He covers the sky with clouds; he supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills.
The more we learn about something a person designed – e.g. a school board or an electric motor – the more understandable they become. The more we learn about something God designed – a cell or a solar system – the more remarkable they become. Indeed, he makes some things look so simple we look right past their elegance. Consider the way he “covers the sky with clouds and supplies the earth with rain.” I’ve asked this before in the Update, but can you imagine what the system would look like – and cost! – if we were charged with moving water from the Pacific Ocean to the wheat fields of Kansas.
Lord Acton was Wrong: While studying John 13, I realized that Lord Acton was wrong. I am referring to John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton- the 19th century Catholic MP and historian, better known as Lord Acton, and best known for his quip, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” Why do I think he was wrong? Because Jesus had absolute power and it did not corrupt him in the least. He was the greatest man and he used his power to serve others, including me.
MLK, Jr: Pastors know that there are four different sermons that take place every Sunday: First, the one they write; second, the one they preach; third, the one the people hear and fourth, the one they give to themselves after they pull out of the church parking lot. “Augh, I should have said XYZ!” That afternoon, I gave a great fourth sermon on John 13 about halfway through the AFC Wildcard game. In the first three versions of the sermon (you can find here), I referenced MLK, but I missed the obvious quote, “Everyone can be great because everyone can serve.” You can listen to King deliver that line here.
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Milk as Metaphor: When I was growing up, milk was simple. There was regular and there was chocolate. Things have grown more complicated. First we added 2%, then skim. Now the milk aisle includes: soy, oat, almond, hemp, hazelnut, cashew – all of which come in a variety of options (light, vanilla, organic, etc.). The newest craze is “raw milk,” as in unpasteurized and unhomogenized. It’s part dairy product, part political statement, part pushback on Modernity and part a round of Russian Roulette with salmonella. FWIW, I’m sympathetic with the pushback on Modernity. I just wish there was more pushback on Postmodernity.
IS2M: It Seems 2 Me: 1) That half the time I pull up next to a muscle car, the guy driving it is at least 70 years old; 2) The word “conservative” is now used in so many different ways that it’s become as worthless as the word “liberal.” 3) It sure feels like it’s getting harder to be biblically faithful and radically loving; 4) No one should be surprised that China’s population is declining.
Quote Worth Pondering: I disagree with Ta-Nehisi Coates on a number of fronts, but I think it’s worth pondering this quote from his response to Gene Marks’s Forbes article, “If I Were a Poor Black Kid.” “The basic extension of empathy is one of the great barriers in understanding race in this country. I do not mean a soft, flattering, hand holding empathy, I mean a muscular empathy, rooted in curiosity. If you really want to understand slaves, slave masters, poor black kids, poor white kids, rich people of colors, whoever, it is essential that you first come to grips with the disturbing facts of your own mediocrity. The first rule is this—you are not extraordinary. It’s all fine and good to declare that you would have freed your slaves. But it’s much more interesting to assume that you wouldn’t have and then ask ‘Why?’ This is not an impossible task, but often we find that we have something invested in not asking ‘Why?’ The fact that we, and I mean all of us, black and white, are, in our bones, no better than slave masters is chilling. The upshot of all my black nationalist study was terrifying. Give us the guns and boats and we would do the same thing. There’s nothing particularly noble about black skin, and to our present business it is equally chilling to understand that the obstacles facing poor black kids can’t be surmounted by an advice column.”
Without Comment: 1) According to the Library of Congress, Amazing Grace – which is celebrating its 250th birthday – has been recorded by over 3,000 different musicians; 2) In the 1980s, AT&T asked McKinsey to estimate the market for cell phones in the year 2000. McK estimated 900,000, which was 99,100,000 shy of the eventual mark; 3) The digital economy is approaching 3 trillion annually; 4) More than 30% of U.S. adults believe that a climate catastrophe will lead to the extinction of the human race; 5) In a 1979 Gallup poll, 79% of the U.S. had “a great deal” or “quite a lot of” trust in newspapers. Today only 16% feel the same way; 6) According to this report, less than 2% of Israelis are Christian, and of those who are, 76% are Arabs; and 7) According to World Watch, while North Korea remains the most dangerous place to be a Christian, violence against Christ-followers is spiking dramatically in Sub-Sahara Africa.
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Encouraging News: Are you looking for something to be thankful for besides the fact that you’re not a member of the Royal Family or you haven’t mishandled highly classified documents? In this piece, David Brooks argues that a lot of things are going well. I’m not as sanguine as Brooks, but I think reading articles like this is a healthy corrective to what I otherwise hear.
WOTW: I’m giving success theater (which I ran across in Thomas Gryta and Ted Mann’s book Lights Out: Pride, Delusion and The Fall of General Electric) honorable mention. It is a needed word. But I am awarding the prize to Tu quoque, which I heard on a podcast discussing our inability to rightly handle classified material. Tu quoque (pronounced too-kwo-kweh is Latin for “and you?” It is used as a rhetorical device when you want to point out that an accuser is guilty of the thing they were accusing others of. Alas, it is also a helpful and needed word.
Closing Prayer: We pray you, Lord, purify our hearts that we may be worthy to become your dwelling-place. Let us never fail to find room for you, but come and abide in us, that we also may abide in you, for at this time you were born into the world for us, and live and reign, King of kings and Lord of lords, now and forever. Amen. (William Temple 1881-1944)