men, and they need role models that show them what true masculinity looks like. As men, we need to model masculinity. We need to show those boys in our lives that being a man means using our strength to help other.

I really enjoyed this book and gained a lot from reading it.  Easy to read and well reasoned, it was a thought provoking book.

Random Quote:
After one of the boys from Prep has spent five weeks working dawn to dusk to build an infirmary or a road or an aqueduct, and the job is done and he returns home, he can watch NFL football on a Sunday afternoon and see a beer commercial that claims that real men drink Miller beer - and that boy can laugh. He knows that being a real man has nothing to do with drinking any particular brand of beer. it has to do with using your strength in the service of others. (Page 182)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Hobbit

Here is a cool little clip about some of the sets, costumes, makeup etc. as they prepare for filming The Hobbit. Pretty crazy to see how much work goes into a movie like this before they even start filming!