Monthly Archives: March 2013

Picks of the Week

#1 “9 Things You Should Know About Duck Dynasty” by Joe Carter – I rarely appreciate what is known as “reality” TV. I may have caught an episode of the Real World back in my MTV days, but have been completely oblivious to the likes of Survivor, the Bachelor, Jersey Shore, and whatever show is associated with Honey Boo Boo. For some reason, though, I am an absolute fanboy of Duck Dynasty. We’ve been DVRing it since its inception and are still loving the antics of the fantastically bearded Robertson men. Si and Jase may be two of the craziest dudes on the planet, I find myself somehow resonating with Willie quite often, and good old Phil is the father figure that Clint Eastwood has been trying to pull off in film for a decade. And I love the fact that these fellas love the Lord and are passionate about sharing the Gospel with all. Check out this article, pray for this family, and give the show a viewing if you’re one of the few who haven’t yet.

#2 “The Heretic” by Andrew Ferguson – I’m not sure one can make a smooth transition from Duck Dynasty to a long-form essay on philosopher Thomas Nagel. Nagel, a former Princeton professor who is now at NYU, is one of America’s foremost philosophers…well at least he used to be. Once the darling of academia, he has recently begun to question the validity of the materialist Neo-Darwinian conception of nature. If such a concept is unfamiliar, here’s a quick aside:

Ferguson gives this quote by Francis Crick, “‘You,’ your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. Who you are is nothing but a pack of neurons.” As someone who dabbles in writings of Dawkins, Dennett, and crew, this article was not completely shocking, but a needed reminder of what is at the heart of such a conception of nature and life. If you haven’t engaged much with the philosophical and scientific understandings of such intellectuals of academic renown, this article might be quite eye-opening.

The heart of the article deals with Nagel’s ousting from his once high-standing position among the academic elite, due mostly to his recent book Mind and Cosmos. This piece, though lengthy, is an important read not only in order to understand the materialist conception of the world at its roots, but also to see how those who question this view are treated in the world of the academy, and finally, to read some beginning reasoning against such an understanding of the world. Here’s one such quote from the article: “The neo-Darwinian materialist account offers a picture of the world that is unrecognizable to us—a world without color or sound, and also a world without free will or consciousness or good and evil or selves or, when it comes to that, selflessness. “It flies in the face of common sense,” Nagel says. Materialism is an explanation for a world we don’t live in.” Seriously, find the time to read this essay.

#3 “Google Glass Video” – Looks like my dream of becoming Iron Man might be taking a few steps closer to becoming a reality. This video is unreal. Check it.

#4 Faithmapping by Daniel Montgomery & Mike Cosper – The two guys who wrote this book are pastors of Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, which is both our old church and the church we hope to be a part of again when we move back to the Ville this summer. We absolutely loved Sojourn and this book is a great introduction into why.  They are truly seeking to grasp the depths of the good news of Jesus Christ and how this good news informs everything we do as a people. The first section of the book is an engaging and helpful way of thinking about the gospel, by looking at the kingdom of God, the cross of Christ, and the radical grace of God. So often we as Christians, to our detriment, either overemphasize or neglect one of these essential aspects of what Christ has done. Our lives and our witness must be shaped by an understanding of the gospel “that God welcomed us into life in his kingdom, through his Son’s cross and with scandalous grace.” (102) The second half of the book deals with how this good news of Jesus shapes our entire lives. Montgomery and Cosper write, “The gospel invites us into a different way of living and being, not to prove or to earn, but to enjoy. It’s truly a better way and a richer kind of life, and the Bible gives us many clues as to what that life looks like. What we do as believers will always flow from who we are, and in Christ, we’ve been given a radical new sense of identity.” (103) The way they describe this life is by discussing how the gospel makes us worshipers, family, servants, disciples, and witnesses. In some ways this book is not incredibly original, but rather it gives its readers a simple and helpful way to understand the Christian life, while being written in a style that is both fresh and engaging.


Picks of the Week: Tales from the Dugout, Lecrae, and The Problem of Busyness

The folks at WordPress (or the systems at WordPress) tell me that there are some people actually reading this blog. So, if you’re a reader, I truly appreciate it. That being said, it appears that no one is clicking the links and checking out the picks any further. A good friend, who I forced to check out the blog, hearing my whining about such neglect, let me know that he didn’t even know there were links on the page. So, in case you didn’t realize it, all of the underlined and emboldened titles are actually links to the genuine artifacts themselves. In the kindness of your heart, check out some of the links, make some comments, subscribe, and all of that good stuff. I know it’s selfish, but it is simply so much easier to write if I know at least a few folks are reading, and I seriously need to write. If you ever have a question, especially in the fields of theology or maybe even sports, shoot it my way and I’ll post my thoughts on it.

#1 “Tales from the Dugout” with Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, and Barry Zito – Baseball season is upon us. Spring training is in full force. Fantasy League invites are popping up everywhere. The WBC (World Baseball Classic) has begun. And even our local high school team can be seen running down fly balls on their makeshift parking lot diamond. It is right, then, that the top spot would be filled, not with a book (and many cheered), but with an interesting video interview of three Christian ballplayers. The highlight of this video for me is definitely the interaction between these guys and their clear encouragement and support of one another. Professional sports, though the dream of many, is a field rife with temptation and hardship. To see these guys be the church to one another is both exciting and inspiring. A couple cautions as you watch: 1) Some of us, as we watch, must remember what Tim Keller often notes, all religions & worldviews offer advice on how to live, but the heart of the Christian faith is good “news” that gives life. This good news – who Christ is and what He has done (His life, death, and resurrection) – is rarely mentioned and can almost seem as if it is a backdrop to the Christian life, not the center of it. Instead, we get a lot about a “relationship with Christ” (significant for sure) and how as Christians we must live good lives (also true). I think it could be easy, though, to listen and miss the true heart of Christianity. 2) Others, myself included, need to be careful of being too critical. Keeping in mind the caution above (and ignoring some of the frustrating “Christian culture” aspects), I was truly encouraged by the work of God in the hearts and lives of these guys. As a athlete former athlete and coach, it is always helpful to hear from players who are at the very top of their games and truly seek to honor Christ in all they do. To see evidence of competitiveness, hard work, and toughness coupled with humility, service, and peace in these guys is truly a blessing. Enjoy!

#2 “Tell the World” and “PBS Interview” with Lecrae – This dude is the real deal. I grew up on the East Coast loving hip hop, but often struggling with much of its message. It wasn’t until recently, with labels like Reach Records, Humble Beast, and Lamp Mode, that the music and the message really lined up for me. Listening to true believers, who know their craft and their theology well, just flat out excites me. Here’s a taste of the lyrics Lecrae brings on “Tell the World”: A slave to myself but you let me go, I tried gettin high but it left me low / You did, what they could never do, You cleaned up my soul and gave me life, I’m so brand new / And that’s all that matters, I aint love you first, but you first loved me / In my heart I cursed ya, but you set me free / I gave you no reason to give me new seasons, to give me new life, new breathin / But you hung there bleedin

And you died for my lies, and my cheatin, my lust, and my greedin / What is a man? That you’re mindful of em? And what do I have to deserve this lovin?

#3 “If You’re Busy, You’re Doing Something Wrong: The Surprising Relaxed Lives of Elite Achievers” – In our current culture, it seems like everyone is ridiculously busy. And many, especially guys, wear this busyness as a badge of honor. I love the all too common playground battles between guys of who is the busiest and the somewhat mocking tone towards the few whose lives aren’t hectic. I think the problem lies in the fact that we think working hard equals busy and hectic lives. The busier your life, the harder you work and thankfully we still see the value in hard work. So for most of us, busyness, not effectiveness, becomes the goal. The problem, which this article thoughtfully points out, is that this assumption just doesn’t seem to be true. It’s the old coaching adage, “practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.” I would rather have players who put in 10 hours of hard, focused practice, than players who put in 30 hours of decent work. As I read, I was again reminded of the need for a change in mindset. Busyness cannot be the mark of achievement. Especially when we blame our lack of involvement with our spouses, kids, church, God, etc. on such busyness. Maybe in addition to valuing hard work, we need to value and encourage those who are relaxed while doing it. For myself, I’m thinking a reread of Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People might be in order. (Note: I think this article brings out a helpful point, but I recognize that sometimes life is hectic, crazy busy, for a season. And I certainly don’t want to encourage laziness. So please don’t try to read too deeply between the lines here.)

Picks of the Week: Greatest Game Ever, Baseball & the Christian Walk, Pornified Culture, and Keller @ Belhaven

Note Well: Every Friday I am going to be pointing out some of my favorite books, articles, podcasts, videos, and the like that I’ve encountered in the past week. I’ll try to include mini-reviews for each that will do nothing if not inspire, maybe even require, that you check them out. Perhaps not. And keep in mind, just because I recommend it, doesn’t mean I agree with it in all of its details or even in general. Finally, don’t leave me out to dry. If you are interacting with these posts, possibly even enjoying them, give me a heads up. Subscribe to the blog. Leave a comment. Shoot me a message. Give me a hug.

#1 The Greatest Game Ever Played by Mark Frost – In the midst of a terribly bleak week in good ole Indiana, I am finding myself flat out ready for Spring. I’m ready for some sunshine, a little warmth, and the putting away of all things Winter (hat, gloves, coats, etc.). I’m ready for Spring Training, March Madness, The Masters, and the start of  tennis season. And though the weather is not providing even a glimpse of hope, I’ve decided to usher in the season in the only nerdy way I know how, by reading about sports. Currently, that means taking a little jaunt into the beginnings of golf in America and reading about Francis Ouimet and the 1913 U.S. Open. I must confess, having seen the Disney flick starring Shia LaBeouf, I have been quite reluctant to dive into this behemoth (it is just shy of 500 pages). But lofty, lofty endorsements and a place on the shelf at Half Price Books simply proved too much to ignore. Take Gary McCord’s words for example, “Put on a pair of soft slippers and get into your favorite chair. You are about to drift back to the era of gutties and wooden shafts…as golf history comes to conversational life in this very entertaining read.” Music to my ears. Or maybe you’d like to hear from Billy Crystal, “This is one of the best sports books I have ever read.” Sold. I am just past the century mark and ready to join the chorus. Up next: Men at Work by George F. Will.

#2 “How Baseball is Like the Christian Walk” by David Prince – Men at Work might still have a little wait on the shelf, but this does not mean there isn’t a little time (or a lot) for some baseball reading. Prince is a pastor in KY and prof at my former and soon to be current educational institution and he is well-equipped to talk sports. He gave the highlight talk for me at our High School Youth Conference last year on the topic of Christianity and Sports and this article is solid example of his thinking. And of course, he’s a Braves fan. That’s significant.

#3 “Raising Kids in a Pornified Culture” by Zach Nielsen – I’m not a parent yet (not an announcement of any kind…just need to be clear), but as a pastor and coach I spend a decent amount of time serving youth and definitely recognize the dangers of what Nielsen calls a “pornified culture.” Give this article a quick read, at least to raise your awareness, if not to apply some of its wisdom.

#4 “Tim Keller at Belhaven University” – Our church is getting ready to start The King’s Cross by Tim Keller and we used this talk as a little intro to the book with our college group. Even if you aren’t going to read the book, it is well worth the listen. I am posting the video and the audio, though I feel I must warn you that the folks doing the video get a little too creative with camera angles and nearly ruin it. The Audio version.

That’s it for this week. “The Bible” mini-series begins this Sunday night on the History Channel, could be interesting.