April 4, 2013
Mary Tyler Moore, considered one of the most glamorous and popular tv actresses of her time. The above picture shows her in 1969 and 2013: my what 44 years can do (she is now 76). This picture reminds me of the many times Scripture speaks about the brevity of life, or compares life to a flower: beautiful for a moment, then withered, and suddenly gone. Whatever I’m doing now will only last for a time. Whatever strength I have, whatever health, will soon be over. Is what I’m doing making an eternal difference?
February 12, 2013
Yesterday’s big news was the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. Giovanna Chirri happened to be the Italian reporter privilged with breaking the news. The reason that she got this opportunity? One article explains, she ”managed to translate the pope’s Latin resignation speech and file while her rivals were still puzzling it out.” See, you never know when Latin will come in handy. Giovanna also stated, “Benedict XVI’s Latin is very easy to understand .” Below is a copy of the Pope’s resignation in Latin:
Non solum propter tres canonizationes ad hoc Consistorium vos convocavi, sed etiam ut vobis decisionem magni momenti pro Ecclesiae vita communicem. Conscientia mea iterum atque iterum coram Deo explorata ad cognitionem certam perveni vires meas ingravescente aetate non iam aptas esse ad munus Petrinum aeque administrandum.
Bene conscius sum hoc munus secundum suam essentiam spiritualem non solum agendo et loquendo exsequi debere, sed non minus patiendo et orando. Attamen in mundo nostri temporis rapidis mutationibus subiecto et quaestionibus magni ponderis pro vita fidei perturbato ad navem Sancti Petri gubernandam et ad annuntiandum Evangelium etiam vigor quidam corporis et animae necessarius est, qui ultimis mensibus in me modo tali minuitur, ut incapacitatem meam ad ministerium mihi commissum bene administrandum agnoscere debeam. Quapropter bene conscius ponderis huius actus plena libertate declaro me ministerio Episcopi Romae, Successoris Sancti Petri, mihi per manus Cardinalium die 19 aprilis MMV commissum renuntiare ita ut a die 28 februarii MMXIII, hora 20, sedes Romae, sedes Sancti Petri vacet et Conclave ad eligendum novum Summum Pontificem ab his quibus competit convocandum esse.
Fratres carissimi, ex toto corde gratias ago vobis pro omni amore et labore, quo mecum pondus ministerii mei portastis et veniam peto pro omnibus defectibus meis. Nunc autem Sanctam Dei Ecclesiam curae Summi eius Pastoris, Domini nostri Iesu Christi confidimus sanctamque eius Matrem Mariam imploramus, ut patribus Cardinalibus in eligendo novo Summo Pontifice materna sua bonitate assistat. Quod ad me attinet etiam in futuro vita orationi dedicata Sanctae Ecclesiae Dei toto ex corde servire velim.
Not only on behalf of three canonizations have I called you to this meeting, but also so that I may communicate to you my decision, which is of great importance to the church. Having examined my conscience again and again, I have come to the certain recognition that my strength, due my frail age, is no longer fit for the proper administration of the Petrine Ministry.
I am conscious that this ministry, due to its spiritual essence, ought to be conducted not only by action and speech, but no less by suffering and prayer. Nevertheless, our world has been subjected to times of rapid change and upset by questions of weighty depth for the life of faith, so that the navigation of Saint Peter’s ship and the proclamation of the gospel necessitate a certain vigor of both body and soul, which in these last months has diminished in me in a great way, so that I must recognize my inability to rightly administer my charge. Therefore, conscious of this burden, I declare with full freedom this action, that I am stepping down from my ministry of the Roman Episcopate, as successor of Saint Peter, which was commissioned to me through the hands of the Cardinals on the 19th of April, 2005, so that from the 28th of February 2013, at the hour of 8 PM, the seat of Rome, the seat of Saint Peter, may be empty and a chamber for electing a new Pontificate ought to be formed by those who are competent.
Beloved Brothers, with my whole heart I thank you for all your love and labor, by which you bore with me the weight of the ministry, and I ask for pardon for all my failings. Now we entrust the holy church of God to the care of its Chief Shepherd, our Lord Jesus Christ, and we ask His holy mother Mary that her maternal goodness would assist the Cardinal Fathers as they choose the new Pontificate. As for what remains for me and my future: I want to serve with my whole heart by offering prayer on behalf of God’s holy church.
August 29, 2012
There’s been quite some excitement here during the past few days, thanks to the discovery of an old WWII bomb found here in Munich, fairly close to our apartment. The bomb, unearthed at a construction site on Monday, had been dropped on the city during an allied bombing raid some 70 years ago and had failed to explode. So, around 3,000 people were evacuated from their homes and this portion of the city was fenced off. A team of experts tried to deactivate the bomb, but without success. That left one option: the bomb must be detonated! We were laying in bed last night just about asleep when we heard the explosion. Here is a video of last night’s explosion, or, as a friend of our’s put it, of Munich’s night-life:
May 10, 2012
What a week it’s been for the topic of marriage. It seems the nation has been forced to think more critically about the topic of marriage. What actually is marriage? Who defines marriage and who writes the rules? This week North Carolinians took to the polls, voting to disallow gay marriage, and President Obama took to the media, announcing that he now supports gay marriage.
Throughout the discussions, conservatives and religious groups repeatedly pointed to the importance of cultural disconformity, arguing for the right to define and interpret marriage according to their sacred, ancient Scriptures.
But what many Christians have overlooked in this discussion is the glaring contradiction staring them in the face–many Christians vehemently fight to protect marriage from cultural (i.e. homosexual) influence without realizing that Jesus’ most basic teachings on marriage have been compromised and ignored by the church for decades. Let me provide an example. Jesus plainly teaches that divorce is not an option for a married couple. Period. In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke Jesus directly forbids remarriage after divorce, teaching that such an act is sinful (e.g., Matt 5:32, Mark 10:11, Luke 16:18). Similarly, the Apostle Paul echoes Jesus’ teaching, saying, “I command the married, according to Jesus’ own teaching, that a woman must not divorce her husband, nor a man his wife. But if a divorce does occur, they must remain unmarried or be reconciled to each other” (1 Cor 7:11).
Although I’ve only provided two examples, these serve to capture the Bible’s consistent teaching on marriage and divorce. Yet, despite such clear and consistent biblical teaching, these practices are increasingly common among todays Christians. Perhaps Christians who remarry after divorce are just ignorant of the Bible. In my own discussions, however, I find that Christians simply choose to ignore, reinterpret, and make lame excuses to justify their own need to divorce and remarry. How many times does one hear a Christian say, “I know the Bible’s teaching on divorce and remarriage, but surely God is more concerned about my personal happiness. Those teachings on divorce and remarriage are outdated. They were meant for a culture very different than our own.”
Suddenly, one realizes that Christians are using the exact same excuses to justify divorce and remarriage as gays are using to justify their need to marry–personal happiness and a different culture as the end all justification and reason.
If the church has so blatantly ignored the Bible’s teaching on marriage, why should the secular culture be expected to follow biblical norms? Why do Christians picket and campaign against gay marriage, but not against remarriage after divorce? Why do pastors agree to marry a couple that has been divorced? Why is okay to uphold the Bible’s teachings on homosexuality but not on divorce? Why do Christians walk around carrying signs that say, “God hates fags”? Haven’t they read the Bible? “‘I hate divorce’ says the Lord God of Israel” (Malachi 2:16).
August 24, 2011
If you happen to live on the east coast and experienced yesterday’s quake, what were your thoughts? I was at home, quietly typing in my study. Sophie, my black lab, was lying at my feet (her usual spot). When I felt the shaking, I ignored it, thinking Sophie was violently itching herself as she sometimes does. But she was lying still! Immediately I checked on the washing machine to see if it was seriously off track. But it was turned off! Instantly I knew what was happening–earthquake. I grabbed my wife and baby and stood in a doorway as we watched the house quiver(sorry Sophie, you’re on your own). My wife’s tea-pot collection clattered rhythmically. As we waited, my pulse racing, my thoughts wandered to Scripture. I thought of Matthew 24, where Jesus warns that earthquakes are one of the labor pains before his return. As I thought about this, I even wondered if this could be His return, or perhaps my exit.
Now, a day later, I have heard not a few Christians in my area loudly proclaiming that this IS Christ’s return. Our earthquake means Christ will appear on the scene any minute. I STRONGLY DISAGREE! Let me explain why.
You see, earthquakes have been happening for thousands of years. You and I have seen pictures of devastating California quakes, and those pictures have often remained lifeless tales from far away lands. Interestingly, not only was there an earth quake on the east coast yesterday, there was one in Colorado the day before. When the earthquake happened in Colorado, I did not hear a single one of my east coast friends proclaiming THE END. But, when the quakes hit the east coast, now the world is ending.
Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned here. There is a temptation to interpret Scripture based on our own relatively small experience of the world. In other words, there is the temptation to proclaim THE END when earthquakes hit our state, but not when they hit the midwest or California. Was the world not ending on those quakes? Or does the world’s end begin in my neighborhood?
I feel I’m not being very clear, and for good reason, since I’m rambling. What I’m trying to say is this: Beware of the danger of reading your immediate circumstances into Scripture, or of interpreting Scripture based on the happenings of your local neighborhood. Earthquakes have been happening and will continue to occur. There will be wars and rumors of war. These are just the birth pains, and things are happening exactly as they were predicted, and all in God’s good timing. Does our earthquake mean the world is ending? No! Christ might come tomorrow, or he might come in another thousand years.
As an example of what I’m saying, let me use Hitler as an illustration. During his evil reign in WWII, many christians confidently said he was the antichrist. But he wasn’t, of course. We know that now, looking back on the scene and with history as an aid. But during the pressures of his reign, those during that time interpreted history based on their immediate circumstances. THEY were experiencing a tyrannical leader, so, in all likelihood, THEY were in the end times and Hitler was the antichrist.
August 23, 2011
So, nothing profound to say right now except that we lived through the earthquake. We are located near Raleigh NC and all of a sudden felt the whole house shaking. We quickly got in a doorway (isn’t that what you are supposed to do?). I am eagerly waiting to hear the official news about what happened with this earthquake. Oh, and it looks like there might be a hurricane coming this way on Saturday. Looks like it’ll be an exciting week!
August 9, 2011
I’m no economist, but I try to keep somewhat informed about the news. And, while I’m no expert on the economy, I find the topic very interesting. Now, you should know that when it comes to the economy, I’m VERY pessimistic; pessimistic to the point of thinking that America will never recover, and that any supposed good news is simply a spin to try to instill consumer optimism. I think this statement captures my thoughts, “When are we going to wake up and smell the coffee? We can not sustain this way of living as a nation. It is absolutely ludicrous to think that we can. Can you imagine what George Washington, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson would say if they could see us now. . . ? We will never be able to pay off our debt, nor will we ever have politicians in our current system of government willing to do so.”
So, now that I’ve told you that I’m pessimistic when it comes to the economy, let me also say that I am very skeptical. I’ve felt skeptical about the economy for a while, but recently I watched the movie Inside Job. Talk about an eye opener! This academy award-winning documentary traces the demise of the economy back in 2008. If you haven’t seen it, you should. One of the things I found most interesting in the movie was its report of the Plunge Protection Team. According to the film, President Reagan formed this team in the ’80′s to protect against a devastating stock plunge. The Team has authority to step in and tweak the market to keep it from bottoming out — and it has done so numerous times.
With this in mind, I kept an eye on the stocks yesterday as they were crashing, wondering if they would mysteriously rally (thanks to the Team?) by the end of the day. They did not. Today, however, was another story. And I am very skeptical that the Fed’s announcement about keeping the interest rates low was enough to cause such a huge rally. I encourage you to google the “Plunge Protection Team.” One interesting article about it can be read HERE.
My thoughts about the recent developments in the economy would by no means be complete without me sharing one last word with you. As I’ve said, I am an economic pessimist who thinks America will never get back to “normal” financially. But as a believer in Christ, I am a Kingdom optimist. You see, my hope, security, and happiness are found, not in the status of the stocks, but in God. I can live in absolute peace knowing and trusting in Him. Ultimately, I anticipate an eternity of pleasure forevermore in his presence. I’m not looking for financial security in this life. My hope is in Him. And I encourage you to look to Him as well, especially more than ever in these unstable economic times.
July 27, 2011
Richard Weaver, in one of my all time favorite books, Ideas Have Consequences, argued that newspapers multiply stereotypes, thrives on endless dissemination, and “its progeny, like the frogs of Egypt, come up into our very kneading troughs” (Weaver, 94). He continues, describing how newspapers distort in the interest of holding attention, thrive on friction and conflict, dramatize, and are glad to see a quarrel start and sorry to see it end. Weaver writes,
“No one is prepared to understand the influence of journalism on the public mind until he appreciates the fact that the newspaper is a spawn of the machine. A mechanism itself, it has ever been closely linked with the kind of exploitation, financial and political, which accompanies industrialism” (Weaver, 94).
Weaver’s thoughts about newspapers are almost completely identical to another great writer — Jacques Ellul. For example, read one of his many books on technology, or his The Humiliation of the Word. It is interesting to discover how many influential thinkers were not fond of the papers. For example, Weaver (p. 98) describes Thomas Jefferson’s distaste for the newspaper. Writing to John Adams, Jefferson said, “I have given up newspapers in exchange for Tacitus and Thucydides, for Newton and Eucllid, and I find myself much the happier.” Similarly, C. S. Lewis is remembered in his biography The Narnian for having never read the newspapers and for being almost completely ignorant of the current events of the day.
Melville captures the general distaste for newspapers as he describes the joys of the mast-head on the whaling ships,
“In the serene weather of the tropics it is exceedingly pleasant the mast-head, nay, to a dreamy meditative man it is delightful. There you stand, a hundred feet above the silent decks, striding along the deep, as if the masts were gigantic stilts, while beneath you and between your legs, as it were, swim the hugest monsters of the sea. . . . There you stand, lost in the infinite series of the sea, with nothing ruffled but the waves. The tranced ship indolently rolls; the drowsy trade winds blow; everything resolves you into languor. For the most part, in this tropic whaling life, a sublime uneventfulness invest you; you hear no news; read no gazettes; extras with startling accounts of commonplaces never delude you into unnecessary excitements; you hear of no domestic afflictions; bankrupt securities; fall of stocks; are never troubled with the thought of what you shall have for dinner — for all your meals for three-year and more are snugly stowed in casks, and your bill of fare is immutable” (Moby Dick, 159, emphasis added).
May 20, 2011
I’ve been riding my bike to work for a while now. I simply refuse to pay for gas when I could get some exercise and save a few bucks. Interestingly, the Raleigh-Durham-Chapil Hill region was ranked as the area in the country paying the most in gas prices. Drivers here in my neck of the woods are paying an average of $4,200 a year for gas and driving 23,000 miles a year. It looks like a lot more people need to join me on their bicycles!
May 2, 2011
Proverbs 24:17 “Rejoice not when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he is overthrown.”