Clean.

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father,having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (John 13:1-6)

Check it out:  After supper, Jesus took off his outer robes, wrapped a towel around His waist, and started washing His disciples’ feet with water, wiping it with the towel–the towel He was wearing.  As their feet became clean, His towel became dirtier and dirtier.

Don’t miss this picture of our redemption, Christian. The eternal Son and second member of the Godhead laid aside His majesty and glory, wrapped Himself in humility, bowed down in the position of a servant, and washed His people clean, taking their impurity upon Himself. He who knew no sin became sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God (II Cor 5:21).

If you are in Christ, you are well and truly loved by your Lord. Something to think on, today.

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2016 Reading Challenge: May/June Update!

Time for another update on my Challies 2016 Reading Challenge progress!

May and June were full months for me–the 8-week summer class on Biblical Hermeneutics has been really helpful but very demanding! However, I was able to get a few books read before my class started and the homework started piling up. (Unfortunately, my reading outside of school materials in June was effectively zero.)

So here’s a list of what I was able to finish in May:

A Book by a Speaker at a Conference You Have Attended: The Hole in Our Holiness, by Kevin DeYoung. About 4 years ago, I attended Together for the Gospel, and one of the free books (so many free books at that conference!) I received was this one by DeYoung, whose session that year covered some of the material from the book. I stuck the book on my shelf, always meaning to get back to it. I’m glad I finally did, because this short volume (150 pages) is a dynamo: punchy, pithy, and powerful. The main thesis of DeYoung’s book is that we cannot sacrifice the imperatives (commands) of the Gospel for the sake of the indicatives (descriptive truths) of the Gospel. We are not saved by good works, but we are saved FOR good works. DeYoung rightly points out that Christians in the West (and especially here in the States) too often hold to a half-developed understanding of the Gospel that focuses almost entirely on BELIEVING the right things and almost none at all on DOING what the Bible commands Christians to do. HIGHLY recommended.

A Book About a Current Issue: Too Dumb to Fail: How the GOP Betrayed the Reagan Revolution to Win Elections (and How It Can Reclaim Its Conservative Roots), by Matt Lewis. I’d been looking forward to reading this book for a few months, because it was touted as a good explanation for how the Trump phenomenon happened. I think this is a fair, if incomplete, description. Throughout the volume, Lewis seeks to diagnose the GOP’s ailments, and provide some suggestions for turning the tide.  He begins by looking at the history of conservative political thought in America, its influences and standard-bearers, and how it began to erode after the Reagan presidency ended. I found a lot of Lewis’ analysis to be on-point, but about halfway through the book, the worm began to turn a bit for me. Lewis has little appreciation or patience for Conservative Evangelicals (and some of that is justified, I think). But his solution seems to involve Evangelicals abandoning (or at least toning down) some of their convictions because it’s a bad look for the Party. He trumpets the work of men like Tim Keller and Russell Moore as exemplars of thoughtful religious conservatism (though these men have taken positions on certain tertiary issues that would be considered ideologically liberal among some circles). All in all, Lewis’ book seems to be long on diagnosis, and a bit short on cure, though he presents some good ideas. As a religious conservative reading the book, however, I felt like my ilk was seen as part of the problem more than part of the solution.

A Book on the NYT Bestseller’s List: Smarter, Faster, Better, by Charles Duhigg. I’ve already reviewed Duhigg’s follow-up to The Power of Habit. I would certainly recommend it to anyone who likes pop-level sociological analysis in the mold of Malcolm Gladwell. (And for the record, none of the preceding sentence is meant to be a slight, though I’d imagine it might be taken as such if you’re not a fan of any of those things. I enjoy Gladwell’s work, so…) Duhigg dishes up some interesting ideas that are fun to consider and implement.

A Book of at least 400* Pages: It Can’t Happen Here, by Sinclair Lewis. This 1935 novel follows the fictional campaign and election of Democratic presidential candidate Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip to the highest post in the land, and the utter devastation that happened as a result. Through this allegory, Lewis addresses the question of how the American public could unthinkingly embrace Fascism, due to willful ignorance, fear, and desperation. While the protagonist of the story (Doremus Jessup, a broadminded New England liberal who is the editor of a small-town newspaper) is convinced that somehow, someway, common sense and sanity will win the day and stop the snowball-momentum of Windrip, he is over and over proven wrong. Windrip’s seemingly incompetent and blatantly phony campaign speeches and self-contradicting missives do nothing to stop his progress, and he eventually wins the campaign. Once he is inaugurated, he immediate sets up a police state and goes the way of all rotten totalitarian regimes. I started reading this book after seeing it referenced in a newspaper op-ed about the current political jungle. I was amazed, even appalled, how familiar whole sections of the first half of the book sounded. Unfortunately, once Buzz is elected, the novel starts to lose its punch. The protagonist and his family and friends just aren’t that likeable and seem to stumble into the underground resistance movement. However, since they’re played up to be a bit farcical themselves, I struggled to take them seriously in the second half of the book. The conclusion of the novel isn’t that satisfying, except that it mercifully ends. I wonder if Lewis should have chopped about 100 pages off the back end and tightened up the punch of the story. On the whole, the book probably won’t stick with me, but the first 150 pages or so detailing the campaign and first few months of the Windrip presidency are a stinging indictment of all would-be demagogues in American politics.

[*Okay, now the disclaimer: While there are editions of this novel that are over 400 pages, the version I read (with smallish print) was only 382 pages. But I don’t care — I’m counting it.]

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As I said in the last post, resuming my seminary education will take the place of much of my pleasure reading, so I’m making the decision to ease back my expectations. I’m not going to stop until I finish the 52-book list; however, I see now that it won’t be until sometime next year. So, a new part of these monthly/bi-monthly updates will be a running tally of my progress!

Current Totals:
May/June: 4
Year-to-Date: 19
Original Goal: 52
Realistic Goal: 30

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My class ends next week, so I should be able to get a few more books in before my next class in August. Right now, I’ve started listening to the audio book of a memoir of a Navy SEAL. I’m limiting my listening to only when I’m being “active,” so hopefully this will motivate me to work out more. And I’m also about to start a biography of two very important American inventors, so I’m pretty psyched about that. I’ll keep you posted!

Coming up for air.

Hey friends!

Just a quick check-in to let you know what’s going on with me…

Family/Church: Things are going well at home. My beloved and I celebrated our second anniversary last month (I’m so blessed to be hers). Things at church are great, as well. In a few weeks, I’m going to join a teaching rotation for our “children’s church,” so that will be a new and fun challenge. And Lord-willing, I’ll have an opportunity to preach during Sunday worship sometime in the fall, as well.  My wife and I love our church family, and we are so blessed to be part of that community.

School: I’m in Week 7 of my “Biblical Hermeneutics” class, which is essentially the last week of classwork, since Week 8 is solely devoted to the final project. The last 2 weeks have been pretty intense for me, but I’m thankful to report that my grades are pretty good so far, praise the Lord, and I’m in a good position to finish well.

After this class is over next week, I’ll have a 3-week break before starting another 8-week class (this time, “worldview and apologetics”). I expect that will be pretty intense as well. However, I’m going to work up some blog content over the next few weeks, so that I can post semi-regularly throughout the fall class, rather than take another mini-hiatus like the one I’ve been enjoying.

My academic plan at this point is to take the August-October class, and then step back from school until March or so. The holidays will be busy for us, so I’ll be ready for the break from schoolwork.

Thank you for your prayers and encouragement over the last 2 months. The shortened semester is an entirely different kind of challenge than I’m used to, but I’ve learned a lot and I’m excited to put some of these new hermeneutical tools into practice.

Reading List: As you can imagine, my 2016 reading list progress has ground to a halt, thanks to hours of lectures and papers. I’ll be posting my May book list pretty soon, but I didn’t read anything from the Reading List in the month of June.  I’ve got a biography of the Wright Brothers that I’m going to try to knock out this month (before the next class), but other than that, I think my personal reading will need to be limited to my previous book review commitments, so any “list” reading will be limited to books for review that fit those categories.

The fact that I’m taking another class in August-September is forcing me to accept the reality that I’m not going to hit my 52-book goal by December 31st–at least not without a Herculean effort in the last 3 months of the year. While that may be possible, it’s not preferable, especially if it means not being available for family and friends over the holidays.

When it came right down to it, I decided that progress in seminary was worth more to me than hitting a reading goal this year. If I can finish 30 books from the list, that will be enough. Perhaps I will carry the rest of the 2016 list into next year, since I’m excited about the other books I had planned to enjoy. We’ll see.

Blog: I’m excited to get back to writing semi-regularly. I’ve missed the opportunity to interact with y’all on this platform. So, as I said, while this may be a little less often during the next class, you can expect to see at least 1-2 posts a week through the end of September, and then back to normal (?) 3x a week posting  after that.

Book: The other project that won’t let me go is the novel I started writing last November. It’s crept into my thoughts at random times over the last few weeks, and seems to be demanding some attention. So I’m thinking that may come back around to play a big role in my fall and winter plans. We’ll see how it all shakes out.

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Okay, back to the grind. Posting will resume next Wednesday, July 13th. See you then!