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February 09, 2016

Table Titans

Tales: Sword & Pedestal

I was running an epic level adventure for some friends and was parodying a ton of stuff from movies, books, and video games. The whole thing was really just one big joke for us, but it gave us the chance to run an amazing adventure, do whatever we wanted, and have fun with it.

Towards the…

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February 09, 2016 07:01 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Will Women Be Forced to Register for the Military Draft?

Article by: Joe Carter

The Story: Recent news events have resurrected the debate over whether women should be required to register for the military draft. 

The Background: Last week the two most senior military leaders in the Army and Marine Corps testified before Congress saying that that women should be required to register for the draft now that the Pentagon had opened all combat roles to them. The “draft” is the commonly used term for mandatory military conscription. This is a means of fulfilling the manpower requirements of the military during a time of conflict.

According to the New York Times, during a Senate hearing on women in combat, Gen. Robert B. Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps, said he believed that “every American who’s physically qualified should register for the draft.” Gen. Mark A. Milley, the Army chief of staff, said he agreed.

The acting secretary of the Army, Patrick J. Murphy, encouraged Congress to look into the matter, saying “it should be a national debate.”

Also last week, Congressmen Duncan Hunter (R-CA), a Marine Corps veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Ryan Zinke (R-MT) introduced legislation to require that women register for the draft with the Selective Service. Their legislation, the Draft America’s Daughters Act, requires registration for women no later than 90 days after the enactment of the measure or 90 days after the Secretary of Defense opens all combat specialties to women.

Hunter says he introduced the legislation even though he would likely vote against it. “It’s wrong and irresponsible to make wholesale changes to the way America fights its wars without the American people having a say on whether their daughters and sisters will be on the front lines of combat,” said Hunter. He added, “If this Administration wants to send 18-20 year old women into combat, to serve and fight on the front lines, then the American people deserve to have this discussion through their elected representatives.” In the most recent Republican presidential candidate debate, Sen. Marco Rubio, former Gov. Jeb Bush and Gov. Chris Christie each affirmed that women should be required to sign up for the military draft. (Although he wasn’t asked during the debate, Sen. Ted Cruz later said he would not support including women in the draft.) In the U.S., the draft has been employed by the federal government in four 'conflicts': the Civil War; World War I; World War II; and the Cold War (including the Korean and Vietnam Wars). From 1940 until 1973, both in war and peacetime, men were drafted to fill vacancies in the armed forces. The draft was ended when the United States military moved to an all-volunteer military force in 1973. Since then, the issue of drafting women has arisen several times from the 1940 to the 1990s. Because of a shortage of nurses in World War II, President Roosevelt requested a nurse draft bill in his 1945 State of the Union address. A bill quickly passed in the House of Representatives, but stalled in the Senate. In 1975 men no longer had to register and the Selective Service was placed in “deep standby.” But in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and in reaction to reports that the standby Selective Service System might not meet wartime requirements for rapid manpower expansion of the active and reserve forces, President Carter reactivated the registration process for men in 1980. Carter also sent a recommendation to Congress that the act be amended to provide presidential authority to “register, classify, and examine women for conscription into the Armed Forces. Congress declined to give the president the authority to draft women.”

That same year, a federal lawsuit was brought by several men claiming the gender-based discrimination of the draft violated the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment. In that case, Rostker v. Goldberg, (1981), the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the exclusion, ruling that there was no violation of the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment. The Supreme Court based its decision largely on the Department of Defense’s policy excluding women from combat. In the majority opinion, the Court noted that “Men and women, because of the combat restrictions on women, are simply not similarly situated for purposes of a draft or registration for a draft.”

The issue was considered again in 1992, 1994, and 1998 but rejected each time because the policy excluding women from combat roles remained in place.

However, starting this past January, the Defense Department lifted all gender-based restrictions on military service. This removed the primary legal barrier that excluded women from having to register with the Selective Service. If the issue is challenged again in the courts, the Supreme Court is likely to rule that women must be included in any future drafts.

Why It Matters: There is a deep division within evangelicalism about whether gender roles are part of God’s creational norms or are solely cultural constructs imposed by society. While this debate often centers on roles within marriage and the church, it sometimes spills over into the secular realm. The issue of women and draft is a primary example.

Those who oppose conscripting women are often baffled that such a measure would even be considered by a civilized nation (see, for example, this article by Andrew T. Walker and this one by Greg Gibson and Owen Strachan). But those of us who hold this view may have already lost the debate. Currently, most Americans appear to support drafting women.  A poll taken in 2013 found that nearly sixty percent of Americans believe women should be eligible for the draft. Women favor the draft at a much higher rate than men (61 percent to 35 percent), and Democrats favor the draft much more than Republicans (80 percent to 50 percent). Overall, 59 percent of those polled said women should be drafted.

A likely reason for the increased support is a foolish and historically ignorant belief that the military draft is an outdated institution and will never be used in the future. While the draft has indeed been dormant for forty-two years, it is likely to return during America’s next large-scale conflict. The reason the draft will be needed is obvious: relative to some other nations, the U.S. is woefully lacking in manpower. Currently, the armed forces is comprised of about 2 million men and women, both on active duty and in the reserves. The potential pool of draft eligible young men (ages 18-25) on file with the Selective Service is approximately 16 million. In contrast, China has an available manpower of 750 million—more than twice the entire population of the United States. They also have over 100 million draft eligible men, with nearly 20 million men in China reaching military age every year. Although it has less manpower than China, Russia also has about 45 million men of draft age. If we were to face either or both of those countries in violent conflict, the draft would need to be implemented in the U.S. on a broad scale. Having already shown that drafting women has popular support and having no legal basis to exclude anyone based on gender, young women would be drafted in numbers equal to young men.

Of course, a conflict of such scale is unlikely within the next 30 to 50 years. Few of us are likely to have our children, whether sons or daughters, be conscripted into service. That is why many people have no qualms about supporting “gender equality” by allowing women to be drafted: It doesn’t affect them directly. They seem to have no concerns about forcing their granddaughters or great-granddaughter to be subjected to the horrors of war. As long as it doesn’t directly affect them, they are allowed to be seen as embracing “equality.”  Forcing women to register with the Selective Service is likely to happen within the next few years. But the need for them to be drafted is likly still decades away. In the meantime, we can continue to pray for a moral revolution, and that we’ll wake up to the realization that a nation that sends it’s young women to fight its wars is a nation that may no longer be worth defending.  

Joe Carter is an editor for The Gospel Coalition and the co-author of How to Argue Like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History’s Greatest Communicator. You can follow him on Twitter.

by Joe Carter at February 09, 2016 06:10 AM

One Big Fluke

Explaining your solution is always harder than the original problem

When you're trying to solve a technical problem (writing code, analyzing data, designing systems), it's easy to decide that your work is done as soon as you verify that your results are valid (with tests, example cases, etc). But in practice, I find that being "done" only marks the beginning of the most important and most challenging phase: successfully explaining your solution to someone else.

While I'm in the zone, I can too easily convince myself that I've got a problem completely figured out. Later, I'll be explaining my ideas to someone else (in a meeting, document, code review, etc) and surprise myself by tripping over words, using bad analogies, and going into extraneous detail. I realize that I'm not making sense. The reality is that I can't explain my thoughts. My solution may as well not exist.

In my experience, the only way to make the act of explaining easier is to simplify the concept you're trying to explain. Simplifying is a skill that takes practice. You have to ask yourself, why can't a solution that's described in 500 words (or lines of code) be reduced to 250 or 100? You need to identify concrete reasons for why it can't be any shorter (e.g., nuance, abstraction, edge cases). You must ruthlessly cut things down as much as possible.

There are a few habits I've tried to cultivate to get better at simplifying:

  1. When I write (code and words), I spend time optimizing for the reader. I try to present the important parts before the details.
  2. When I get some new code working, I assume that I've only made it to the half-way point. I expect that refactoring and code review will take half of the overall time.
  3. Similarly, when I'm writing (design documents, emails, etc), I expect that editing will require at least 50% of my time.
  4. When someone else tells me their solution to a problem, I (annoyingly) say "let me repeat that back to you" and attempt to explain what they told me in different terms. It's amazing how often I'm wrong.

People too often assume that it takes more effort to have more (more words, more code, more features, etc). Adding more is actually the easy part. The hard part is having less in the end. The hard part is editing, reducing, refactoring, boiling it down.

by Brett Slatkin ( at February 09, 2016 06:08 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

The Beauty and Challenge of Singleness

Article by: Drew Hunter

What does it mean to live as a single man in today’s world? Some men are single at 20, others at 60. Some are single by choice, others by undesired circumstance. Some have always been single, others become so again following divorce or the death of a spouse.

How does God’s Word give us a vision for living single for his glory?

Singleness Is Good

“God created man in his own image” (Gen. 1:27). The most fundamental thing Scripture says about a man’s singleness is that it isn’t what’s most fundamental about him. Every man, single or married, is made in God’s image. Therefore, dignity is not conditioned on singleness or marriage. Our worth is rooted not in our marital status, but in our creational status. This is nowhere more clearly confirmed than in Jesus Christ, who shows us what it means to be truly human. He lived a perfect life as God’s image (Col. 1:15)—and he did so unmarried. The life of singleness, therefore, is not in itself inferior to the life of marriage.

Jesus honored marriage and upheld a high standard for marital faithfulness (Matt. 19:3–9). Yet he also taught that marriage is not a requirement; some may remain single by necessity or choice (Matt. 19:11–12). The apostle Paul conducted his ministry as an unmarried man (1 Cor. 7:8; 9:5), and he taught that singleness is a gift (1 Cor. 7:7). Whether single or married, we can receive our life situation as a good and wise gift from God.

Singleness also has unique benefits. One advantage is the absence of the challenges of marriage. Paul notes that the unmarried will be spared the “worldly troubles” and “anxieties” of marriage (1 Cor. 7:28, 32–33). Instead, the unmarried person is “anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord” (v. 32). He’s able to pursue “undivided devotion to the Lord” (v. 35). Jesus similarly noted the legitimate choice of some to remain single for the sake of his kingdom (Matt. 19:12). The greatest benefit for the single man is the potential for single-minded devotion to Christ and his mission.

This positive vision of singleness in the New Testament is explained by its place in the storyline of the Bible. In the Old Testament, marriage is the norm and singleness is rare. In the New Testament, though, marriage remains the norm but singleness is elevated as uniquely beneficial. Following the trajectory into the new creation, earthly marriages will be swallowed up in that supreme love to which human marriage points (Mark 12:25; Luke 20:34–36). Earthly marriage exists to point forward to the ultimate union of Christ and his church (Rev. 19:7–9).

Since the new creation has broken into the present through Christ, we now live with a forward tilt toward the age to come. Added to the original commission to multiply persons (Gen. 1:28) is the commission to multiply disciples (Matt. 28:18–20). Marriage is required for the first, but not the second. Indeed, single men may now live with strategic, single-minded devotion to this mission.

Singleness Is Hard

The single life is not without its challenges. The first problem Scripture addresses is Adam’s aloneness: “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18). Adam’s need was immediately met by a wife. Most single men have a good but unfulfilled desire for this. Others will perhaps need to take steps to cultivate this desire. Marriage should be esteemed, and most men should intentionally pursue it (Heb. 13:4). Further, “because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband” (1 Cor. 7:2). Marriage is a normal, necessary, and good gift for most men to pursue (Prov. 18:22).

Single men will also need to wisely navigate challenges in relation to their sexuality. We will need to consider appropriate and God-honoring ways to relate to the women in our lives. Paul advises Timothy, for example, to treat “younger women as sisters, in all purity” (1 Tim 5:2). Sexual activity is reserved exclusively for the context of marriage, and God’s will is clear: abstain from sexual immorality (Gal. 5:19; Eph. 5:5; Col. 3:5; 1 Thess. 4:3). This is especially difficult in light of our hypersexualized culture. We need Spirit-given wisdom and discipline in order to please the Lord and honor women with our thoughts, eyes, words, and bodies.

Loneliness is another unique challenge of singleness. While marriage was the immediate answer for Adam’s solitude, the story of Scripture shows friendship and the family of God are also his provision. Not everyone needs marriage, but everyone does need friendship. The single man is not to be a lonely man. Friendship is an often underappreciated necessity of life.

Returning to the examples of Jesus and Paul, both modeled a commitment to friendship. Jesus stayed close with 12 friends, three of whom were closest (Peter, James, and John) and one closer still (John). In his most lonely moment before the cross—in the garden of Gethsemane—Jesus wanted his three closest friends near (Matt. 26:38–39). Likewise for Paul: in the book of Acts he rarely traveled without friends, and at the end of his life he asked Timothy, one of his closest friends, to be with him (2 Tim. 4:9).

Four Features of Friendship

What does it look like to pursue this kind of friendship? Proverbs gives four marks of friendship. First, friendship is marked by closeness. As Proverbs 18:24 says, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” What passes today for friendship is often little more than acquaintanceship. Men need a friend who will be closer than a brother, a “friend who is as your own soul” (Deut. 13:6; cf. 1 Sam 18:1, 3).

The second mark of friendship is constancy. “Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love,” Proverbs 20:6 says, “but a faithful man who can find?” Indeed, a friend “loves at all times” (17:17). An acquaintance affirms his love, but a true friend demonstrates it through thick and thin. He doesn’t become detached when you’re suffering; he joins you in the trial. A fair-weather friend is there when we’re useful, but a faithful friend is there even when we have nothing to give (19:4, 6).

Third, friendship is marked by transparency. A faithful friend is open and honest, for friendship includes giving and receiving wise counsel. Yet we also need the friend who will speak hard but necessary words. He knows the real you, behind the mask; and, knowing you, he speaks with candor and forthrightness. As Proverbs 27:6 observes, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” Many may shower you with “verbal kisses,” but a true friend will speak the truth in love.

Finally, the foundation of friendship is trust. Distrust cracks the foundation; trust strengthens it. This is why Proverbs says the two kinds of people who separate close friends are “a whisperer” (16:28) and “he who repeats a matter” (17:9). These are “friends” who pass along what’s shared confidentially and who bring up thing that should be long forgotten. They are not safe—and, without safety, friendship can neither deepen nor endure. 

This kind of friendship is rare, but possible. It requires humility, for we need to ask ourselves two questions—not just “Who can be this kind of friend to me?” but “How can I be this kind of friend to others?” This requires time and intentionality, for friendship thrives with conversation and shared experience. We must regularly ask ourselves, “What is the next practical step I can take, and with whom, to strengthen the bonds of friendship in my life?”

Look to Forever

Single or married, we all look ahead to the new creation when Christ will be our Faithful Husband and Great Friend and we will enjoy him as a community of friends. We don’t have to wait. He has given his life for us as his bride (Eph. 5:22–33) and he has made us his friends (John 15:13–15). Through faith in him, we already experience this eternal marriage and friendship.

Receiving this, singleness need not be a life of solitude but can be rich with friendship. Nor should it be aimless, for it is a privileged opportunity to pursue a life of pleasing Christ and making disciples. Even if marriage is on the horizon, as long as a man is singl, his life need not be defined by waiting. Rather, he can be diligent with Christ’s mission in ways unique to the opportunities of singleness. 

Editors’ note: This excerpt is adapted from the ESV Men’s Devotional Bible (Crossway, 2015). 

Drew Hunter is the teaching pastor at Zionsville Fellowship in Zionsville, Indiana, where he lives with his wife and three young boys. Drew blogs at Gospel Refresh. You can follow him on Twitter.

by Drew Hunter at February 09, 2016 06:02 AM

On My Shelf: Life and Books with David Wells

Article by: Ivan Mesa

On My Shelf helps you get to know various writers through a behind-the-scences glimpse into their lives as readers.

I corresponded with David Wells (b. 1939), prolific author and research professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. In this interview we learn what books have profoundly shaped him, what he’s learning about life and following Jesus, his calling as a teacher and writer, and more.

What’s on your nightstand? 

My nightstand has light reading on it. My day job sometimes takes me into complex stuff so I prefer something not too heavy at night. Right now, I have David McCullough’s account of the Revolutionary War, 1776. I had read this earlier along with his biography of John Adams. But it’s such a compelling narrative I thought it worth a re-read.

What are you learning about life and following Jesus?

I’ve been learning what it means to say with Paul, “I press on toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). This call comes at the beginning of our walk with Christ and lasts to the end. We are, in fact, in life’s long marathon. It’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon that takes us up hills and down, through heat and cold, over rough surfaces and smooth. It takes us through all the seasons of life from the beginning of spring into deep winter. Always and everywhere, when we are young and old, when things are easy or harsh, there’s that upward call of God that has to be heard and must be answered. This is the constant amid all of life’s changing circumstances and within all the changes that getting old brings. This call cannot be silenced. It’s always there until, like Christian in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, we see that great river in front of us, plunge into it, and find ourselves on the shores of eternity.

What books have most profoundly shaped how you serve and lead others for the sake of the gospel? 

The gospel is the message of salvation and, as such, it’s the place where our understanding of God, sin, grace, and Christ all come into tight focus. On those subjects I drank deeply from Heinrich Heppe’s Reformed Dogmatics. This is a selection of the best in Reformed thinking from the 16th to the 19th centuries. It put me in touch with the deepest thought in the life of the church.

I love the Princetonians, especially Charles Hodge’s Systematic Theology, and some of B. B. Warfield’s writings.

J. I. Packer’s Knowing God, at a popular level, is on this same list.

What books have most helped you teach others about Jesus? 

I first heard John Stott (1921–2011) when he visited the University of Cape Town on a gospel mission. At the time, I was a rebellious student who knew nothing about Christian faith. I was converted soon thereafter, and immediately read Basic Christianity, which solidified my understanding.

Two years later I moved to London and, as it turned out, was able to live with Stott in the All Souls Church rectory. What made such a deep impression on me was seeing the seamless connection between the biblical truth he preached and wrote about, and the way it was worked out in the practical setting of a church. Many other books followed, of course. Later came his The Cross of Christ and then his commentary on Romans, which is the most lucid exposition of Romans available. These books all have the ring of authenticity and they have shaped the way I see things.

What have you found most satisfying in teaching over 40 years?

Teaching has never been a chore for me, as it is sometimes for others who also like to write. And to think I’ve actually have been paid to do something I’ve enjoyed so much! But I think the deepest satisfaction has come later, maybe many years later: it’s when I’ve met up with former students. Some are now pastors, some missionaries, some scholars, and others have gone into various walks of life. Some who weren’t always standouts in the classroom have ended up as standouts in life. When I see what they’re doing I marvel to think that I had the privilege, for a brief time, of providing some small input into their lives.

What biographies or autobiographies have most influenced you and why? 

The autobiography I still remember, though I read it many years ago, is Malcolm Muggeridge’s Chronicles of Wasted Time. It’s not an autobiography in a conventional sense. It’s his account, as both a journalist and an intellectual, of some of the great developments of the last century he witnessed or was involved in. But now he looks back on these—the rise of Joseph Stalin and the Communist world, British socialism, and the literary world—from a Christian perspective. The two volumes he was able to complete are filled with pungent, searing insights. Only dead fish, he once said, float with the river’s current. In these volumes, he swims against the current. They connected with me because I was trying to think about the time in which I was living—the modernized West—just as Muggeridge had about the time he’d lived through. His language is not that of the theologian but his issue is that of Christ and culture as seen from within the prism of his own life experience.

I also remember first reading Roland Bainton’s biography of Martin Luther, Here I Stand. I read it at a time when I was finding my own place in the theological world as a young student. Luther’s story inspired me and led me to read Luther himself. This I did with great profit.

What are your favorite fiction books? 

Aleksandr Solhenitsyn’s One Day In the Life of Ivan Denisovich is my favorite. Its simplicity and extraordinary humanity shines through despite the Stalinist brutality that is its context.

Near the top of the list is Ivan Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons, which is striking, brooding, and memorable. It was written in the 19th century during a turbulent time that has some similarities to our own.

I also admired John Updike’s skill in the five books he wrote on his character, Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom. These began with Rabbit, Run. Updike takes us on a journey into the soul of an ordinary man living an ordinary American life. He writes with unusual psychological insight into the anxiety and turmoil that churn within this man as he moves through life.

You’ve written a number of books detailing the decline of the evangelical church. Looking at the evangelical landscape today, are you encouraged? 

We’re now at the end of the post-WWII boom in believing, institution-making, and book-writing. It’s not clear to me what happens next. But I’m encouraged by the yearning I see for a deeper kind of faith—less trendy, less indebted to pop culture, more Reformational, more seriously biblical, and more theological. I do see signs of this and I’m encouraged.

What are you currently researching and writing?

I’m about to start work on a revision of The Courage To Be Protestant. Actually, I’m thinking it will be substantial enough to make the next edition more like a sequel. On the first go around, I spent quite a bit of time on the emergents and the church marketers. The emergents have now dissipated, as I predicted they would, and the marketers have morphed into the “attractional church.”

At the same time, our culture has become markedly less accommodating to Christian convictions. Indeed, Christianity is increasingly leaving the West, now flourishing in many parts of Africa, South America, and some parts of Asia. What, then, is our future here in the States? These are some of the changes I want to ponder as we think afresh about the significance of the Protestant Reformation on the eve of its 500th anniversary.

Also in the On My Shelf series: Rod DreherJames K. A. SmithRandy AlcornTom SchreinerTrillia NewbellJen WilkinJoe CarterTimothy GeorgeTim KellerBryan ChapellLauren ChandlerMike CosperRussell MooreJared WilsonKathy KellerJ. D. GreearKevin DeYoungKathleen NielsonThabiti AnyabwileElyse FitzpatrickCollin HansenFred SandersRosaria ButterfieldNancy Guthrie, and Matt Chandler.

Ivan Mesa serves as an editor for The Gospel Coalition. He and his wife, Sarah, live in Louisville, Kentucky. You can follow him on Twitter.

by Ivan Mesa at February 09, 2016 06:02 AM

3 Ways Our Culture Is Different than Every Other Culture in History

Article by: Gavin Ortlund

We live in a turbulent cultural moment. The world around us is rapidly changing, and we face many challenges unprecedented in the history of the church. Augustine fought the Pelagians; Aquinas synthesized Aristotle; Luther strove with his conscience; Zwingli wielded an axe; but probably none of them ever dreamed of a world in which people could choose their gender. Secularizing late-modernity is a strange, new animal.

Identifying the historical and global isolation of our culture does not discredit it. “Weird” does not always equal “wrong.” Nonetheless, seeing ourselves in a broader perspective can go a long way toward humbling and opening us up to where Scripture wants to transform our thinking. I say “our” thinking because our first impulse in cultural critique shouldn’t be bashing others, but searching our own hearts. Since culture isn’t what we see but what we see through—the glasses, not the landscape—we’re often more “conformed to this world” (Rom. 12:2) than we realize.

Three Modern Eccentricities 

Here are three ways our culture is eccentric in its basic instincts about God, morality, and life—ways we tend to see things differently not only than Solomon, Jesus, and Paul, but also Aristotle, the Aztecs, and Attila the Hun.

1. God is in the dock.

I’m currently writing my doctoral dissertation on Anselm (1033–1109). I’m always amazed by how exercised he was by the problem of divine mercy. Throughout his writings he labored over the question: how can a just and righteous God pass over sins and spare the undeserving?

Today we have the opposite problem. Divine mercy is assumed, and divine justice must be explained. How could a good and loving God ever judge people? (This is one of the top seven objections to Christianity Tim Keller tackles in The Reason for God.)

What’s so striking to me isn’t that Anselm and American culture have different answers, but that they’re asking different questions. For an 11th-century monk, it simply never occurred to him that God, rather than man, would be the one needing to be justified. C. S. Lewis captured this distinction well: “The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man, the roles are quite reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock.”

Perhaps the greatest example of this role reversal is the rise of atheism, a relatively rare phenomenon before the modern West. There are some scattered examples in pre-modern times of various kinds of materialism or agnosticism, but they’re strikingly sparse. For every one Lucretius or Democritus, you can find entire centuries and nations that know nothing but priests, monks, imams, lamas, shamans, sages, and sorcerers.

2. Morality is about self-expression.

In most cultures throughout history it was assumed that external reality is fixed—and that the basic point of life is to conform ourselves to it in some way. Buddha and Plato agree on this point; they only differ on what the conforming process looks like.

Our culture, by contrast, tends to exalt human desire and aspiration such that the point of life is for external reality to be conformed to it. To paraphrase Lewis: For the wise men of old the cardinal problem had been how to conform the soul to reality; today it’s how to subdue reality to the wishes of men.

In the late-modern West we’ve reduced truth to a personal construct and lost confidence in reason’s ability to access external reality. Thus the only foul in ethics is “harm,” and the only requirement for sexual behavior is “consent.” Basically, for many in our culture, you should be able to do anything you want so long as you don’t inhibit someone else’s self-expression.

Plato could have at least understood Buddha’s four noble truths. Buddha would have comprehended Plato’s advocacy for reason and justice. Both would be only perplexed and exasperated with the modern mantra “be true to yourself.”

3. Life is starved of transcendence.

In most ancient cultures, life and meaning were relatively stable. You didn’t have people like Albert Camus contemplating whether the absurdity of human existence necessitated suicide among the ancient Mongols, Mayans, or Vikings. As Brother Lippo Lippi put it in Robert Browning’s poem, “This world's no blot for us, nor blank; it means intensely, and means good: to find its meaning is my meat and drink.”

Many today lack this sense of objective meaning; we are starved of transcendence, community, stability; we’re aching to find something big to live for; we feel listless, adrift, barren. Think of Nietzsche’s anguish in proclaiming the death of God in the late 19th century—in a milder, semiconscious way, this is how many feel today.

Our standard of living has risen, but so have our suicide rates; we are smarter, but more uncertain; surrounded with pleasure, but less fulfilled; able to do almost anything but uncertain whether to do anything.

I believe much of the sexual confusion and brokenness in our culture is the result of this deeper, existential void. We use things like sex and money to address basic questions of identity and fulfillment. As Keller recently observed, “In ancient cultures people had sex and made money to build a community; today, they do so to build an identity.” Or as Trevin Wax puts it, “One reason our culture is so sex-saturated is that we are so transcendence-starved.”

How Should We Respond?

Gospel faithfulness demands we engage our culture with both truth and love, yielding neither to compromise on the one side nor escapism on the other. This means we cannot simply bemoan the encroaching cultural darkness, swatting at the errors around us with our theological club. As TGC’s Theological Vision for Ministry puts it, “It is not enough that the church should counter the values of the dominant culture. We must be a counterculture for the common good.”

In responding to these metaphysical, ethical, and existential Copernican revolutions in our culture, I believe we must work hard to establish the corresponding subversive biblical doctrine in each of three areas: (1) a high view of God, (2) a thoroughgoing notion of repentance, and (3) a transcendent vision of worship.

1. God is transcendent.

We can learn a lot about sharing Christ in a pre/post-Christian setting from Paul’s speech at the Areopagus in Acts 17. He starts with the doctrines of God and creation, painting a comprehensive picture of the world that can explain the Athenians’ prior experience, and then he goes to the gospel. In our setting also, we need to help people feel a sense of God as the transcendent One on whom we depend for every breath and before whom we’re accountable for every thought. No one needs a gospel so long as God remains in the dock. 

2. Life comes through death.

To challenge our culture’s inverted moral compass, we must also help people see that dying to self is the path to life—that what happens to Ebenezer Scrooge is a better picture of the human ideal than what’s preached in the self-help section at Barnes & Noble. Opposing biblical-behavior deviations is important but more surface-level; we must go deeper to show that the whole substratum of the Christian life is “let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). Until we establish that the key to life is repentance, our hermeneutical arguments will have limited persuasiveness.

3. Beholding God is our goal.

In sharing Christ with the sexually broken we must do more than denounce sexual immorality. We must proclaim a vision in which the ultimate human experience is the beatific sight of God in heaven, not a new sexual encounter. Postmodern people must be able to sense, as they listen to our preaching and observe our worship, “This is big enough to give my life to—this is what I’ve been looking for my entire life.” 

In these areas we will be pushing directly against the grain of the thoughts and values swirling around us. But only to the extent we do so will our gospel witness be clear and effective to our culture—and to ourselves. 

Gavin Ortlund is an associate pastor at Sierra Madre Congregational Church and PhD candidate at Fuller Theological Seminary in historical theology. He and his wife, Esther, live in Sierra Madre, California, with their son and daughter. Gavin blogs regularly at Soliloquium. You can follow him on Twitter.

by Gavin Ortlund at February 09, 2016 06:00 AM

What Is Gospel-Shaped Worship?

Article by: Staff

Do all churches practice gospel-shaped worship?

So what can churches do to ensure their services are centered around the gospel?

What’s the remedy for churches with worship unshaped by the gospel?

Matt Boswell (pastor of ministries and worship at Providence Church in Frisco, Texas) sat down with Jared Wilson (director of content strategy at Midwestern Seminary and managing editor of For the Church) and Shane Barnard (one half of the musical duo Shane & Shane) to have a discussion about how to deliberately make corporate worship gospel-shaped.

For more on this subject see the new Gospel Shaped Worship group study from TGC and the Good Book Company. This seven-week curriculum on worship by Jared Wilson includes DVD teaching, discussion questions, ideas for sermons series, daily devotionals, and more. 

Subscribe to TGC’s podcast in iTunes or for other devices to get this and other interviews, workshops, and lectures. The Gospel Coalition Podcast is now available on Stitcher.

by Staff at February 09, 2016 05:59 AM

John C. Wright's Journal

Prayer Request

My best friend’s wife is going in for a medical procedure today. I ask any kind soul who reads these words to pray for her.

by John C Wright at February 09, 2016 12:58 AM

The Art of Non-Conformity

How to Earn Free Hotel Stay Certificates Every Year


Hotel stays should be part of your travel strategy even if you don’t usually stay in hotels. Just as you should earn airline miles in a few different programs (usually one in each of the three alliances), so too should you earn hotel points from a few different sources.

Last year during the “Make Your Dream Trip a Reality” course, we featured an interview with Drew and Carrie Macomber, a couple who travels the world and lives full-time in hotels. They aren’t the only ones who do this, but the way they do it is very impressive. In short: they are extremely frugal, living on something like $25,000 a year, yet most of the time the hotels they stay in are quite nice.

Their whole story is interesting and well worth studying for anyone interested in travel hacking.

I often write about the Chase Sapphire Preferred and other credit cards that help you earn airline miles. This post features hotel cards that can help you stay for free like Drew and Carrie (and like me, except I’m not as frugal as them and I don’t live full-time in hotels).

If you’re not immersed in this world, you may not realize that some hotel cards offer both an initial signup bonus and an annual renewal bonus that usually comes in the form of more free points or nights. This is a great way to earn points or free stays immediately, and then continue earning them year after year.

Lastly, if you can’t get credit cards and are willing to put in some effort, there’s another way to get free stays—skip to the bottom for that.

The Best Opportunities

Note: some of these references include affiliate links and others don’t. I always try to recommend the best available offers, regardless of any personal benefit—and for the affiliate offers, if you prefer you can always apply directly through the bank.


Grand Hyatt Washington, DC

Earn 60,000 IHG Points (Up to 10 Nights!)

Link: IHG Rewards Club Select MasterCard

This card offers a great initial signup bonus and a free annual night (valid at any property) every year you remain a cardmember.

Initial bonus: 60,000 points
Annual bonus: One free night, valid at any property worldwide
Annual fee: $0 the first year, then $49

Hyatt Indian Wells

Hyatt Indian Wells

Earn Two Free Hyatt Nights Anywhere

Link: The Hyatt Credit Card

Unfortunately for me, there’s no affiliate link for this card, but I have it myself and continue to recommend it almost every day as a great entry-point to free stays. It’s definitely a keeper.

Initial bonus: Two Free Hyatt Nights Anywhere (!)
Annual bonus: Free Night at a Category 1-4 property
Annual fee: $0 the first year, then $75


Hilton Malta

Earn a Free Hilton Weekend Night

Link: Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card

Another non-affiliate link for a card that I recommend all the time. Overall the IHG and Hyatt offers are slightly more valuable, but this one is good, too

Initial bonus: 2 Weekend Night Certificates
Annual bonus: Free Weekend Night every year you spend $10,000 or more on the card.
Annual fee: $95

Weekend nights are valid for check-in on Friday through Sunday nights, at any property subject to availability. I usually use mine at the Sydney Hilton (before moving over to the Park Hyatt), although recently I stayed at the New York Hilton and also liked it.

It shouldn’t be difficult to get $200-300 value out of this card every year, which more than justifies the annual fee.


Bathroom at Park Hyatt Istanbul

Earn Stays and Nights Toward Your Starwood Elite Status

Link: Starwood Preferred Guest (Personal)

Link: Starwood Preferred Guest (Business)

This card has a lower signup bonus than some cards, yet I end up using it as my go-to card for most spending that isn’t dining or travel (which goes to my Chase Sapphire Preferred for double points). This is because SPG points are transferrable to many different airline partners, usually with a 25% bonus, and they’re also great for hotel stays.

Note that there are two versions, personal and business. You can get both, and each one will give you stay and night credits toward elite status. Some people keep one for long-term use, then get the other for the additional signup bonus, then canceling the second one before the annual fee comes due at the end of the year.

Initial bonus: 25,000 points (enough for at least one stay, and potentially more)
Annual fee: $0 the first year, then $95 (the same for each card)
Annual bonus: Earn 4 stay credits and 5 night credits toward elite status


Earn Starwood Elite Status Right Away

Link: The Platinum Card from American Express

Initial bonus: 40,000 points
Annual fee: $450

This card is expensive and doesn’t come with an annual hotel bonus. So why is it here? Mostly because of the additional travel benefits it provides. Among other things, it includes complimentary Starwood Gold status, as well as a Priority Pass membership that can be used for airline lounge access worldwide.

I spent at least three years looking at this card before finally making the leap and applying for it myself. I’ve had it for more than two years now, and I’m still satisfied with the value.


General Tips & Principles

These tips are universal and can help you regardless of which hotel properties you prefer or where you choose to travel.

1. Use your certificates wisely!

If the certificate is valid for a free stay throughout the entire network of properties, use it for an aspirational, expensive property.

This should be common sense, but I have no doubt there are people who redeem an IHG annual night at a Holiday Inn Express that costs $59 a night. I suppose that’s better than letting it go to waste, but with a tiny amount of planning, you can probably do better. The Intercontinental London Park Lane regularly costs $400-600 a night, for example. Lesson: pay for the Holiday Inn Express, use the certificate at the Intercontinental.

2. Make renewal decisions based on the value of the free item compared to what you pay to keep the card.

Again, I’m happy to pay $49-79 a year to keep something that I can use for $500 in value. But even if using a more conservative estimate (say $200-250 a night), it’s still worth it.

If you don’t see yourself using it at all, of course, then you probably won’t want to keep a particular card. Always do what’s best for you and your situation.

3. Can’t get cards at all, or just have more time? Use the “Best Rate Guarantee” to get stays that are completely free and don’t require cards.

This is a big topic, so I’ll do another post about this at some point. For now, check out Drew and Carrie’s detailed rundown on it. Basically, it’s a way where if you can do some research and find discrepancies in hotel pricing, some hotel chains will give you the room for free. Drew is the master of this and regularly stays for weeks at a time using this strategy.


Just as Frequent Flyer miles help you fly, hotel points can help you stay. Even if you prefer Airbnb, Couchsurfing, camping, or some other alternative form of lodging, most people find that it’s still nice to have a hotel option once in a while. This post can make that happen—have fun!


Images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

by Chris Guillebeau at February 09, 2016 12:49 AM

Natural Running Center

Warm-up, Cool-down and Injury Treatment

By Dr. Steve Gangemi In the final part of SockDoc Stop Mindless Stretching series, we focus now on Stretching as Warm-Up and Injury Prevention. Stretching should not be the sole activity performed during a warm-up before or cool-down after your movement (or exercise) program. Should it be a part of your routine at all? Most of us […]

by NickP at February 09, 2016 12:40 AM

Workout: Feb. 9, 2016

Workout 11.4 As many rounds as possible in 10 minutes of: 60 bar-facing burpees 30 overhead squats (120/90 lb.) 10 muscle-ups

by Mike at February 09, 2016 12:29 AM

Karen De Coster

Harley-Davidson Malinvestment. Is a Harley-Davidson Skyscraper Next?

As a Harley-Davidson lover and owner, one thing I noted during the bubble years of the early-to-mid 2000s was the influx of mega-gaudy Harley-Davidson complexes – huge, new, brick buildings with massive square footage, casting an immense footprint on pricey, suburban land. Harleys were flying out of the door of these dealerships, thanks to ultra-low (or no) interest rates and other monetary policy interventions. I watched folks turn around one-or-two-year-old Harleys for new ones, on impulse, like they were buying a pack of gum. The company’s finance arm, Harley-Davidson Financial services (HDFS), was chasing subprime borrowers who liked to overspend on toys they couldn’t afford. This careless lending led HD to take on a huge subprime portfolio, and as a result, the company booked a $6.3M write-down because of default rates.

The good times went on for years until 2007-2008 came upon us and a financial meltdown and prolonged recession forced consumers to stop spending money they didn’t have. The HD dealers were hurting, and the company spiraled in 2009. Twenty+ HD dealers closed in 2009, the company dropped its Buell line, and it laid off workers. 2009 financial results for Harley-Davidson show the following:

- Revenue down $1B from 2008
- Income decreased year-over-year from $684M (2008) to $70M (2009)
- An earnings per share drop of 89% from 2008
- A 4th quarter loss of $147M
- In the 4th quarter 2009, HD shipped 20,000 motorcycles in the US, compared to 57,000 in the same quarter in 2008.

Everyone in the HD world was so heavily over-expanded that when the meltdown became manifest, the company’s margin was being eroded by its massive fixed costs attached to that very expansion activity.

The problem HD faced was that consumers need discretionary income to buy $15k+ motorcycles, expensive accessories, and desirable, overpriced clothing, but the company’s buyers were losing their ability to borrow and spend on non-essentials. In 2008, Americans in some sectors were still consuming, refusing to believe that the meltdown was anything more than a temporary blip in their spending frenzy. By 2009, it became obvious to the average consumer that the party was over. A chart in the WSJ shows Harley-Davidson hit its peak pre-bubble bust in 2006-2007, with the bottom falling out in 2009.



Roll forward to 2016. HD reported a 43% decline in 4th quarter 2015 profit (from the 4th quarter 2014) after a relatively unremarkable first three quarters of 2015. The company announced, in January, that it was rolling back its shipment forecast for 2016. HD stock also lost 30% of its value in 2015. And just last week Harley-Davidson announced another stock buyback, and that is on top of the repurchase authorization its Board approved in June 2015. Moody’s had deemed the June 2015 share repurchase a “credit negative event,” however, there was no credit rating action taken against the company. The graph below shows HD’s 12-month stock chart and its precipitous decline.


Crain’s Detroit just did a story on a local HD dealer, Motor City Harley-Davidson, and its project to construct a new 106,00 square foot facility in Farmington Hills, MI, a suburb of Detroit. The ostentatious complex will include a brew pub, gourmet market, outdoor movie theatre, and a riding academy. And this is in spite of the company’s late 2015 financial performance, sagging market indicators, and the company’s revised forecast numbers. Due to all of the above, I am therefore seeing Harley as a honking bubble risk that may go boom, especially in light of its stock buyback frenzy.

motor city hd


by Karen De Coster at February 09, 2016 12:28 AM

February 08, 2016

SSH through jump hosts, revisited

Close to 7 years ago, I wrote about SSH through jump hosts. Twice. While the method used back then still works, Openssh has grown an new option in version 5.3 that allows it to be simplified a bit, by not using nc.

So here is an updated rule, version 2016:

Host *+*
ProxyCommand ssh -W $(echo %h | sed 's/^.*+//;s/^\([^:]*$\)/\1:22/') $(echo %h | sed 's/+[^+]*$//;s/\([^+%%]*\)%%\([^+]*\)$/\2 -l \1/;s/:\([^:+]*\)$/ -p \1/')

The syntax you can use to connect through jump hosts hasn’t changed compared to previous blog posts:

  • With one jump host:
    $ ssh login1%host1:port1+host2:port2 -l login2
  • With two jump hosts:
    $ ssh login1%host1:port1+login2%host2:port2+host3:port3 -l login3
  • With three jump hosts:
    $ ssh login1%host1:port1+login2%host2:port2+login3%host3:port3+host4:port4 -l login4
  • etc.

Logins and ports can be omitted.

Update: Add missing port to -W flag when one is not given.

by glandium at February 08, 2016 11:10 PM


The State of Information Visualization, 2016


Oh hello, new year! I almost didn’t see you there! Lots of interesting things happened last year: Dear Data, deceptive visualization, storytelling research, new tools and ideas, etc. And this year is already shaping up to be quite strong, too.

Dear Data

Perhaps the most exciting project of 2015 was Dear Data by Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec. They are both designers, and they decided to collect data and send each other postcards with hand-drawn visualizations based on that every week. The topic is also a different one every week, and they’re often very personal. It’s a unique and very different project, with a lot of creativity in the ways data is displayed.

Somewhat related, there was a great paper at EuroVis last year on data sketching, drawing data by hand. Tools are clearly helpful when dealing with data, but they also tend to shape the things people do with them – they make some things easier than others, and obviously always have limitations. Sketching allows for more thinking outside the box and more creativity.

Peeking Outside Academic Vis

Academic visualization research can be trapped inside a bubble and not deal with issues people actually encounter out in the world. That is why I really liked the work on deceptive visualizations. It put some science behind issues that some people are aware of, but that so far have mostly been based on assumptions and hearsay. Do cropped bars mislead? Does inverting an axis make a difference? Is aspect ratio important?

The point was not so much that the results were surprising (for the most part, they weren’t), but that these things were actually tested rather than just stated as fact. It still amazes me how many things we simply take for granted in visualization without questioning them – and when we finally do, we find that they’re not based on actual research.

Along similar lines, Drew Skau and I looked at bar chart embellishments common in infographics and found that some of them aren’t that problematic – though some clearly are. Again, the point here being actual science rather than just assumptions.

The Birth and Death of Tools

One of the big issues in data visualization is cleaning data and wrangling it into a shape that can then be used in a visualization tool. Trifacta Wrangler is a great tool for that, and it’s free to use (with some size limitations, though they’re quite generous).

I recently heard somebody describe his work as “Living in the Hadleyverse” – a reference to Hadley Wickham and his untiring efforts to create better tools for both data analysis and visualization in R. Between ggplot, dplyr, and the up-and-coming ggvis, R is getting very powerful support to deal with large datasets, talk directly to databases, and create interactive visualizations for the web.

Sadly, last year also saw the death of Many Eyes. While not exactly a surprise after years of neglect, it did mean the end of the first really successful and widely used web-based visualization platforms. Many Eyes was not just a collection of tools, they were also ambitious about doing research and pushing the envelope on things like text visualization and figuring out user preferences. Alas, IBM did not seem to see the value and finally folded the project into Watson Analytics late last year.

In the process, they did release Brunel, a language for creating visualizations on the web based on the Grammar of Graphics. This had originally been developed as the new technology to power Many Eyes, under the name RAVE. I’m not sure if Brunel has any chance of catching on, given the popularity of D3. But it appears to be an interesting piece of technology.

Storytelling Research

I’m actually writing this while attending a seminar on Data-Driven Storytelling at Schloss Dagstuhl. There are 40 people here, with a good number of journalists and designers mixed into the usual group of academics. That such a seminar can happen is a sign that storytelling in visualization is here to stay.

This isn’t quite reflected in the papers at IEEE VIS or EuroVis yet, but I expect that to change this year. Oddly, the conference that had an entire session on storytelling last year was CHI – even though that is not a core visualization conference. The entire visualization track there was pretty strong.

I was one of the authors of the paper on ISOTYPE at CHI, and also the almost-published one on the connected scatterplot. I also wrote about presentation-oriented visualization techniques.

The Year Ahead

On the academic side, I expect to see a lot more work storytelling at the conferences, hopefully enough to finally get entire sessions. There is a lot of energy here at Dagstuhl right now, and many topics and issues to tackle. My hope is also that we can involve practitioners in this work more than we usually do.

A big driver of data visualization in the news will be the elections in the U.S. in November. There will be polls, predictions, lots of data-centric news stories, and just generally a fever pitch of data presentation. Exciting times!

by Robert Kosara at February 08, 2016 10:05 PM

Karen De Coster

Familiar Utterances: Zero Chance of Recession

In the Wall Street Journal on February 4th, David Rosenberg, chief economist for Gluskin Sheff & Associates, a Canadian wealth management firm, was quoted as such:

I put the odds of a U.S. recession in the next year as close to zero as anything could be close to zero.

Today, Mish Shedlock points out that the service economy is slowing and key industries that have provided job growth are now contracting. In fact, Mish thinks that the recession began in the 4th quarter of 2015.

by Karen De Coster at February 08, 2016 10:04 PM


We Can’t Say He Didn’t Warn Us

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” (Matthew 7:15)

Night of the HunterWe can’t say he didn’t warn us.

I was struck by that thought as I was watching the opening of the classic, 1955 Southern Gothic film The Night of the Hunter the other night. The film opens with a saintly, older Sunday School teacher Rachel Cooper (played by Lillian Gish), reading these verses to her children, then leads into the story of Rev. Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum), a melodramatic huckster, traveling preacher who makes a habit of ingratiating himself with widows, killing them, and using the money to further his ministry to the Lord.  I won’t go into the film, at length, but I’ll simply say that it’s one of the most brilliant explorations of true and false religion in modern times.

Back to Jesus, though, I find it fascinating that he goes out of his way to tell us that false teachers are coming. And it’s not like he was the only one, either. In many ways, he was just following the warning of the Old Testament Law and Prophets that warned against false, abusive religion. What’s more, he was echoed this warning by most of the apostles in the New Testament letters–correcting false teachers was about half of what they seemed to spend their time doing. So the Bible is thick with warnings about the distortion and corruption of religion truth for power and gain.

And yet despite all that material and some 2,000 years of Christian history to confirm it, we’re still surprised when it happens. We’re shocked at false religion. We’re astonished to hear about the abuses of power that happens in the church up the street. We turn on the TV and we’re outraged at the way so many of these televangelists are out there fleecing people for all their worth, leading them astray with all sorts of blatantly absurd heresies and false teachings. We still have trouble heeding Christ’s warning.

Commenting on Jesus’ warning here, Calvin gives us two helpful insights on what it means to “beware of false prophets.”

These words were intended to teach, that the Church would be exposed to various impositions, and that consequently many would be in danger of falling from the faith, if they were not carefully on their guard. We know what a strong propensity men have to falsehood, so that they not only have a natural desire to be deceived, but each individual appears to be ingenious in deceiving himself. Satan, who is a wonderful contriver of delusions, is constantly laying snares to entrap ignorant and heedless persons.

Essentially, where there’s a demand, there’s usually a supply. There are false teachers–and an abundance of them–because there are false hearers. Something in us loves to be lied to. As Calvin says there is a “strong propensity” in humanity to accept what false–we have a “natural desire to deceived.”

This isn’t very groundbreaking, but the point is that some part of us actually wants to believe in the prosperity gospel. It’s attractive to me. And so, for that reason I ought to be on guard against temptations in my own heart that render me prone to believe false teachers. I am not above being deceived and, in many ways, am prone to complicity with deceivers. I am not above this.


Second, to the discouraged, Calvin offers a surprising word of comfort:

Hence too we infer, that there is no reason why believers should be discouraged or alarmed, when wolves creep into the fold of Christ, when false prophets endeavor to corrupt the purity of the faith by false doctrines. They ought rather to be aroused to keep watch: for it is not without reason that Christ enjoins them to be on their guard. Provided that we are not led astray through our own sluggishness, we shall be able to avoid every kind of snares; and, indeed, without this confidence, we would not have the courage necessary for being on our guard.

Commentary on Matthew 7:15

The presence of false teachers in the church doesn’t threaten to disconfirm the truth. Nor should we be worried that the church will be overcome because of it. As Calvin notes elsewhere in the passage, Christ has promised to preserve his church and his sheep will recognize the voice of their master (John 10:3-5). No, instead of discouraging us, this ought to put us on our guard. Indeed, Christ himself puts us on guard against those who would pervert his work. This warning is actually part of how he cares for us and confirms his lordship to us.

Actually, this is one of those important apologetic points to preachers ought to regularly remind their people of: many of us are often tempted to chuck the whole thing because of the repeated failures we see among religious leaders and within the Church as a whole. We see it as proof that the whole thing’s a sham, a joke, a set-up. And yet here we see that Christ himself says that Christianity will be twisted. So how is that evidence against it, when the founding documents of the New Testament say its going to happen?

In any case, to wrap up, when we run across false teaching and are threatened with discouragement and despair, we should take heart. Jesus warned us this was coming, so we can trust him to bring us through it.

Soli Deo Gloria

by Derek Rishmawy at February 08, 2016 09:46 PM

Upgrade #75: You Are Terrible to Sick People →

This week, with Myke on sick leave, I joined Jason Snell to talk about Apple's first-party apps, the future of the Mac and VR pizza.


by Stephen Hackett at February 08, 2016 07:11 PM

John C. Wright's Journal

Signal Boost: Press Conference with Roosh

This little bit of film is the single most appalling thing I have seen all year. The reporters are liars.

In case someone does not know what I find appalling, here is a transcript of the so called reporter’s so-called questions.

The reporters are liars.

Please note what is missing. None of the questions are requests for additional information about the who, what, why and wherefore of what happened. All of them are rhetorical questions, staking out a rhetorical position and making an editorial point.

The reporters are liars.

In other words, in professional terms, this is what I, when I was an editor of a newspaper, would have called pure bullshit, a lame and obvious attempt to put across a political editorial, not a legitimate press conference. If any of my reporters had tried to pull this kind of stunt, they would have been fired before the end of the day, or I would have quit.

The reporters are liars.

Roosh: “What happened in Cologne on New Years Eve? What happened in Cologne? Who can tell me what happened there?”

Media: silence

At one point, an asinine reporter girl tries to play ‘gotcha’ with him by claiming the legal definition of rape is sex without consent, and then arguing that having sex with drunk girls means that they did not consent, hence is rape. This point is brought up more than once, as if the zombies cannot understand why the chump is not uttering the expected straight line to allow them to savage him.

Reporter: So you don’t agree that that is a legal definition of rape?

Roosh: I don’t think that they are being honest.

Reporter: If they were?

Roosh: If they were, look man I’m not a lawyer.

I am a lawyer. Having sex with a drunk woman is not rape. Blackstone defines rape as “carnal knowledge of a woman forcibly and against her will” (p. 210)

In some cases, sex with an unconscious woman is rape, if the surrounding circumstances show it to be with force and against her will.

That is not the legal definition of rape, not in any jurisdiction where I have been licenses to practice law (three) and not in any case I have ever read (three year’s worth).

The reporters are liars. Notice that they are arguing with him, not asking him questions.

That is what I find appalling. Why do even one of these propaganda-peddlers disguised as reporters have a job? Why haven’t they been tarred and feathered, or run out of town on a rail?

The reporters are liars.

Why  does no one see who these people are, these pretend newsmen?

The reporters are liars.

The Jihad is not the enemy. They only have power because the Democrat party aids and abets and sustains them. The Democrat party is not the enemy. They only have power because a majority of the American people are addicted to foolishness. The American people are not the enemy. They are addicted to folly only because a pusher has addicted them.

That pusher is the media. They are the enemy.

The reporters are liars.

Notice what else is missing. The so called reporters asking questions had not taken the five minutes it would take to read the column Roosh write which started the furor. Only one person in the room had written anything he wrote.

How can this be? How could any reporter expect to do his job, or keep his job, without doing the least tiniest of the the homework he needs to do to do his job? Why even go to a press conference when you have no idea who the person is you will be interviewing? Again, back in the day, if any of my writers had pulled this stunt, they would be given a pink slip before the sun set.

Answer: it is impossible for a reporter to report the news without doing his research. It is IMPOSSIBLE for reporters this ill equipped to do their jobs to do their jobs.

Then why did none of them do their homework?

Answer: Reporting the news is not their job.

Their job is promoting a worldview. Their job is selling a narrative. Their job is banishing truth and discouraging curiosity. Their job is killing brain cells.

Their job is being liars. They tell lies for pay.

Every harlot and whore who sells her body for money to men who hate her is less degraded and demeaned of her immortal soul than are these vermin of the press. At least with a whore, if you pay to copulate, she performs the services contracted of her. These vermin pretend to be members of the press, and to report the news.

They are the opposite. They suppress the news. They are the servants of the Empire of Lies.

Let me close with a quote from my fellow science fiction writer and journalist, George Orwell.

A message to English left-wing journalists and intellectuals generally: ‘Do remember that dishonesty and cowardice always have to be paid for. Don’t imagine that for years on end you can make yourself the boot-licking propagandist of the Soviet regime, or any other regime, and then suddenly return to mental decency. Once a whore, always a whore.’


by John C Wright at February 08, 2016 05:40 PM

Daniel Lemire's blog

Imagining the future trumps intelligence…

Whenever I meet young people, I alway stress how their future will be very different from the present.

To anyone who lived through the first Great War (1914-1918), they would have thought that the Second World War, if it were to happen, would be quite similar in nature. But, in fact, nothing of the sort happened. The first Great War saw the soldiers stuck in place in dirty holes for years… the Second World War saw soldiers literally running forward (or away) on the battlefield.

Importantly, the strategies that worked well in 1916 were totally obsolete by 1940. The difference between 1916 and 1940 is obvious to anyone who studies history. It should be equally obvious that the difference between 2016 and 2040 is going to much larger.

This means that whatever strategies you have today are going to be called into question in the next 25 years in radical ways. If you plan on doing the same things for next 25 years, you are planning to be a fool.

The Nazis were not smarter than the rest of Europe, but, as far as warfare went, they were able to out-innovate their competitors in a radical manner. The Nazis were able to invade entire countries in hours… not months or weeks, hours…

Progress is at least an order of magnitude faster in 2016 than it was in 1916… So the difference between 2016 and 2040 is probably going to feel more like the difference between 1916 and 1990.

I am never worried about my kids lacking intelligence, but I am often concerned when I see that they can’t imagine the future being different… If you are unable to imagine the future, how are you going to contribute toward inventing it?

by Daniel Lemire at February 08, 2016 05:16 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

2016-02-08 Emacs News

Links from, /r/orgmode, Hacker News,, Youtube, EmacsWiki:RecentChanges, the Emacs commit log, the changes to the Emacs NEWS file, and emacs-devel.

Past Emacs News round-ups

The post 2016-02-08 Emacs News appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at February 08, 2016 05:04 PM

Justin Taylor

David Powlison: “Depression and Suffering: Finding Hope and Healing for Ourselves and Others”

David Powlison, executive director of CCEF, gave a public talk at RTS Charlotte on January 18, 2016, addressing the topic of depression and suffering, offering counsel on finding hope and healing for ourselves and others.

You can watch it below:

Here is a brief outline of the talk:

1. Katharina von Schlegel, “Be Still, My Soul”

2. Five Questions on the Experience of Depression

  • Is “depression” the best word to use?
  • Is the experience essentially biological?
  • Is the experience essentially sinful?
  • What are the various factors that can come into play in this experience?
  • If there is no neat explanation or simple fix, then where is our point of contact for understanding this experience?

3. Psalm 25 and the Questions Strugglers Face

  • “Do I need help?”
  • “Do I trust you?”
  • “Will I be honest with you?”
  • “Do you understand me?”
  • “Will I consider what you say to me?”
  • “Will I take to heart what you say?”
  • “Will I act?”
  • “Will I persevere?”

4. The Heart of People Helping People: 2 Corinthians 1:4

  • The surprise of humility
  • The surprise of caring
  • The surprise of good questions
  • The surprise of careful listening
  • The surprise of relevance
  • The surprise of grace
  • The surprise of small obediences
  • The surprise of patient process

5. Edith Cherry, “We Rest on Thee”

For more resources on Christians battling depressions, go here.

by Justin Taylor at February 08, 2016 04:21 PM

Front Porch Republic

The Deep and Discomforting Point of Populism (and Socialism, and Certain Sorts of Conservatism Too)

[Cross-posted to In Medias Res]

Over the weekend, a friend of mine shared an article which had joined in the Hillary Clinton-Bernie Sanders fight, a fight which may come to an end tomorrow in New Hampshire, but probably won’t. The title of the piece is “Bernie Sanders Doesn’t Know Diddly-Squat About Wall Street” (a claim which, from the author’s limited perspective, is undoubtedly true), and it acknowledges the truth of great many of the critiques of Wall Street’s behavior over the past decade which are being made by both the Clinton and Sanders camps. But the article’s overall critical aim is clear:

It is unconscionable that Wall Street’s compensation system continues to reward bankers, traders, and executives to take big risks with other people’s money in hopes of getting big year-end bonuses…But Sanders never talks about the compensation system on Wall Street. In fact, he rarely mentions anything concrete at all. Instead, he dwells on bizarre and nebulous notions such as imposing “a tax on Wall Street speculation”….The candidate’s website does not really flesh out the idea, other than to say that the tax “will reduce risky and unproductive high-speed trading and other forms of Wall Street speculation.” If one goes back to a bill that Sanders introduced in the Senate last May, there is slightly more meat on these bones; still, the proposed legislation seems to have very little to do with actually taxing “Wall Street speculation” and more to do with taxing every trading transaction–the buying and selling of stocks and bonds and derivatives–that Wall Street and hedge funds engage in. This, of course, makes no sense whatsoever–why tax the very behavior the system depends upon?

In other words, there are clearly bad actors on Wall Street, so why on earth would someone want to burden the whole system of Wall Street, as opposed to doing something to simply target those bad actors? The idea that Wall Street itself–or at least the high-end, high-speed, huge-money, overfinancialized skewing of it over the past few decades–might be the problem here simply never crosses the author’s mind.

Let me expand on this somewhat discomforting point a little–discomforting because honest populists and socialists (and Sanders, though a career politician, is at least a little more honest than most) know that we are all far more affected by Wall Street practices than we’d like to admit. Indeed, we are all so affected by (and implicated in, and dependent upon) it that excavating the actual moral ideal at work in nearly all actually populist and socialist–as opposed to liberal egalitarian and redistributive–ideas is difficult, even though almost anyone who really thinks about it knows the point is there. Our profound inarticulateness over this point is owed, I think, to the fact that most modern leftism is bereft of the moral language which once animated anti-capitalist arguments generally, and thus those who advocate it–as Sanders does, however inconsistently–find it difficult to say what, on some deep and inchoate level, they clearly want to say. It is a point that, to their perverse credit, clear-eyed libertarian, propertarian, and other Lockean thinkers often recognize and put at the front in their attacks on actually socialistic ideas; some of them really delight in mocking their opponents for it, and those opponents fulminate usually rather hopelessly, because they believe in what they’re saying but they’re not entirely sure just what they’re saying actually means.

What point am I getting at here? To be curt, it’s simply this: “why tax the very behavior the system depends upon,” you ask? Easy. Because us populists and leftists and other vaguely socialistic types actually don’t like the system we’re all affected by, dependent upon, and implicated in, and consequently want it to do less of what it does. A financial transaction tax may have a variety of revenue-raising and redistributive pluses and minuses, but from a genuine populist/socialist perspective its greatest effect will probably be to simply make it at least slightly less likely that something we don’t like will be done. Both populism and socialism (and local traditionalism or distributism or what-have-you) can refer to a huge range of economic possibilities, but in the post-WWII, post-Cold War, globalized world, they both–whether their proponents realize it or not–basically mean the same thing: the elite generation and manipulation and moving around financial wealth has gone far enough. There ought to be less of it.

What would it mean for the Wall Street system (or, again, mainly the one which has emerged over the past generation or so) itself to see less activity? For taking on risk and collaterizing debt themselves to be seen as a less attractive means of generating capital? Well, as the article correctly points out, it would mean less absolute wealth would be generated overall (but that would also mean less inequality). It would mean investment would be less incentivized (but so would less ruinous speculation). It would mean less capital mobility (but that would also mean less community disruption). Thoughtful and compassionate liberals of all sorts, if they can be led to see clearly what exactly is being argued about here (which is not easily done), are rightly bemused or even infuriated by this idea: I mean, if you can tame the system so as to retain its advantages and generate enough surplus to pay for social programs that ameliorate its structural harms, why on earth would you want to do something that actually burdens the system itself? From Keynes to Krugman (though, to be fair, Krugman was once more willing to give a financial transaction tax some consideration) all these smart folk just look at the socialists, populists, and localists, confused and weirded out by such proposals. And since the language of sustainability and labor and community and other collective moral goods has mostly been in the ash heap for the past century, responding in any way which is actually comprehensible isn’t very easy.

That lack of comprehension is a function of our times, of course. A century ago, the moral and communitarian–that is, the conservative (or as I prefer to call it, the “left conservative“–case against socially disruptive, collectively disempowering, but admittedly damn productive capitalist growth was pretty obvious, though by no means broadly accepted. William Jennings Bryan, the most nationally prominent spokesperson for this kind of more democratic, less banker and investor-friendly, more producer-oriented (and thus, inevitably, more localist and agrarian than urban and industrialist) vision of market economics, ran for the presidency–and lost–three times. The parallels between Bryan and Sanders are interesting, to say the least–among others, you can see in the complicated squabbles over whether Sanders counts as a “real” socialist the same sort of disputes over whether Bryan, in accepting the Democratic party’s nomination in 1896, was selling out the Populist cause. And, of course, there’s the argument that if Sanders actually manages the ridiculously unlikely feat of snatching the nomination away from Clinton, that he’d both be soundly defeated and will have forced class-conscious real changes into the Democratic party, as Bryan’s nomination in 1896 (and 1900, and 1908), helped make it possible for progressives like Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt to win the party’s support later on. But mostly, I think, those similarities are overshadowed by a major difference: Bryan, and all sorts of other populists and socialists (and even some actual traditionalists) a century ago, could recognize that certain types of, and certain amounts of, capitalist growth were just socially bad, however many individuals such transactions may financially reward. Bad because they create inequality and division; bad because they encourage radical individualism and cultural fragmentation; bad because, well, to be frank, the whole Christian tradition has mostly opposed them. And while Sanders has shown himself more than capable of quoting scripture and popes when it suits him, he lacks the civil religion substance that could give the form of his anti-capitalist democratic socialism some real, populist, moral weight.

None of which is relevant to the author of the article in question, because there’s no indication that he’s cognizant of these questions of morality, community, and sustainability either. And let’s give Sanders some credit: if you actually believe (as I do) that our market economy ought to be informed by, and even regulated by, greater collective concerns and democratic controls and moral limits than contemporary capitalism tolerates, than Sanders anti-Wall Street talk at least partakes of the shape of the reforms we need. And at the level of the presidency–or, more realistically, at the level of the kind of highly symbolic exchanges over political possibilities which a presidential nomination contest makes possible–being able to get clear on just what the (admittedly somewhat discomforting) point and the shape of one’s differing economic visions are is no small blessing at all.

The post The Deep and Discomforting Point of Populism (and Socialism, and Certain Sorts of Conservatism Too) appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by Russell Arben Fox at February 08, 2016 03:35 PM

Crossway Blog

How to Do Family Worship with Young Kids

This is post is adapted from Family Worship by Donald S. Whitney. Sign up for a free, 5-day email course on leading family worship at

What If the Children Are Very Young?

Several specific situations commonly prompt questions about the feasibility of family worship. One such “But what if . . . ?” relates to having young children.

In this case, you may need to exercise an extra measure of both discipline and patience. Part of the discipline may be to teach them to stay in a certain place—such as by their mother, or in a particular spot—and to be quiet during the few moments of family worship. Part of the patience required is persevering with the practice of family worship even when the children don’t stay in place or remain quiet.

Most children want to play and not to pay attention during family worship, at least not for very long. Since young children cannot concentrate or understand at the same level as older children, families whose children are all quite small should aim for only a very short time of family worship. As much as possible, accommodate what you read and what you sing to their ages. At the very least, in these fast, growing years you will begin to make lasting impressions upon them about the habit and the value of family worship in your home.

So even if you have a child who is fifteen months old and doesn’t even know what you are saying, be assured that the child is learning. If we could put his or her infant thoughts into adult language, they might be something like this: I don’t know what it is we do here every night—Dad reads things I don’t understand from a big book, then everyone closes their eyes and talks, and after that everyone sings (I like that part)— but whatever it is, it must be important, because we do it every night.

In other words, even when a child cannot grasp the content of what you read, pray, and sing, at the very least the child is beginning to learn that family worship is an important part of the rhythm of your day. Not only that, the child will also grow up believing that family worship is a normal part of life in the home, and as an adult won’t need a book like this one to teach him or her about the priority of family worship or how to conduct it.

Through discipline and patience, you’ll establish a treasured tradition for your family which may continue for generations.

Donald S. Whitney is professor of biblical spirituality and associate dean at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He has written several books related to Christian spirituality, including Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Praying the Bible, and Family Worship. Don blogs regularly at

by Crossway at February 08, 2016 03:26 PM

RSS Sponsorship: Obscura →

There's always a better camera than the one you have with you.

Obscura is the simplest, most comfortable way to take great photos. Obscura's controls are always within in easy reach of your thumb, as are tasteful filters that make getting the perfect photo quick and easy. And with the latest update, Obscura now (finally) supports the iPad too!

Obscura has everything you'd expect from a pro camera app, like custom exposure controls, grids and a spirit level. But Obscura goes even further with unique features like a unique way of locking settings, and focus peaking.

Obscura has been on my homescreen for a while now, and has become my go-to camera app. It's fast, fun and powerful. Go check it out.


by Stephen Hackett at February 08, 2016 03:00 PM

CrossFit 204 Massacre Events

Events will be added to this page as they are released. Event 2 – Barbell complex Squat clean + hang clean + 1 lunge per leg + 1 jerk Teams will have 10 minutes total for each member to register a score. One athlete will lift at a time. Lifters may make as many attempts […]

by Mike at February 08, 2016 01:48 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

On scattered moments and video games

In anticipation of more fuzzy-brain time-confetti, I’ve been thinking about what I can do with short, scattered moments. The considerations are:

  • They should be activities that I can pick up and put down at a moment’s notice: minimal switching costs and easy availability
  • They should be useful or enjoyable, and ideally both
  • Ideally, they should build up over time

Here’s a list of things I often find myself doing:

  • Reading: nonfiction, fiction, random Internet browsing. Dusted off my Kindle and loaded it up with a few tech manuals and some fanfiction. Great for walking around, since I can use the page buttons even with gloves on.
  • Tidying up or preparing: there’s always something that needs to be done
  • Checking out the Emacs community to see if I can answer a quick question or learn from other people’s conversations
  • Drawing an index card or two
  • Playing casual games

I think games are worth thinking about a little more, even though I’m tempted to focus on the more useful activities. There are a lot of people who spend a lot of time thinking about how to make gaming more engaging. It’s a big industry. I wonder if I can turn it to my own purposes.

2016-02-01c Game endings -- index card #gaming

2016-02-01c Game endings – index card #gaming.png

I tend to like games with stories that have funny moments, like RPGs or LEGO games. Since games like that tend to require space and development effort, I play them on the PSP or the PS3. I’ve learned I’m not a completionist when it comes to achievements or levels – I like passing a level, but I’m not driven to reach three out of three stars. I can enjoy open-ended sandbox simulations. Games that go until failure tend to be a little depressing after a while – the abstract achievement of lasting a certain time or reaching a certain level doesn’t tickle my brain the same way other things do.

2016-01-14d Thinking about games I liked -- index card #play #gaming #leisure

2016-01-14d Thinking about games I liked – index card #play #gaming #leisure.png

Reflecting on the specific games I’ve liked, I notice that I usually explore games that W-‘s also playing as a way of spending time together or sharing experiences. This is how I ended up getting into Borderlands 2 and Persona 4 Golden, and why I’m playing Final Fantasy IX now. On my own, I find that I’m a little partial to time- and resource-management games. I figure that among the popular games of those genres, a game is probably as good as any other. So I’m playing through Rising Star Chef on the tablet, and just for kicks (and Takei’s narration, although there’s far too little of that), Star Trek: Trexels on my phone.

It seems like most of the popular games have switched to a freemium model, with in-app purchases for the impatient. I find myself liking the built-in timers and rate limits, actually. They’re good for reminding me to surface from the game and look around. There’s a little bit of pride, too, in the thought: “Aha, I resist your feeble attempts to convince me to spend money.” But that’s only part of the picture, of course. I pay in time and attention, and often in exposure to advertisements. So if I’m going to do this, I want to make sure that I get what I want out of it.

Here are the pay-offs I think I’m getting from these games, and some alternatives if I want to play with those pay-offs.

2016-01-28c Playing with games -- index card #games

2016-01-28c Playing with games – index card #games.png

Games give me a sense of learning and a sense of progress, although they’re of arbitrary things. Games also deliberately build on the rush of intermittent rewards.

2016-02-01b Playing with my brain's failure modes -- index card #gaming

2016-02-01b Playing with my brain’s failure modes – index card #gaming.png

The most interesting benefit for me, though, is developing an awareness of how I think in different situations, while keeping things low-risk. Sometimes I catch myself getting flustered and messing up orders in the cooking game, or letting a party member get knocked out in FF9 because I was too distracted to pay attention to the health stats. (Trexels seems more like a virtual pet than anything else; it feels like it’s just a matter of time.) I like the way games make me think a few steps ahead, take risks, recover from mistakes, and deal with (or even celebrate) the inevitable failures.

So maybe a little more gaming, with built-in limits thanks to freemium timers and the pull of other things, mixed in with all these other ways to use scattered moments. Hmm…

The post On scattered moments and video games appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at February 08, 2016 01:00 PM

Table Titans

Tales: I Am Horse!

In my session last night I ran into an interesting situation involving some thugs, a Wizard, and a horse.
My party was returning to Neverwinter after having hunted down some Drow who'd kidnapped citizens of their home town. Spirits were high, and the Ranger rode ahead with the Wizard to duel a…

Read more

February 08, 2016 07:01 AM

Sealed Abstract

nanomsg postmortem and other stories

nanomsg was a once-bright alternative to ZeroMQ. The project had a lot going for it: It was a rewrite by the original author. It was a rewrite in C, and there were really solid technical arguments at the time why C was the right language It was MIT-licensed, which was more commercially friendly than LGPL […]

by Drew Crawford at February 08, 2016 06:27 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Pork, Chicken, and Witnessing to Your Muslim Neighbor

Article by: Mark Corbett

I thank God for the opportunity I had to live in a Muslim majority nation for 14 years. The Lord provided many opportunities to share the good news of Jesus Christ with my Muslim neighbors. 

Because God has given every image-bearer a conscience, your Muslim neighbor has a general sense that something in his heart needs to be fixed (Rom. 1:32). Most are deceived, however, into thinking they must save themselves. Like many of the Jews in Paul’s day, they’re seeking to establish their own righteousness (Rom. 10:2–3). 

Mark Corbett is pastor of Severn Baptist Church in Severn, North Carolina. With his wife, Hope, and their daughter, Joy, Mark lived overseas for 14 years where he often shared the truth and love of Christ with his neighbors.  You can read Mark’s blog or follow him on Facebook

by Mark Corbett at February 08, 2016 06:03 AM

Does Sin Cause Sickness?

Article by: Sam Allberry

A couple of years ago when I was preaching through the letter of James, a church member asked if we were going to be looking at “the dodgy bit at the end,” by which they meant these final verses of chapter 5:

Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.  Is anyone among you ill? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:13–16)

3 Things This Passage Can’t Mean

As with any “difficult” text, it helps to rule out what it can’t mean.

1. James isn’t describing the Roman Catholic practice of extreme unction, or last rites.

A careful look shows this can’t be what James has in mind. First, the confession James calls for is “to each other,” not to a particular leader or priestly figure (v. 16). Second, and more importantly, the passage gives the expectation that the sick individual will not die but rather recover (v. 15).

2. James isn’t talking about healing rallies or particular people having healing ministries.

For starters, the ministry James describes seems to take place in the sick person’s home—not at a rally or church meeting. Further, the initiative to receive ministry comes from the person suffering. They call for people to pray for them. And it’s run-of-the-mill elders who are called for, not some specially gifted “healer.” Whatever James is describing, he’s certainly not talking about a healing service. Further, James isn’t teaching that believing prayer will always lead to healing, since that doesn’t fit with the wider teaching of the Bible (for example, see 1 Tim. 5:23).

3. James isn’t describing only spiritual restoration.

Some have argued for an understanding of James 5 that does away with any suggestion of miraculous healing. The word James uses for “illness,” they argue, could mean “weakness,” and being “made well” could mean one is “strengthened.” Hence they will eventually be raised up (James 5:15)—that is, resurrected at the end of time. This reading is certainly possible, but I think it’s unlikely James has this in mind. While we want to avoid an unbiblical overemphasis on miraculous healing, it’s stretching the text to suggest there’s no mention of it here.

We can and should rule out these interpretations. This is helpful; for, as Sherlock Holmes often said to Watson, eliminate the impossible and what remains, however unlikely, must be the truth!

Connecting Sickness and Sin

It’s vital to understand the context in which this discussion of sickness and healing takes place. The pressing issues that occasioned the letter are spiritual drifting—James has called it “double-mindedness” and “spiritual adultery”—and the need to return to God in wholehearted faith. In chapter 5, James seems to identify sickness with sin, and healing with repentance:

The prayer offered . . . will make the sick person well [literally sosei, “saved”]. (5:15)

Confess your sins . . . so that you may be healed. (5:16)

Notice the results appear the “wrong way round” here: the sick person is saved, and the sinner is healed. Ordinarily, we’d expect the sick person to be healed and the sinner saved. But James is drawing a connection between the person’s sickness and their sin.

The New Testament urges great caution in making this sort of connection. In general, sickness is part and parcel of life in a broken and fallen world. It’s part of the fallout from our collective rebellion against God, and in that sense is indiscriminate (see John 9:1–3). But there are a few occasions in the New Testament where sickness results from sin. For example, Jesus warned the healed invalid: “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you” (John 5:14; cf. 1 Cor. 11:30). Instances of sin-prompted sickness are meant to provoke repentance, so the fatherly discipline can be lifted.

This makes sense of James’s instructions. In the context of enormous double-mindedness among God’s people, James urges the sick to call for the elders precisely because it may be a matter of spiritual discipline, where Christian leadership is required. The elders are then to pray for repentant sinner’s health to be restored. If the sickness is indeed divine discipline, it will be lifted; the sick person will be made well (James 5:15)—both in body and spirit.

Anointing with oil is an appropriate practice in such a situation, since anointing in Scripture symbolizes being set apart and consecrated to God—given over fully to him and his purposes. This is exactly what repentance should mean for the double-minded.

Again, we must be careful. Most sickness does not arise from personal sin, and Scripture cautions us against making glib connections between the two. We must make no assumptions. In certain contexts of collective double-mindedness, some sickness can be part of God’s disciplinary plan. It’s wise, then, to practice self-examination when we are sick. If and when we become aware of specific sins we haven’t been repenting of, it’s appropriate to involve our church elders in the way James outlines. Healing is not automatic, but—much more importantly—forgiveness is.

One-Another Ministry

There is another, broader application here. Confession and repentance involving church leaders will be necessary in some situations, but James also commends this as a “one another” ministry (James 5:16). Repentance is a church-family concern, and we are all involved. We each have a responsibility to one another in this area.

It’s essential, then, to have the kind of friendships where we can share our struggles. We need friends to whom we can confess major and persistent sin, and we need to be humble enough to do so. And we simply won’t be positioned for this unless we spend time cultivating meaningful, safe, open friendships with others in our covenant family.

Also, others must feel comfortable enough with us to confess their sins. Are you someone others find approachable? Are you known to be sensitive, gentle, and trustworthy? Would a friend at church be wise to share a painful and shameful sin with you? Would you know how to respond, and how to pray for them? Or would you excuse or belittle the sin, or condemn the confessor? If, as James instructs, we are to confess our sins to one another, we must do all we can to create a culture in our churches that makes this possible, so that it becomes a normal part of body life.

Editors’ note: This is an adapted excerpt from Sam Allberry’s new expository guide James For You: For Reading, for Feeding, For Leading (The Good Book Company, 2015).  

Sam Allberry is associate pastor at St Mary’s Church in Maidenhead, UK, and previously worked on the ministry team at St Ebbe’s in Oxford. He is the author of Is God Anti-Gay? And Other Questions about Homosexuality, the Bible, and Same-Sex Attraction (Good Book, 2013), Connected: Living in the Light of the Trinity (P&R, 2013), and Lifted: Experiencing the Resurrection Life (P&R, 2012). He is one of the coordinators of Living Out, a ministry for those struggling with same-sex attraction. You can follow Sam on Twitter.

by Sam Allberry at February 08, 2016 06:02 AM

A Spiritual Revolution on Dangerous Ground

Article by: Timothy Kleiser

“‘Where is God?’ is one of the most consequential questions of our times,” writes Diana Butler Bass in her new book Grounded: Finding God in the World—A Spiritual Revolution. Bass, a prolific writer, speaker, and current independent scholar, has for many years provided invaluable insight on trends and patterns in American religion. Her work takes a more prescriptive and autobiographical turn in this latest volume.

The title reflects the increasing number of Americans leaving behind the otherworldly abstractions of organized religion in favor of more tangible connections of meaning in the world around them.

Whereas many commentators see this flight from organized religion as a sign of decline, Bass believes it signals something more profound: the rise of a revolutionary way of thinking about and relating to God. As she describes it, this spiritual revolution rejects two key components of traditional religious belief: (1) “vertical theology” that sees God as a distant, transcendent ruler and (2) religious authorities who function as “holy elevators,” mediating the sin-produced gap that exists between God and us.

Crafting a New Theology

This new wave of spiritual revolutionaries are “crafting a new theology” (21) of a God found in the world and are engaging with the divine in profoundly “personal, mystical, immediate, and intimate” ways (9). Essentially, the revolution marks a shift away from doctrines and institutions toward unmediated divine experiences found in nature and human relationships (15).

In part one of the book, Bass explores how people are able to connect with God through the natural habitat: dirt, water, and sky. Because “the universe is God’s body” (52), it’s filled with “icons of earthy sacredness” (121) enabling us to find God in nature. We can then connect with God by participating in, marveling at, and caring for the natural world.

In part two, Bass invites readers to join the spiritual revolution in practical ways. By exploring our family roots, we uncover our common humanity and develop the self-knowledge that leads to God (161). Through the art of homemaking, we receive spiritual training for living in our “world house” and learn, ultimately, God is our home (183). As we learn better ways to love and live with our neighbors (both local and global) and “practice neighborly relations as the locus of divine love, we encounter the God who dwells nigh” (229). By developing shared spaces or “commons” and practicing compassion, we begin to see that nature, God, and human beings dwell in reciprocal relationships with each other.

In the final chapter, “Revelation,” Bass casts a vision in which her primary concern isn’t a heavenly afterlife but paradise here and now—life abundant for all of humanity. She presents a “God who knows no religious or theological boundaries” (275) and who doesn’t judge people as sinners but unconditionally welcomes everyone—and everything—into a “sacred cosmopolitanism.”

Dangerous Theology

I was thrilled when I first discovered Grounded since I share a number of the passions and concerns Bass exhibits. But as I journeyed through the book, my excitement steadily waned.

Bass makes many important points about the failures of organized religion that ought to be taken seriously. For instance, she casts needed light on American Christianity’s overemphasis on rationalism to the neglect of personal experience. She also rightfully condemns wanton neglect of creation: “The environmental crisis . . . is a moral and ethical one as well” (46). I similarly applaud her willingness to denounce the tribalism, nationalism, and jingoism that too often characterize American religious groups.

While addressing these and other important issues, however, Bass swings the pendulum too far. In many places, her views fall outside of historic Christianity. For example, she relativizes the concept of sin, dismisses our need of personal salvation (122, 275), and doesn’t like teachings that “emphasize salvation through blood” (23). She claims to be agnostic about the possibility of an afterlife (62) but insists warning people of hell is “nonsense” (279), describes heaven as a way of living on earth now (274), and seems to deny bodily resurrection (160). She also insists fellowship with/in God isn’t associated with any specific set of beliefs, but is open to all persons and things (272).

In other places her ambiguity makes it difficult to determine her views at all. Most significantly, despite carefully reading the book twice, I still have no idea who or what Bass even means by “God.” She alternates between gender-neutral pronouns and impersonal pronouns (e.g., “that”) and often describes God in ambiguous terms (3, 8, 71, 279). Noticeably absent is the distinctly Christian view of God as Trinity. Instead, she makes much of Paul Tillich’s panentheistic concept of God as “The Ground of all Being,” which she describes in an interview as the “deep theological idea that permeates the book.”

Questionable Premise

Along with the above concerns, the premise of Grounded is difficult to accept at face value since Bass omits key information, thereby spinning the analysis in her favor. For instance, she regularly presents caricatures of “conventional theology” (e.g., 8) without quoting religious leaders, creeds, or anything that would justify such hyperbolic descriptions. Such straw-men arguments amount to sarcastic dismissal rather than sincere dialogue. Additionally, when explaining the reason behind the rise of religiously unaffiliated Americans, Bass relies on a study by Michael Hout, Claude Fischer, and Mark Chaves, which concludes: “Their quarrel appears to be with organized religion” (20). Bass adds her own opinion that it’s the “distant institutions and distant Gods” of organized religion that are turning people away (21).

But Bass omits a clear distinction made in the study: religious affiliation is declining rapidly among political liberals while very little decline is taking place among political conservatives. In a more exhaustive follow-up study, Hout and Fischer explain that liberal politics in general aren’t to blame but the “politics of personal morality” in particular. “The conflict over the limits of choice and the relevance of traditional authority,” they conclude, “stand at the root of declining religious affiliation.”

In other words, the revolution taking place is primarily a moral one in which people who adopt liberal views of morality find themselves at odds with traditional views of God. When forced with the decision to amend their morals or amend their beliefs, these revolutionaries choose the latter.

The revolution amounts to what scientists call a “paradigm shift.” But unlike scientific shifts, this one isn’t driven by new discoveries but by modern philosophies. Departing from historic Christianity, Bass has imbibed the modern ethos of relativistic self-actualization. In an interview she describes the process as “constructing our own spiritual playlist”; we don’t follow entire belief systems but only pick those beliefs meaningful to us.

Revolution or Reformation? 

After reading Grounded, I’m more convinced than ever that Christians don’t need to construct new doctrines but abide by ancient ones. The historic faith contains all the resources we need to learn how to live rightly with the world and with one another—provided we humble ourselves and align ourselves with Scripture’s teaching. In other words, the answer isn’t revolution—it’s reformation.

Although Bass makes some insightful and important critiques, she bases her solutions on theological and philosophical premises Christians cannot accept. She also provides few sound answers while raising many startling questions. Because her views would do more harm than good, I cannot recommend Grounded to any Christian except those doing comparative research on the themes covered.

For Christians who want to explore the themes of Grounded in ways that are more faithful to Christian tradition, Craig Bartholomew’s Where Mortals Dwell [TGC review] or J. Richard Middleton’s A New Heaven and a New Earth [Themelios review] are better places to begin.

Diana Butler Bass. Grounded: Finding God in the World—A Spiritual Revolution. New York, NY: HarperOne, 2015. 323 pp. $26.99.

Timothy Kleiser is a PhD student and staff member at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Jenna, have been married for five years and share a daughter, Everly. They are active members at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky. You can follow him on Twitter.

by Timothy Kleiser at February 08, 2016 06:01 AM

Debunking Silly Statements About the Bible

Article by: Greg Gilbert

One American tabloid recently said this about the Bible:

No television preacher has ever read the Bible. Neither has any evangelical politician. Neither has the pope. Neither have I. And neither have you. At best, we’ve all read a bad translation—a translation of translations of translations of hand-copied copies of copies of copies of copies, and on and on, hundreds of times.

First of all, it’s not true we’re dealing with “a translation of translations of translations,” as if the original Greek first went into Chinese which went into German which went into Polish and finally we got around to putting it into English. No, we’re able to translate directly from the original Greek and Hebrew, so at worst we’re dealing with a translation, full stop. But what should we say about that that idea, the charge that all we have available to us are “hand-copied copies of copies of copies of copies”?

Copypock. Er, I mean, poppycock. That’s what we should say.

The Elephant in the Room 

Let’s think for a moment about the question of transmission—that is, can we be confident the original text of Scripture was transmitted accurately to us through the centuries? As we begin to consider that question, we should just right off the bat acknowledge the gigantic elephant in the room: We don’t have the originals.

Whatever pieces of paper Luke, John, or Paul used to write Luke, John, or Romans have been lost to history, and it’s unlikely we’ll ever find a biblical manuscript about which we can say, “We are 100 percent certain this is the original piece of paper on which the author wrote.”

But here’s the thing. Is having The Original Piece of Paper really the only way we can have confidence that what we do have is in fact what was written? Are we forever doomed to saying we don’t really have any idea what Homer or Plato wrote since we don’t have the pieces of paper on which they wrote The Odyssey or The Republic? Certainly not, and to say so would be ridiculously pedantic. So what about the documents of the Bible? Are we left simply to give up and admit that all we have are a bunch of useless copies of copies of copies of copies, and that we’ll never have confidence what we have is what the authors actually wrote?

Well, no. In fact, even though we don’t have the Bible’s Original Pieces of Paper, we can be highly confident we know what those original pieces of paper said. Now how can that be?

The key to answering that question lies in the fact that even though we don’t have the originals, we do have thousands of other pieces of paper that contain original-language text from each book of the Bible—about 5,400 when it comes to the New Testament. These go back to the third, or second, or even (perhaps?) to the first century. Some of those pieces of paper contain whole copies of biblical books; others have been destroyed to varying degrees so all they contain now are just portions of books. Still others are literally just fragments of what were once much larger manuscripts.

Now what makes all these manuscripts and fragments interesting, or problematic depending on how you look at it, is that at certain places they differ from each other, even when they’re supposed to be copies of the same portion of the Bible.

“No way,” some respond. “There’s no way we can know what the originals said.” That conclusion, though, goes way too far. For one thing, the problems often cited as arising from all this—that the manuscripts we have are too far removed in time from the originals; that they’re absolutely riddled with variations—aren’t nearly so bad as some make them out to be. And for another thing, it turns out it’s precisely the existence of those thousands of copies, from all over the Roman Empire and with all their variations, that allows us to reconstruct with a huge degree of confidence what the originals said.

Let me try to explain, one step at a time.

Mind the Gap!

The charge is often made that the documents we have are so far removed in time from the originals that we might as well give up trying to figure out what the originals said. After all, the New Testament was written in the mid-to-late first century, and the earliest copies we have are from about the years 125–200. At best, then, there’s a gap of some 45 to 75 years between the originals and our earliest copies.

Now, that sounds fairly problematic to most of us because for some reason we imagine 75 years is a lot of time—enough time in fact for copies of copies of copies to be made and subsequently lost so that we have no idea what the originals actually looked like. But actually, that’s not a fair assumption at all, especially when you realize books in general were far more valuable to ancient people than they are to us today, and so they probably kept better care of them than we do.

One fascinating example is what’s called the “Codex Vaticanus,” a copy of the New Testament originally made in the fourth century, but which was re-inked in the tenth century so it could continue to be used. Do you see what that means? Codex Vaticanus was still in use 600 years after it was originally made! Therefore the claim that all we have are “copies of copies of copies of copies” of the originals is far overwrought. Indeed, it’s very well within the realm of possibility that we have in our museums today copies of the originals, full stop.

Also, when you consider the gap between the originals and first copies of other ancient works, you can see just how small this “gap” for the New Testament really is. For example, for Thucydides’s History of the Peloponnesian War, we have exactly eight surviving manuscripts, the earliest of which is 1,300 years removed from the original! For Julius Caesar’s Gallic War, we have a total of nine or ten readable copies, the earliest of which is 900 years older than the original. For Tacitus’s Histories and Annals, it’s two manuscripts, one dating from the 9th century and the other from the 11th. The original was written in the first century—800 and 1,000 years earlier. You can easily see the point here: No one screams “Mind the gap!” when it comes to other ancient literature.

On to the second charge, then, which is that the manuscripts we do have are so riddled with differences, or “variants,” that it’s hopeless to think we can ever have any confidence about what they said. One scholar has asserted there are, astonishingly, up to 400,000 variants in the New Testament! There are several things to say about this charge.

First, the manuscripts are not in fact riddled with variants, and that 400,000 number isn’t nearly as scary as it seems, even if it’s accurate. The scholar who used that number wasn’t just looking at the 5,000 pre-printing-press, original-Greek manuscripts we have, but also at 10,000 other manuscripts in other languages, and then on top of that another 10,000 or so instances where people quoted the New Testament during the first six hundred years of church history! Put it all together, and what you’re really talking about is 400,000ish variants across some 25,000 manuscripts and quotations covering 600 years. But at the far upper end, this comes out to . . . only about 16 variants per manuscript. To put it nicely, that’s really not very many.

Second, keep in mind that “400,000 variants” here doesn’t mean 400,000 unique readings. What it means is that if one manuscript says, “I am innocent of this man’s blood” and ten others say, “I am innocent of this righteous blood,” then you get to count all eleven as “variants.” Factor that in, and that scary 400,000 number becomes nearly meaningless.

Finally, it’s not as if the variants in all those 25,000 manuscripts just show up everywhere; rather, they tend to cluster around the same few places in the text over and over again, which means the number of actual places in the New Testament really at issue is surprisingly small.

The point is that when you think about it beyond the soundbites, you don’t get a picture here of a mountain of copies with so many variants that we can’t make heads or tails of it. Not even close. On the contrary, you get a picture of a remarkably stable transmission history for the vast majority of the New Testament, and a few isolated places where some genuine doubt about the original text has given rise to a relatively large number of variations.

In short, the copy-monks did a remarkably good job.

An Exercise in Biblical Transmission 

But there’s one more critically important thing to discuss here: In the places of the New Testament where we are faced with variants, it is precisely the existence of those variants which allows us to piece together what the original document probably said. Let me show you what I mean.

The whole process is a lot like solving a logic puzzle. It rests on the fact that when there are variants, we can usually identify not only that a scribe introduced a variation, but also why. There are all kinds of reasons for why scribes introduced variants. Sometimes it was purely accidental. For example, 1etters that looked similar miqht be switcheb out for each other; one word might be substituted for another won that sounded the same when read; words might skipped; words or letters might be be doubled; even whole sections might be skipped when the same word was used a few lines apart. (Go ahead, read that sentence again . . . there be Easter eggs hidden there!)

At other times, the changes introduced were very deliberate. So a scribe might decide that a word or name was misspelled and act to “correct” it; he might change something in one passage so it would agree with another passage, or even “fix” a word or two to clear up “problems” he perceived; or he might even add something to “clarify” what the reader should take from it.

Now here’s where the fun starts, because once you can identify why a scribe made a certain change as he copied, you can get a very good idea of what the original said before he changed it. Here’s a very simple example: Imagine all you have is a fragment of a copy of a lost manuscript that reads, “Roses are read, violets are blue. . . .” It’s not hard to see what happened as the original was copied, is it? If we can give the original author the benefit of the doubt that he didn’t write the nonsense phrase “Roses are read,” then we can pretty confidently say the copying scribe simply misspelled the word “red,” and that the original said “Roses are red, violets are blue.”

Here’s a slightly more complicated example. Let’s say you have two fragments, both copies of a long-lost original. One of the copies (we’ll call it Fragment A) reads:

Now we are engaged in a great civil war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.

The other copy (Fragment B) reads:

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives so that the nation of which we speak might live.

Alright. Go ahead and give a minute or two to figuring out the variations that are at issue here. There are two of them. Then read on.

Let’s start with the first variation, the omitted phrase about meeting on a great battlefield of the war. Is there any good reason to think a copyist would add all those words to an original that didn’t include them? Not really; at least I can’t think of any. So if not, is there anything that might explain why he would omit them? Yes. See how the word “war” shows up twice in Fragment B? In fact, those two occurrences kind of bracket the words that were omitted in Fragment A. If that word “war” was there twice in the original as well (especially if both were, say, at the end or beginning of a line), then that would provide a natural and easy place for the copyist’s eye to “skip” accidentally from one to the other, and would explain why he would’ve inadvertently omitted the words between them. Given that, we can pretty confidently say the longer reading, in Fragment B, is more likely to reflect the original.

And what about the second variation? Is there any good reason why a copyist would amend an original that said “so that the nation of which we speak might live” to “so that that nation might live”? Probably not. After all, the phrase “that that nation” is just awkward. Therefore, it’s more likely a copyist would act to “correct” the doubled “that that” to something less grating to the ear and eye. For that reason, we should probably conclude that the harder, ess grammatical reading in Fragment A reflects the original.

Given all this, we can come to good conclusions that Fragment B probably reflects the original on the first variation (because of the probability the copyist’s eye skipped from “war” to “war”), and that Fragment A reflects the original on the second variation (because a copyist wouldn’t “correct” the original to say “that that.”) Therefore, we should reconstruct the original like this:

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.

Do you see? Just by reasoning through why copyists might make certain changes, we’re able to arrive at a confident conclusion about what the original document actually said, even though our final version is not entirely reflected in either of the fragments we actually have. Neat, huh?

Well, that’s exactly the kind of work scholars have done for centuries on the fragments and manuscripts of the New Testament available to us. The puzzles they face, of course, are far more complicated than these simple examples, but you get the idea. By comparing the ancient copies we have, and thinking carefully about why certain changes or errors might have been made by copyists, scholars are able to reach highly confident conclusions about what the original documents said. It’s not a matter of guesswork or magic, much less of assumption or simply “making things up,” but rather of careful deductive reasoning.

Patently and Utterly False  

Before we conclude, we should make another point or two. First, it’s worth pointing out that the vast majority of the textual variants with which we’re faced are just utterly uninteresting and non-dramatic. They have to do with plural versus singular pronouns, inverted word order, subjunctive versus indicative mood, aorist versus perfect tense, and on and on and on. The vast majority don’t include anything that affects how we ultimately understand the meaning of the Bible.

Second, Christian scholars have been exceedingly careful to document—in actual books that you can buy, if you’re willing to shell out the money—the most significant variants along with an analysis of each one like the kind we’ve done here. Of course you’re free to disagree with any one of the conclusions those scholars reach; Christians have fun arguing about this kind of thing all the time. But the point is that, again, there’s no conspiracy to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes. Where there are variants to be reckoned with, Christians are wide open about that fact, precisely because we believe those variants—and the reasons behind why they exist in the first place—can help us determine to a decisively high degree of probability what the original New Testament documents really said.

Do you see the point? The charge that we cannot know what the originals said is patently and utterly false. The gap between the originals and our first copies of them is—in the grand scheme of things—not that long at all. And far from diminishing our ability to identify what the originals said, the vast number of existing copies actually allows us to deductively reason out, to a very high degree of historical confidence, what John, Luke, Paul, and the other writers actually wrote.

Editors’ note: This is an adapted excerpt from Greg Gilbert’s book Why Trust the Bible? (Crossway, 2015) [review]. It originally appeared at 9Marks.

Greg Gilbert is the senior pastor of Third Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. He is the author of What Is the Gospel? (Crossway, 2010) and co-author of What Is the Mission of the Church?: Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission (Crossway, 2011), Preach: Theology Meets Practice (Crossway, 2012), and The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs (Zondervan, 2014).

by Greg Gilbert at February 08, 2016 06:00 AM

Greg Mankiw's Blog

February 07, 2016

Greg Mankiw's Blog

Two Play Recommendations

I recently had the opportunity to see a couple of great plays in New York. One is Our Mother's Brief Affair by Richard Greenberg.  Rich was my roommate at Princeton many years ago and has gone on to become a highly successful playwright. You can read a review of his new play here.

The other play I saw is Fun Home, an autobiographical musical about a woman coming to grips with her sexual orientation and with her father, a closeted gay man who never fully came to grips with his own sexual orientation. It is based on the graphic memoir of the same title.

I highly recommend both.

by Greg Mankiw ( at February 07, 2016 11:22 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Eating more vegetables

It looks like all I really needed in order to nudge myself to eat more vegetables was to keep a large variety of salad-able vegetables in the fridge. It’s still pretty cold out, so I prefer to eat warm foods. Roast vegetables, then.

2016-02-07c Eating more vegetables -- index card #cooking #vegetables

2016-02-07c Eating more vegetables – index card #cooking #vegetables

I spent part of my afternoon processing a stream of various vegetables cut into half-inch-ish dice, tossed in olive oil, and roasted at 400’F for however long it took to make them tender, generally shaking them and checking them every ten minutes or so. It’s a good pipeline: one bowl for scraps, one bowl for tossing in olive oil, one large chopping board and a chef’s knife, a roasting pan lined with foil, and each batch of vegetables is generally chopped up by the time the previous batch is done roasting, with liberal breaks for hanging out in #emacs, browsing the Web, or playing games.

Today’s haul: parsnips, carrots, fennel, broccoli, and beets, joining the sweet potatoes and butternut squash in the fridge. I also have chickpeas (both boiled and roasted) and couscous. Mwahaha. My very own salad bar. Meals feel like more of an indulgent production when I haul out almost a dozen containers so that I can take a couple of spoons from each. It’s like when I spend a weekend making a banchan extravaganza, lining up a slew of Korean side dishes, but with less work since the vegetables pretty much use the same cooking methods and I don’t have to juggle different pans, oils, and spices.

Might be a good opportunity to revisit this sketch from last year:

2015-01-28 Winter vegetables to explore -- index card #cooking

2015-01-28 Winter vegetables to explore – index card #cooking

Still haven’t played around with endives, kohlrabi, broccoli raabe, chicory, escarole, rutabagas, or turnips. There’s still time, though!

I imagine that stocking this kind of salad bar would be much the same in warmer weather, except maybe with less cooking and more greens/fruits. Should be fun.

The post Eating more vegetables appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at February 07, 2016 11:16 PM

Caelum Et Terra

The Art of Non-Conformity

Final WDS 2016 Ticket Sales Open Wednesday, February 10


For six (six!) years now, our volunteer team has produced a global adventure that takes place every year in Portland. This year will be our best year ever—and you should be there!

Here’s what you need to know:

  • We’ll begin the FINAL ROUND of main-stage ticket sales for WDS 2016 on Wednesday, February 10th, starting at 9am PST. We offer all tickets on a first-come, first-served basis, and we don’t hold back any tickets for sale at the event itself
  • If you haven’t done so already, join the waiting list to get first notice of the sale
  • We operate WDS as a non-commercial event. There are no corporate sponsors, and all costs go toward the event or our new Scholarships for Real Life foundation
  • WDS continues to expand. This year will have more opportunities than ever before and will last a full week. We’re producing more than a dozen “Academies,” half-day workshops that take place before and after the weekend, and lots of other fun activities
  • If attending, you’ll want to be in Portland from August 9th – 15th, or at the very least from the 11th-14th. We have a limited number of hotel discounts for registered attendees and will be announcing those soon

For refreshers:

Watch this 10-minute film from an attendee’s perspective
Watch speaker videos from previous years
View Thousands of Photos
Read 150+ Independent Reviews

Tickets go on sale this Wednesday, February 10th, starting at 9am PST / 12pm EST.

Hope to see you in August!

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by Chris Guillebeau at February 07, 2016 08:00 PM

Emacs Redux

Auto-indent your code with aggressive-indent-mode

One of the things I hate the most while programming, is having to manually adjust the indentation of some code, after I’ve moved or renamed something in it. While it’s pretty easy to do such re-indent operations using commands like crux-indent-defun or advices like crux-with-region-or-buffer (you remember, crux, right?), there’s an even more efficient way to tackle the issue at hand. Enter aggressive-indent-mode.

aggressive-indent-mode’s name is a bit of a misnomer - it should probably have been named auto-indent-mode, as this is what it does. When you edit your code it will adjust the indentation automatically. It’s easier to show this than to explain it.

Here’s one example showing agressive-indent-mode enabled in emacs-lisp-mode:

And another example using cc-mode:

Provided you’ve installed the mode, enabling it for particular major modes is a piece of cake:

(add-hook 'emacs-lisp-mode-hook #'aggressive-indent-mode)
(add-hook 'clojure-mode-hook #'aggressive-indent-mode)
(add-hook 'ruby-mode-hook #'aggressive-indent-mode)

If you want to enable it in all major modes you can do this as well:

(global-aggressive-indent-mode 1)

Note that this is not going to work well with modes like python-mode and haml-mode where the proper indentation can’t be reliably determined. When global-aggressive-indent-mode is enabled it will not affect major modes listed in aggressive-indent-excluded-modes.

For more info - head over to the project’s readme.

February 07, 2016 09:28 AM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Weekly review: Week ending February 5, 2016

I walked a lot this week – an average of two hours a day, exploring different destinations. It was a bit tiring, but it was good to get out in the sun. =) It was surprisingly warm when I was out by the Stockyards; practically shirt weather.

Lots of cooking this week. Now that our freezer’s mostly full, I’ve been focusing on exploring new recipes. Of the different things I tried this week, I like the roast vegetable salad the most. Nothing fancy, just assorted vegetables roasted and tossed together, but I enjoyed eating it.

More tidying and more preparing. Some sewing, too. I sewed an extra-large pouch, and that was a good opportunity to learn how to add a zipper pull to continuous zipper tape. Now that I know how to do that, I’m tempted to keep a few yards of zipper tape and a small thing of zipper pulls. So handy.

W- bought Final Fantasy 9 during the recent Playstation Network sale, so now we’re playing that. At first I wanted to see how far I could get without a walkthrough. It’s the sort of game that can be much harder if you miss certain items or options, though, so we’re back to referring to the walkthrough regularly.

Some more consulting, too. Transitioning more tasks, updating some neat data visualizations I’d almost forgotten about… Things are going well. =)

2016-02-06a Week ending 2016-02-05 -- index card #journal #weekly output

Blog posts


Focus areas and time review

  • Business (18.1h – 10%)
    • Earn (9.2h – 51% of Business)
      • ☑ Prepare invoice
      • ☑ Earn: E1: 1-2 days of consulting
      • ☐ Earn: E1: 1-2 days of consulting
    • Build (8.4h – 46% of Business)
      • Drawing (7.4h)
      • Paperwork (0.2h)
    • Connect (0.5h – 2% of Business)
  • Relationships (8.0h – 4%)
    • ☑ Fix up room
  • Discretionary – Productive (9.4h – 5%)
    • Emacs (1.3h – 0% of all)
      • ☑ Do another Emacs News review
      • ☐ Do another Emacs News review
    • Sewing (2.6h)
    • Writing (5.5h)
  • Discretionary – Play (11.8h – 7%)
  • Personal routines (35.0h – 20%)
  • Unpaid work (15.7h – 9%)
  • Sleep (69.9h – 41% – average of 10.0 per day)

The post Weekly review: Week ending February 5, 2016 appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at February 07, 2016 01:09 AM

Wilfred Hughes::Blog

An Industrial-Grade BF Compiler

What do you expect from your compiler? The best compilers offer:

  • Highly optimised output
  • Short compile times
  • Readable syntax errors
  • Helpful warnings
  • Support for lots of architectures

Being a wildly overambitious developer, I set out to make bfc provide this whole feature set. Let’s take a look at the result.


Like any self-respecting LLVM frontend, bfc outputs LLVM IR directly. To my surprise, BF compilers using a C backend (such as this one) were routinely beating bfc’s performance.

LLVM provides an excellent set of tips for frontend compiler writers. Re-reading this document, I noticed a new note had been added about pass ordering. It turns out that LLVM’s default optimisations are tuned for C, and bfc massively benefits from running the optimisations again.

In other words:

$ bfc-1.3 --dump-llvm > raw_ir.ll
$ opt -S -O3 raw_ir.ll -o opt_once.ll
$ opt -S -O3 opt_once.ll -o opt_twice.ll

opt_twice.ll was often much faster than opt_once.ll!

After fixing the LLVM passes, and reusing the BF benchmark from the previous blog post, we see a significant speedup on all test programs:

Short Compile Times

LLVM provides command line tools for optimising (opt) and for writing object files (llc). These are great for exploring LLVM.

However, bfc wrote its LLVM IR to temporary files and shelled out to run these commands. This is slower and brittle: users with LLVM libraries could compile bfc, but suffered unhelpful errors when bfc could not find opt on $PATH.

bfc now uses the LLVM APIs directly for writing object files. This is not as well documented (the Kaleidoscope tutorial does not cover it), but reading the source of llc and rustc shows examples. You can see the API calls used by bfc here.

For maximum performance, bfc users can specify --opt or --llvm-opt to produce debug builds with fewer optimisations.

Syntax Errors

‘Syntax error’ is not helpful, and programmers expect better. A compiler should highlight where the error occurred, and provide a clear description of what is wrong.

bfc now provides friendly syntax errors, showing the filename, line number, column number and highlighting the offending syntax.


bfc performs static analysis and compile time execution. During this process, it may find code that looks incorrect.

We want to warn the user when this occurs. This is difficult, because bfc can dramatically change the AST as it optimises.

In v1.3.0 bfc gained position annotations to its AST. Optimisation passes now preserve position information wherever possible.

However, some optimisations aggressively reorder BF instructions. If those instructions are not consecutive, bfc cannot preserve position information. Instead, I added simpler optimisations that run earlier and can keep position information.

Here’s an example of a warning:


No self-respecting compiler can only target a single architecture. With LLVM, it’s easy to support a remarkable range of architectures.

Previously, bfc always compiled to 32-bit x86. bfc now compiles to the host architecture by default. Users with x86-64 machines will see a modest performance improvement from this.

bfc now also supports cross-compilation by specifying an LLVM target triple:

$ bfc --target=x86_64-pc-linux-gnu

Scraping The Bottom Of The Barrel

Having implemented all these features, bfc now has the dubious title of the most overengineered sophisticated BF compiler available.

There’s not even much scope for further polish. There are a few niche optimisations we lack, such as scan loops ([>]) and integer division.

Some BF implementations also provide a # instruction, to print the current cell values and aid debugging. bfc does not yet provide this either.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series on BF compilation. BF is a fantastic playground, and LLVM is an incredible feat of engineering. If you encounter a bug or limitation in bfc, don’t hesitate to file a bug.

by Wilfred Hughes ( at February 07, 2016 12:00 AM

February 06, 2016

Zippy Catholic

Friendship arbitrage

Suppose your best friend needs wheat and can’t afford to buy any. He doesn’t need paper: he needs wheat. You’ve got some excess wheat you could lend him, but you like the way paper futures look better, and you want a guarantee that you won’t lose any buying power when you are doing your best friend a favor.

So you lend him paper (even though he needs wheat, and is just going to exchange the paper for wheat) just so that, as a formality, the kind of thing he owes you back is paper. Or you tell him that you know he needs wheat and you have plenty to lend, but you like paper futures better. So you’ll give him wheat, but you want him to repay the wheat you gave him by doing imaginary wheat-to-paper exchanges (they will be imaginary to avoid transaction fees and taxes) at the point of borrowing and repayment. Because of the excursion into the land of imaginary paper he ends up owing you back more wheat than you lent him on this mutuum loan – usury.

It seems to me that your friendship is as imaginary as the wheat-to-paper exchanges. That is no way to treat a friend in need.

And mutuum lending is only morally licit as an act of friendship or charity. It is not morally licit in pursuit of gain. Preservation of market buying power as something guaranteed by someone else is a kind of gain.

If your best friend decides to pay you back more wheat than you loaned him out of gratitude, that is a gift from him to you. There isn’t anything wrong with that. It is even true that he owes you gratitude in a sense. But gratitude between friends is not convertible into a specific dollar amount which he can be said to owe you as a financial matter. No true friend is going to quibble, in dollar terms, as to whether his best friend has been grateful enough in the natural exchange of favors which occurs among friends.

It is possible for friends to do each other injustice in mutuum lending; even to have a falling out and to no longer be friends. Suppose you lent your best friend the wheat, he now has enough to repay you the amount that he borrowed, but he refuses to do so. In that case he is not being a good friend; and he really does owe you back the amount of wheat that he borrowed, as a matter of justice. His refusal to pay it back now that he can is a kind of theft or fraud. You truly are entitled to return of the principal amount, and the falling out of your friendship does not remove that entitlement in justice.

But this does not make mutuum lending morally licit as a wealth preservation investment strategy. There are plenty of ways to look after your own property financially: many different kinds of contracts for preserving and growing wealth are morally permissible.

But the security on those contracts must be property, not personal IOU’s. Otherwise you are unjustly profiting financially from arbitrage over friendship.

by Zippy at February 06, 2016 11:12 PM


John Webster on Mercy: Divine and Creaturely

God without measureJohn Webster is in the business of doing “theological theology”—theology that takes its beginning and end to be God and the works of God—and so, in one sense, there’s nothing surprising about finding rich, dogmatic reflection in the second volume of his stunning set of essays, God Without Measure. In another sense, it’s remarkable given that it’s a set of essays in moral theology—indeed, the subtitle is “Virtue and Intellect”, specifically those of human creatures.

For Webster, however, dogmatics considers the creature and the principles according to which it acts only in light God—his being and the order of reality brought into being and rescued from corruption in the economy of creation and redemption. In other words, to speak of creatures and our activities, we must always consider God and his works in and through the Son and the Spirit. As he expresses it in the first chapter, activity follows being. We act out of what we are and the very first thing we must recognize about ourselves is that we are God’s creatures (3).

Moral theology, then, is a grand exercise in the famous dictum of Pauline theology that imperatives follow indicatives. Taking his cue from a theological reading of the letter to the Colossians, Webster suggests that Christian ethics is a matter of “seeking” and discerning “where Christ is”, for ingrafted into his history and life, that is where our life is and the reality out of which we must act (Col. 3:1-4). Theology cannot separate Christology from ethics, then, nor displace the primacy of the “metaphysical…over the paraenetic”, nor must it conceive of the human vocation as one separated from Christ (26).

This structure comes out in the variety of essays ranging from human dignity, courage, to the nature of theology in the university. For myself, I was struck by it in particular by two insights in his essay on the work and virtue of mercy. One on the nature of divine mercy and the other on the limits of human mercy.

Saying Jesus is Saying Mercy

But to begin, Webster makes it clear that “Christian theology speaks about mercy by speaking about Jesus Christ” (49). Jesus Christ is the reality that gives our reflection weight—not because he’s some symbol or exemplar, nor because he’s prophet or legislator of a moral truth beyond him. No, he himself is the concrete, historical, embodiment of the Word of God who “makes manifest the metaphysical and moral order of the entire creation” (51). So to speak of the history of Jesus Christ is to speak of the ultimate good and final end of creation, who clarifies, corrects, displays, and gives shape to the world as it is and as its meant to be.

Two more points before moving on. Webster makes it clear that to speak of Christ means to look back into the depths of God’s Triune life as he is the eternal Word of God, come at the command of the Father, in the power of the Spirit—to speak of Christ’s mercy is to speak of God’s mercy (52). What’s more, speaking of Christ means also looking forward into the lives of the people of God, since Christ coming as the mercy of God is aimed at reconciling and transforming the life of creatures, rendering them able to render mercy towards others (53). And this brings me to the two points that struck me.

Divine Mercy

First, Webster notes that God is intrinsically and unfadingly good—he is perfect in and of himself. This perfect goodness in himself is the ground for his goodness towards others—the relative (relating) goodness and love of God are his will to communicate goodness towards his creatures. Now, “mercy is the directing of God’s majestic goodness to the relief of the creatures in misery and wretchedness” (54). God’s mercy is God’s goodness at work to give us respite and liberation in our miserable rebellion and evil. Aquinas says that mercy is proper to God because it “involves the giving from one’s abundance to others” and “relieving their needs, a function especially belonging to a superior.”

Following this insight, Webster stops to draw out what it means for mercy to be proper to God. He urges us not to think that creaturely need is the cause of God’s mercy. No, rather, it is the occasion that brings to light God’s goodness in this particular situation of our misery. In other words, mercy is free act of God, but it is not an arbitrary one. Here he appeals to the distinction between an affection and a passion. A passion is an “emotion” that is forced, or drawn out of one under compulsion and by distress. An affection is a rational, free response consistent with who God is in himself. The upshot of this is that “God is not reduced to misery by creaturely wretchedness, so that his mercy is a relief of God’s ow trouble as much as that of the creature” (55). Quoting Barth, “God is moved and stirred, yet not like ourselves in powerlessness, but in his own free power, in his inmost being…his compassionate words are not grounded in a subsequent change…but are rooted in his heart…” (56).

God does not have to be convinced to be merciful. God, in his goodness, simply is merciful. This is the free, stable, unshaking ground of the gospel of God’s mercy to us in Jesus Christ.

Human Mercy

Of course, this divine mercy is the source of God’s victorious conquest over our sin and rebellion, bringing us back into proper relations, or fellowship with him. This fellowship in the Son and Spirit transforms and renews us, bringing us into a new order—an order of mercy, in which we begin to understand ourselves as objects of God’s mercy. “God’s active merciful presence and rule establishes a creaturely kingdom of mercy” (59). Webster goes into detail about the relationship between God’s mercy and our mercy at this point because he says “we should remind ourselves that a great deal hangs on achieving a sufficiently fine-grained description of a theological account of human mercy, but also”—and this is the point that caught my eye—“the burden of expectation which we place on human mercy” (59).

Among other points that he makes, Webster struggles to capture the tension of our works of human mercy in the command, “Be merciful, even as your heavenly Father is merciful” (Lk. 6:36). In the first place, they are the work of “God’s new creatures”, plucked up from misery, restored, renewed, and given a moral energy by the Spirit. They do not have to “strive to introduce grace into a world from which it is otherwise absent.”

That said, “because mercy is creaturely, it is limited.” Despite our new creation, we are still finite and we can only do what we can do, “no more.” This is important since it’s easy to become exasperated or hopeless at the limits to our efforts. Indeed, we can become merciless towards ourselves and others in our urgent drive to transcend the creaturely limits of our mercy. For this reason, it is so important that “creaturely mercy accept the restriction of its capacities without resentment or despair”, but instead, “venture its imperfect work cheerfully and hopefully, looking to God’s own encompassing mercy as its vindication” (61).

The work of mercy proceeds, then, because God is merciful and he is so towards his creatures in Jesus Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria

by Derek Rishmawy at February 06, 2016 11:02 PM

Zippy Catholic

Wealth preservation is not free

Modern man is so acclimated to usury that when it comes to wealth, he has convinced himself that the second law of thermodynamics runs backwards. Back here in the real world though property and its buying power deteriorate unless the owner does work himself, invests more property to protect what he has, and/or takes risks with his property in putting it to work as productive capital.

Even the most durable property – a cache of precious metals, say – requires some investment of work, risk, and additional property in order to merely preserve it. To bury a pot of gold takes work. To acquire or rent the land on which it is buried absorbs additional resources, as does protecting that land from prospecting trespassers and thieves. To bury it on someone else’s land which is not owned, rented, or otherwise protected through ongoing expenditure of work or capital is to take a more significant risk. You have to keep track of where it is, make sure that thieves don’t find out where it is, and be ready to retrieve it or just lose it if someone else finds it.

Even when a non recourse insurance bond covering the loss of the property is purchased, this does not eliminate risk: it simply spreads the risk over a larger pool of property, compensating the insurer for renting his property to the insured as security, thereby putting it at risk. If the insurer’s overall losses on all claims are too great then the property he has staked to insure your property will not pay your claim: the well is only so deep. And of course you have to pay for the insurance bond.

It is a commonplace among investment advisors that a wealth preservation strategy involves investing a portfolio in such a way as to maximize the chances that it will preserve its buying power: to take the smallest risk possible with respect to losing buying power. You cannot even preserve the buying power of your property without investing: without doing work, employing your capital in some inherently risky enterprise, and/or taking on other risks. (Other investment strategies include aggressive growth with high risk, and various intermediate strategies in between). Portfolios of property – that is to say, the collection of all of the property that a person owns – do not preserve themselves. Just staying even takes work, investment, and risk. If you don’t swim, you are going to drown. That is the nature of life in the universe in which we live.

One way to understand usury is as the unjust compensation of the lender for work, risk, and investment undertaken by the borrower; because in a mutuum loan the borrower personally pledges to make the lender whole, restoring property equivalent to what was originally given to the borrower, no matter what actually happens to the actual property borrowed.  This is why interest on mutuum loans is intrinsically unjust, and mutuum loans may only be licitly undertaken as a favor to a friend or a person in need, expecting no compensation in return.

by Zippy at February 06, 2016 10:54 PM

Apple opens REP for Mac Pro →

Joe Rossignol at MacRumors:

Apple has determined that graphics cards in some late 2013 Mac Pros, manufactured between February 8, 2015 and April 11, 2015, may cause distorted video, no video, system instability, freezing, restarts, shut downs, or may prevent system start up.

Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider will repair eligible Mac Pro models affected by the video issues free of charge. Customers can book an appointment with the Genius Bar at an Apple Store or visit an Apple Authorized Service Provider to determine if their Mac Pro is eligible for coverage.

Filed under: "it's about time."


by Stephen Hackett at February 06, 2016 04:06 PM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

A Plea to the Mission Minded

Article by: Jen Wilkin

There is a people group whose language you may not want to learn, whose customs you may find distasteful, whose dress may offend, and whose values may disappoint. They are worshipers of idols. They raise their children in poverty. Many Christians consider this people group either unreachable or beyond the sphere of their calling.


Because their language is that of white suburbia. Because their customs are as familiar as our childhoods, their dress as unremarkable as the sale rack at Old Navy, their values as fragile as their credit ratings. Their idols are money, possessions, and leisure. Their children starve not for food, but for relationship. And their faces? Their faces look a little too much like our own.

Behold suburbia, the mission field for whom our hearts do not break. We hold them in contempt as those who have heard and spurned the gospel. Their failing marriages, rebellious children, and quiet addictions stir in us weariness and wariness: This is their own doing. This is the fruit of their commonplace lives of capitulation and mediocrity. Suffering and loss may visit them, but they still drive to hospitals and gravesites in late-model SUVs. Why should we pour out our lives on the rocky soil of suburban America when, for the price of a plane ticket, we can till the fertile fields of Africa, Asia, South America?

But who are we to say that one soil is more fertile than another? Perhaps this field is yours to till simply because you find yourself already in it. No plane ticket required, no bold geographical leap of faith, just a slow and steady determination to respond well to the call to “love your neighbor.” Literally. Even if their problems are messy, and mundane, and not the stuff of headlines or documentaries. Even if they never soften to the gospel.

It is good for our hearts to break for Africa, for Asia, for South America. It is good for seeds to be planted by passionate believers in the fertile soil of distant lands. But I pray that hearts might also break for the suburbs, and that God would raise up faithful men and women who will till where the ground is rocky and unforgiving, believing for a harvest that could only be reckoned as supernatural.

Pray with me. Ask the Lord of the harvest, who sows and reaps where he pleases—both far and near.

“Peace, peace, to the far and to the near,” says the Lord. (Isa. 59:17)

Jen Wilkin is a wife, mom to four great kids, and an advocate for women to love God with their minds through the faithful study of his Word. She writes, speaks, and teaches women the Bible. She lives in Flower Mound, Texas, and her family calls The Village Church home. Jen is the author of Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds (Crossway, 2014). You can find her at and follow her on Twitter.

by Jen Wilkin at February 06, 2016 06:00 AM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Level up: figured out how to add a zipper pull on continuous zipper tape

The fabric warehouse near our house has an assortment of zippers, but it can be tricky digging through the bins to find a zipper of the appropriate type, length, and colour. They also sell zippers by the yard, and will thread on as many pulls as you ask for.

I picked up a few yards of zipper tape months ago as an experiment. I’ve used the zippers on a number of small pouches already. It’s so convenient being able to just cut the length of the zipper I need instead of sifting through a stash of pre-cut zippers.

Today I was sewing a large pouch that needed a 21″ zipper along one end. One side of the zipper had escaped the zipper pull on the segment I was working with, so I opened the zipper and removed the last two zipper pulls that were on it. Then I realized I had no idea how to get the zipper pulls back on.

Youtube to the rescue! I followed this tutorial:

After a little bit of wiggling, I got the zipper pull onto the coils. The new zipper pull zipped the zipper closed behind it. Hooray!

Bonus: Because I had left the bottom part of the zipper closed, by the time I had moved the zipper pull to the middle of the segment I had stitched into the pouch, the zipper pull was basically in between two closed parts of the zipper. This made stitching over both sides of the zipper much neater than it would have been if one of the sides were open, like the way pre-cut zippers are.

2016-02-05a Zipper pulls and zipper tape -- index card #sewing

2016-02-05a Zipper pulls and zipper tape — index card #sewing

I love how easy it is to find all sorts of practical tutorials on the Internet. It’s a small thing, but it’s nice to know that I can deal with zipper pulls and zipper tape. It means that I can buy zipper tape by the yard and never have to worry about having the wrong length, and that I can make large containers without being constrained by the pre-cut lengths available in the fabric stores. Yay making things!

The post Level up: figured out how to add a zipper pull on continuous zipper tape appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at February 06, 2016 02:14 AM

Josh Haberman

Floating Point Demystified, Part 2: Why Doesn't 0.1 + 0.2 == 0.3?

This is the second article in a series. My previous entry Floating Point Demystified, Part 1 was pretty dense with background information. For part 2 let’s answer a burning, practical question that bites almost every new programmer at some point:

Why oh why doesn’t 0.1 + 0.2 == 0.3?

The answer is: it does! In mathematics. But floating point has failed at this before we even get to the addition part. Double-precision floating point is totally incapable of representing 0.1, 0.2, or 0.3. When you think you’re adding those numbers in double-precision, here is what you are actually adding

+ 0.200000000000000011102230246251565404236316680908203125

But if you just type in 0.3 directly, what you’re getting is:


Since those last two numbers aren’t the same, the equality comparison returns false.

Some of you reading this probably won’t believe me. “You’ve just printed a bunch of decimal places, but what you have is still an approximation, just like 0.1 and 0.2 are!” I can’t blame you for your distrust. Computer systems have traditionally made it extraordinarily difficult to see the precise value of a floating-point number. Anything you’ve seen printed out before probably was an approximation. You may have even lost faith that floating point values even have an exact value that can be printed. You might think that their true value is an infinitely repeating decimal like . Or maybe it’s an irrational number like whose decimal expansion never repeats or terminates.

The truth is that floating-point numbers are rational and can always have their exact value printed out in a finite decimal. The numbers above are absolutely precise renderings of the double’s true value! You can try it yourself by using the built-in decimal module in Python, which supports arbitrary precision decimal numbers:

$ python
>>> from decimal import Decimal, getcontext
>>> getcontext().prec = 1000  # To prevent truncation/rounding
>>> Decimal(0.1)

Of course for single-precision, the precise number would be different. 0.1 in single precision is a little shorter:


Then Why Does The Computer Print 0.1?

The reason everyone gets so confused to begin with is that basically every programming language will natively print 0.1 instead of the double’s true value:

$ python
Python 2.7.10 (default, Oct 23 2015, 18:05:06)
[GCC 4.2.1 Compatible Apple LLVM 7.0.0 (clang-700.0.59.5)] on darwin
>>> 0.1

$ node
> 0.1

$ irb
irb(main):001:0> 0.1
=> 0.1

$ lua
Lua 5.3.2  Copyright (C) 1994-2015, PUC-Rio
> print(0.1)

Why did four languages in a row “lie” to me about the value of 0.1?

Things get a little interesting here. While all four languages printed the same approximation here, they did it for two totally different reasons. In other words, they got to their answer in two totally different ways.

You can see the difference between them if you try to print a slightly different value:

$ python
Python 2.7.10 (default, Oct 23 2015, 18:05:06)
[GCC 4.2.1 Compatible Apple LLVM 7.0.0 (clang-700.0.59.5)] on darwin
>>> 0.1 + 0.2

$ node
> 0.1 + 0.2

$ irb
irb(main):001:0> 0.1 + 0.2
=> 0.30000000000000004

$ lua
Lua 5.3.2  Copyright (C) 1994-2015, PUC-Rio
> print(0.1 + 0.2)

Lua is the odd person out here: everyone else got a really long number with “4” at the end, but Lua just printed 0.3. What’s going on here?

If you look in the Lua source, you’ll see that it is using printf() with a %.14g format string (this technically varies based on the platform, but it’s probably true on your platform). With this format string, printf() is specified to print the double according to this algorithm:

  1. The value rounded to an N-digit decimal value (14 in this case). For us this yields 0.30000000000000.
  2. Trailing zeros are removed, yielding 0.3.

This explains why Lua got the answer it did. But what about the other implementations. They printed a number that was much longer. It still wasn’t the number’s true value – that would be an even longer:


Why did the other languages all decide to stop printing at that first “4”? The fact that they all print the same thing should hint to us that there is something significant about that answer.

The other three languages all follow this rule: print the shortest string that will unambiguously convert back to the same number. In other words, the shortest string such that float(str(n)) == n. (This guarantee of course doesn’t apply to Infinity and NaN).

So while the values printed by the other three languages are not exact, they are unique. No two values will map to the same string. And each string will map back to the correct float. These are useful properties, even if they do cause confusion sometimes by hiding the fact that float(0.1) is not exactly 0.1.

We can ask one more question about Lua. If you analyze the precision available in a double (which has a 52-bit mantissa), you can work out that 17 decimal digits is enough to uniquely identify every possible value. In other words, if Lua used the format specifier %.17g instead of %.14g, it would also have the property that tonumber(tostring(x)) == x Why not do that, so that Lua’s number to string formatting can also precisely represent the underlying value?

I can’t find any reference where the Lua authors directly explain their motivation on this (someone did ask once but the author’s response didn’t give a specific rationale). I can speculate though.

If we try that out, the downside quickly becomes clear. Let’s use printf from Ruby to demonstrate:

$ irb
irb(main):001:0> printf("%.17g\n", 0.1)

Ah, we’ve lost the property that 0.1 prints as 0.1. That trailing 1 isn’t junk – as we saw at the beginning of the article, the precise value of this number does include about 40 more digits of real, non-zero data. But the extra digits aren’t necessary for uniqueness, since float(0.1) and float(0.10000000000000001) map to exactly the same value. I am guessing that the Lua authors decided that making these common cases print short strings was more important than capturing full precision. In Lua you can always use string.format('%.17g', num) if you really want to.

The printf() function doesn’t offer the functionality of “shortest unambiguous string.” The best it can do is omit trailing zeros. There is no printf() format specifier that will do what Ruby, Python, and JavaScript are doing above. And since Lua is trying to stay small, it wouldn’t make sense to include this somewhat complicated functionality.

How to calculate this “shortest unambiguous string” efficiently is more tricky than you might expect. In fact the best known algorithm for calculating it was published only in 2010, in the paper Printing Floating-Point Numbers Quickly and Accurately with Integers There is a surprising amount of work that goes into these most basic and low-level problems in Computer Science!

February 06, 2016 12:00 AM

February 05, 2016

Workout: Feb. 8, 2016

Presses 5-5-3-3-3-10 Half presses 3-3-3 Dips 20-20-20-20 3 rounds of: 1 minute of plank hold 1 minute of up and down in plank 1 minute of glute bridge

by Mike at February 05, 2016 11:55 PM

Workout: Feb. 6, 2016

Partner workout In teams of 2, 10 rounds each of: Partner 1 rows 300 m Partner 2 does 200-ft. jug carry (switch after each round)

by Crystal at February 05, 2016 11:51 PM

Workout: Feb. 7, 2016

Back squats 3-3-3-3 In partners, accumulate 800 ft. of sled pushes each (1,600 ft. total, switch every 100 ft.)

by Crystal at February 05, 2016 11:49 PM

Market Urbanism

Market Urbanism MUsings: Feb 5, 2016

1. This week at Market Urbanism:

Nolan Gray‘s second article at Market Urbanism:  Return to Sender: Housing affordability and the shipping container non-solution

the belief that these projects could address the growing affordability crisis hints at a profound misunderstanding of the nature of the problem and distracts policymakers from viable solutions.

2. Where’s Scott?:

Scott Beyer is spending Friday in Mobile, AL, to celebrate Mardi Gras where it was invented. His article this week was at Forbes:  Washington, DC Reformed Its Zoning Code; Now Time To Ditch The Height Limits

The DC zoning code changes are a testament to this growing consensus favoring deregulation. If it can happen in America’s center of governance, it means similar zoning overhauls may be awaiting other cities.

3. At the Market Urbanism Facebook Group:

Alex Tabarrok of Marginal Revolution‘s Quora response to “What do economists think about buying vs renting a house?” via Nolan Gray

It’s Superbowl Weekend, and John Morris had coffee with Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist, Brian O’Neill to explain why he wants to ‘Tear down Heinz Field’ (Pittsburgh Steelers)

Krishan Madan informed us that Cincinnati Built a Subway System 100 Years Ago–BUT NEVER USED IT

Sandy Ikeda shared a Guardian piece on the role of cities in shaping musical genres

Speaking of music, let’s all sing the “Monorail Song” with Nolan Gray

4. Elsewhere:

Alon Levy, Pedestrian Observations:  Why Costs Matter

Joe Cortwright at City Observatory:  Don’t demonize driving—just stop subsidizing it

Justin Fox: Why parking your car for free is actually expensive (h/t Donald Shoup) see this too

Floating cities in Tokyo Bay??  (h/t Jeff Wood)

RIP Bob Elliott:  Bob and Ray on Urban Planning  (h/t Michael Strong)

Chicago may eliminate the Clybourn Planned Manufacturing District.  A move Adam Hengels called for in 2014.

5. Stephen Smith‘s Tweet of the Week:

by Adam Hengels at February 05, 2016 08:00 PM

Zippy Catholic

Proposal: a carbon tax on voting

This is just a theoretical exercise, so the specific numbers aren’t all that important: I’m just spitballing here. Basically what I am proposing is (say) a $1000 tax per voter, paid by the voter, to cover the carbon footprint of that person voting.

Suppose 100 million voters average 2 miles to get to the polls each at 20 miles per gallon. That is 10 million gallons of gas.

Polling places consume another 5 million gallons of gas or equivalent keeping facilities open, setting up and tearing down, running computer equipment, and the like.

The politicians these voters elect consume about 1 billion gallons of gas or equivalent in the process of providing for their own facilities, transportation, perks, interns, hookers, bribes, kickbacks, drugs, and alcohol.

Elected politicians also consume the equivalent of about 1 trillion gallons of gas in the process of providing goodies back to the voters, who elected them in order to receive those goodies.

Again I am just spitballing here, but I think is it pretty easy to see how a $1000+ carbon tax on everyone who votes could be straightforwardly justified.

by Zippy at February 05, 2016 07:38 PM

ASCII by Jason Scott

The Emularity Sounds Better

The Emularity, which is the name for the emulation loader framework that the Internet Archive uses, has gotten a notable upgrade in sound performance.

While hanging around in the IRC channel, a relative newcomer, Grant Galitz/Taisel, mentioned doing lots of optimization work with sound on his own project, IodineGBA. I asked him to take a quick look at how JSMESS/Emularity did sound loading, and he suggested a few quick optimizations.

They worked handily.

All JSMESS-emulated operating systems on the Archive are now “better”. Better is, of course, relative. If your system is slow, we made it slightly better. If your system was fast, then little crackles are now gone. You’re probably somewhere in between.

Here’s one to test with: Jumpman, a truly amazing classic released by Epyx.


It’s a beautiful classic, and the opening song is very charming. The only problem is that it previously sounded terrible, everywhere. Now it sounds pretty good, in a lot of places. (Bear in mind that all Atari 800 programs make that razzing noise at the beginning, as it reads off the “floppy drive”.)

Works best on Firefox. Likes heavy hardware capabilities. Is better than yesterday, worse than tomorrow.

What was nice about this, particularly, is that we made one change to the loader code and suddenly 25,000 items just sounded “better”. That’s the kind of easy upgrade I like to see.

Sound is a very big deal. When it’s not quite up to snuff, people really feel it deep. As time goes on, it’ll improve. Until then, try rediscovering some of the programs up on the Archive and see how much better the sound is.







by Jason Scott at February 05, 2016 05:49 PM

Englewood Christian Church » ERB

ERB Weekly Digest – Bonhoeffer, Slow Church, Adam McHugh, Ebook Deals -February 5, 2016


HUGE Ebook Sale from the U of Chicago Press!!!
300+ titles for under $4 each, 20+ FREE Ebook Shorts
Theology, Science, Literature, History, Culture, MORE
See some of the best titles, and browse the full sale… 


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Reviews, etc. posted this week on The ERB website:

  • Adam McHugh – The Listening Life [Feature Review]
    Opening Ourselves to Surprise   A Feature Review of The Listening Life: Embracing Attentiveness in a World of Distraction Adam McHugh Paperback: IVP Books, 2015. Buy now: [  ]  [  ]   Reviewed by Andrew Camp   The American life will never be remembered as a life that listened well, especially in the second millennium. […]
  • 5 Essential Ebook Deals for Christian Readers – 5 February 2016
    Here are 5 essential ebooks on sale now that are worth checking out: (Christian Smith, Suzanne Collins, Jonathan Safran-Foer, MORE) Via our sister website Thrifty Christian Reader… To keep up with all the latest ebook deals, be sure to connect with TCR via email or on Facebook…   Christian Smith *** $3.77 ***   >>>>>> […]
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Lesser Known Works
    Yesterday marked the 110th anniversary of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s birth… In honor of the occasion, we wanted to highlight a few lesser-known books by/about him: You may have read , or , or even , but here are a few other important Bonhoeffer books, if you want to go deeper: #1  A diverse collection of writings […]
  • Gail Lumet Buckley – NPR interview.
    One of this week’s best new book releases is: The Black Calhouns: From Civil War to Civil Rights with One African American Family Gail Lumet Buckley Hardback: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2016 Buy now:  [  ] [  ] The author did an interview this week with Leonard Lopate at NPR affiliate WNYC.  It is a conversation […]
  • Slow Church Reading List #1 – Theological Roots
      I’m going to start assembling some reading lists to accompany the Slow Church book… The book includes a Recommended Reading List as an appendix, but these lists I’m working on will go deeper than that, and will include books that have been released since the launch of Slow Church.   Haven’t read Slow Church? […]
  • Br. David Steindl-Rast – On Being Interview.
    I’ve listened to the following On Being interview with David Steindl-Rast three times over the past week (and sections of it a fourth time).  His perspective on gratitude is so invigorating!   If you like this interview, you should definitely also read his book: Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer: An Approach to Life in Fullness […]
  • New Book Releases – Week of 1 February 2016
    Here are a few new book releases from this week that are worth checking out: (Where possible, we have also tried to include a review/interview related to the book…) By Paul Pastor View the icons with which the book is illustrated… NEXT BOOK >>>>>

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by csmith at February 05, 2016 05:36 PM

The Ontological Geek

The surreal, Kafkaesque dream space of Off-Peak

Through parallels with the world of cinema, Miguel Penabella sheds some light on one of 2015's most obscure (and best) indie games.

by Miguel Penabella at February 05, 2016 05:02 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

Online Business Training Returns, More Focused and Better than Ever

Link: Online Business Training

Yesterday I published a long, controversial essay that’s currently making the rounds. In the essay I basically said that it’s no longer business as usual in the world of online publishing, and that what once worked doesn’t work anymore, at least not as well.

Here’s something that’s a clear exception to that. Last year I shared Marie Forleo’s incredibly popular course with many of you. The course is now back in action, or at least it will be soon—and you can follow along with the free video series by joining the email list featured at the link above.

So, what’s up? Well, for starters–Marie is legit. She’s a good, real-life friend of mine and has been very kind to support my past two book launches. We recently recorded something for the new one, too—stay tuned! I’m proud to endorse her work whether you end up signing up for the course through my link or not.

More important, though, is that the training she offers has been improved and refined year after year. As someone who’s constantly doing new things (i.e. not necessarily maintaining and updating old things very well), the relentless focus on improving a core service is very impressive to me.


Anyway, the course has been completely revamped for 2016. If you’ve seen it before and didn’t feel like it was for you, you might want to take another look.

There will be two more videos coming out before the launch in about two weeks. I’ll be following this video series myself and occasionally writing about it. If I can help or advise you in any way in making a decision about it, let me know.

And remember: no matter what, the world is changing, so get ready to do things differently.


by Chris Guillebeau at February 05, 2016 04:25 PM

Happiness is a podcasting family →

Myke Hurley, writing at iMore:

The fact that we have computers in our pockets now — on our person at all times — means that we are all just a tap away from each other. And since we have hosts who live all over the world, there's someone online at practically any time of the day or night. That's powerful, and that's why I love my Apple devices. They not only help me do my work in a practical sense; they also help me stay connected to the people that are most important in my life.

Having my co-founder six time zones and 4,300 miles away isn't as hard as it may seem. With things like iMessage, FaceTime, Skype and Slack, Myke and I can communicate with each other and our hosts no matter where we are. Relay FM wouldn't be possible without the technology we use everyday. We do deeply enjoy the handful of times we see each other a year but it hasn't stopped us from running a growing business from different continent.

The best part is that you'd never know it looking at what we've been able to accomplish. Our company could only exist in the 21s century, and I think that's pretty cool.


by Stephen Hackett at February 05, 2016 04:11 PM


Learning to Pastor From Leviticus

When I was a college minister, Leviticus wasn’t the book I typically went to for pastoral theology. Actually, Leviticus wasn’t the book I typically went to for most things, with the exception of an atonement talk here or there. I suspect I’m not alone. Most of us don’t relish the idea of delighting our parishioners with details of cleansing skin diseases.

But I’ve recently been learning how mistaken we are when we take this approach to Leviticus.

Pastoral Care in the Old Covenant 

In his recent work, Who Shall Ascend to the Mountain of the Lord?: A Biblical Theology of the Book of Leviticus (IVP Academic, 2015), L. Michael Morales draws our attention to the pastoral implications of Leviticus’ first verses:

The LORD called Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When any one of you brings an offering to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of livestock from the herd or from the flock. If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer a male without blemish. He shall bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the LORD.” (Lev. 1:1–3)

Whenever an Israelite offered a burnt offering to the LORD, he was to present it to the priests first. The priests were to inspect it for any hint of defect, blemish, disease, infirmity, or weakness (Lev. 22:17–28). As Morales points out, this gave the priests a chance to exercise pastoral care for God’s people.

Located at the center of the Torah, the provisions of the sacrificial system formed the heart of Israel’s shared life with God. Not only did God use them to instruct his people in holiness (contrary to what many of us have been trained to think, God likes to both show and tell), but they were how he brought sinful people into his presence. Sacrifice was as much about God’s longing for us to draw near as it was about our inability to do so.

Worshipers, then, were to offer God their best as an act of worship. Offering a weak or defective animal indicated either carelessness about the things of God or a lack of trust in his provision. They signaled a distant heart. So the presentation and inspection of the sacrifices was an opportunity for the priests to offer pastoral accountability, correction, and instruction.

I continue to unpack the implications for New Covenant worshippers and pastors over at The Gospel Coalition.

Soli Deo Gloria 

by Derek Rishmawy at February 05, 2016 03:07 PM

Remember the Milk gets giant overhaul →

Remember the Milk was the first task manager I ever used. Like Gabe, I used Remember the Milk for years. I upgraded to their Pro service way back on July 24, 2008 and have close to 6,000 completed tasks logged there.

The service fell behind, though, and I moved on, but now, it's back with a huge update. With an all-new look and new apps, the service offers features found in other systems, including start dates, task sharing, subtasks and more. Remember the Milk had things like plain-English parsing and amazing search operators well before anyone else, and these have been updated as well.

Even with these updates, I'm not sure Remember the Milk is powerful enough to handle my task needs, but I'd be lying to say I'm not tempted to give it a run.


by Stephen Hackett at February 05, 2016 02:35 PM

Beeminder Blog

Post New Year’s Press Roundup

Victor Hugo

Another month (or so), another swarm of Beeminder buzz. Since new year’s resolution season just ended we got included in a lot of lists (resources for succeeding in college, resources for MBA students, apps to stay motivated in 2016, top resolution apps, and more apps to keep your 2016 resolutions).

The biggest buzz in terms of sending new users our way was probably an article in Fast Company about how to stop procrastinating. Runner up was James Clear’s essay on akrasia which was all over the internet, citing us for some of the core ideas. For example, Business Insider had a version of it. Sadly the version on LifeHacker omitted the reference to Beeminder.

We mentioned it before but our guest post on the Habitica blog was an important bit of buzz for us.

We got a wonderful testimonial on the wonders of Beeminder, by Silverdrag0n, also mentioned on Slate Star Codex. Silverdrag0n has written some followup posts as well: The Beeminder and the Misfit and The Bottom Line: Writing Output Improved.

Speaking of Slate Star Codex, there’s some good discussion on the SlateStarCodex subreddit about Beeminder.

And two of our favorites, a beautiful explication of the complementarity of Habitica and Beeminder and a beautiful mini-review and testimonial, both from new users.

In David MacIver’s 2015 year in review he mentions that he’s “just quietly using [Beeminder]” (but his wonderful loudness on Twitter seems to be back in full swing).

You should check out the Beeminder-themed abacus bracelet in case they ever get more in stock.

Here’s a third-party tool for pushing Basecamp data to Beeminder.

More MetaFilter love and yet more MetaFilter love.

We got some mentions in a post on setting goals, making personal self-contracts, Groundhog’s Day Resolutions and Plaintext Productivity.

There’s lots of Beeminder love in Lillian’s 2015 year in review.

Beeminder and StickK get shout-outs in this list of language learning strategies.

So much Beeminder love in Malcolm Ocean’s 2015 year in review, including Beeminder pushing Complice to profitability!

As previously blogged, Beeminder’s CEO gave a Quantified Self talk last year.

There’s a detailed write-up on Beeminder as #9 in this long list of weight loss strategies. And a small mention in this huge guide to meal-planning on the same website.

This isn’t very Beeminder-related but there’s a fascinating story about one of the people who interviewed us for the Sources & Methods podcast disappearing in Iran and ending up in an Iranian prison but now safely home.

A bit of love in the Mr Money Mustache forums.

Something in Norwegian.

Beeminding mistakes!

3 common pitfalls that can ruin your writing momentum, by Robby Macdonell.

An old post from Homo Minimus (in Spanish) that we seem to have missed before.

by dreeves at February 05, 2016 01:50 PM

The ryg blog


I dislike the way many (most?) people seem to conceptualize “smartness” or intelligence in others, because I feel it misses the mark in two separate, important ways.

1. Many of the things most people consider “intelligence” are in fact acquired (or at least acquirable) skills

You think someone being “smart” means they automatically can do things you can’t, and will never be able to learn, so there’s no point in even trying? Maybe, but it’s generally unlikely.

She has a phenomenal memory for facts and can just rattle them off? Must be eidetic memory, right? Actually, probably not. You too can improve your memory for abstract facts greatly by learning mnemonic techniques, if you want to. More so than you probably think.

He is great at mathematical problem-solving? Some of that requires genuine insight, sure. A lot of it is just pattern matching (which takes mainly familiarity and practice), some fairly general problem-solving heuristics that help you if you’re stuck (if you don’t know that book and want to become better at math, just buy it or lend it at a library!), and enough patience and stamina to keep going.

And so forth. Now I don’t mean to suggest that all that stands between you and a Nobel prize is three self-help books, a week of work and some autosuggestion! Anyone who claims that is a crank trying to sell you something (probably self-help books). But many people “don’t understand science” or “are just not smart” or “just don’t get math” in the same way that I am terrible at pole vaulting: not only do I not possess the skill, I also have never once seriously tried it or made an effort to become better at it in my life!

Which brings me to my second and more important point.

2. A lot of “being smart” actually consists of getting comfortable with feeling stupid

I knew a few people back in my early teens who were Mensa members and made sure everyone knew. They didn’t really do so well in the medium and long term. The problem was that they were brilliant, they knew it, and so they never really learned how to work for something; when they ran into a problem they didn’t immediately see how to handle, they would quickly give up in frustration.

Guess what; many of the problems you will actually face, both professionally and personally, cannot be solved using brilliance. They just take effort and stamina. And those that can benefit from brilliance…. well, usually we don’t really know how to solve them yet.

Most schools teach you well-known solutions to well-known, well-specified problems. And standardized IQ tests likewise ask clear questions with known “right” answers. Being good at that is a particular (and somewhat peculiar) skill. Real-world problem solving is mostly about heuristic solutions to messy, unclear, unfamiliar problems, usually subject to random external constraints, frequently not all satisfiable at once. And it tends to make you feel stupid.

This is normal, and it has been said better elsewhere, for example in “The importance of stupidity in scientific research”. I’ll quote a bit from it, but really you should just read the whole essay, it’s pretty short.

I recently saw an old friend for the first time in many years. We had been Ph.D. students at the same time, both studying science, although in different areas. She later dropped out of graduate school, went to Harvard Law School and is now a senior lawyer for a major environmental organization. At some point, the conversation turned to why she had left graduate school. To my utter astonishment, she said it was because it made her feel stupid. After a couple of years of feeling stupid every day, she was ready to do something else.

I had thought of her as one of the brightest people I knew and her subsequent career supports that view. What she said bothered me. I kept thinking about it; sometime the next day, it hit me. Science makes me feel stupid too. It’s just that I’ve gotten used to it. [..] But high-school and college science means taking courses, and doing well in courses means getting the right answers on tests. If you know those answers, you do well and get to feel smart.

A Ph.D., in which you have to do a research project, is a whole different thing. For me, it was a daunting task. How could I possibly frame the questions that would lead to significant discoveries; design and interpret an experiment so that the conclusions were absolutely convincing; foresee difficulties and see ways around them, or, failing that, solve them when they occurred? My Ph.D. project was somewhat interdisciplinary and, for a while, whenever I ran into a problem, I pestered the faculty in my department who were experts in the various disciplines that I needed. I remember the day when Henry Taube (who won the Nobel Prize two years later) told me he didn’t know how to solve the problem I was having in his area. I was a third-year graduate student and I figured that Taube knew about 1000 times more than I did (conservative estimate). If he didn’t have the answer, nobody did.

That’s when it hit me: nobody did. That’s why it was a research problem. And being my research problem, it was up to me to solve.

This quote is talking about academic research, but the same thing applies elsewhere. I’ve done programming, I’ve done research, and I’ve done art (in the form of PC demos). What all three have in common is that most of the people I know and respect in those disciplines spend the majority of their time feeling like idiots and talentless hacks. Impostor syndrome is the norm.

Being “smart” is not actually about knowing all the answers. One of the biggest parts is being aware of the limits of your knowledge and not running around like a headless chicken when you don’t know what to do. And it’s about being wrong a lot of the time, realizing the fact, and taking steps to be slightly less wrong next time round.

by fgiesen at February 05, 2016 12:39 PM

Light Blue Touchpaper

More on the IP bill

I’m in a symposium at Churchill College on the Investigatory Powers Bill. It’s organised by John Naughton and I’ll be speaking later on equipment interference, a topic on which I wrote an expert report for the recent IP Tribunal case brought by Privacy International. Meanwhile I’ll try to liveblog the event in followups to this post.

by Ross Anderson at February 05, 2016 10:55 AM

eighty-twenty news

Javascript syntax extensions using Ohm

Programming language designers often need to experiment with syntax for their new language features. When it comes to Javascript, we rely on language preprocessors, since altering a Javascript engine directly is out of the question if we want our experiments to escape the lab.

Ohm is “a library and domain-specific language for parsing and pattern matching.” In this post, I’m going to use it as a Javascript language preprocessor. I’ll build a simple compiler for ES5 extended with a new kind of for loop, using Ohm and the ES5 grammar included with it.

All the code in this post is available in a Github repo.

Our toy extension: “for five”

We will add a “for five” statement to ES5, which will let us write programs like this:

for five as x { console.log("We have had", x, "iterations so far"); }

The new construct simply runs its body five times in a row, binding a loop variable in the body. Running the program above through our compiler produces:

for (var x = 0; x < 5; x++) { console.log("We have had", x, "iterations so far"); }

Extending the ES5 grammar

We write our extension to the ES5 grammar in a new file for5.ohm as follows:

For5 <: ES5 {
  IterationStatement += for five as identifier Statement  -- for5_named

  five = "five" ~identifierPart
  as = "as" ~identifierPart

  keyword += five
           | as

Let’s take this a piece at a time. First of all, the declaration For5 <: ES5 tells Ohm that the new grammar should be called For5, and that it inherits from a grammar called ES5. Next,

IterationStatement += for five as identifier Statement  -- for5_named

extends the existing ES5 grammar’s IterationStatement nonterminal with a new production that will be called IterationStatement_for5_named.

Finally, we define two new nonterminals as convenient shorthands for parsing the two new keywords, and augment the existing keyword definition:

five = "five" ~identifierPart
as = "as" ~identifierPart

keyword += five
         | as

There are three interesting points to be made about keywords:

  • First of all, making something a keyword rules it out as an identifier. In our extended language, writing var five = 5 is a syntax error. Define new keywords with care!

  • We make sure to reject input tokens that have our new keywords as a prefix by defining them as their literal text followed by anything that cannot be parsed as a part of an identifier, ~identifierPart. That way, the compiler doesn’t get confused by, say, fivetimes or five_more, which remain valid identifiers.

  • By making sure to extend keyword, tooling such as syntax highlighters can automatically take advantage of our extension, if they are given our extended grammar.

Translating source code using the new grammar

First, require the ohm-js NPM module and its included ES5 grammar:

var ohm = require('ohm-js');
var ES5 = require('ohm-js/examples/ecmascript/es5.js');

Next, load our extended grammar from its definition in for5.ohm, and compile it. When we compile the grammar, we pass in a namespace that makes the ES5 grammar available under the name our grammar expects, ES5:

var grammarSource = fs.readFileSync(path.join(__dirname, 'for5.ohm')).toString();
var grammar = ohm.grammar(grammarSource, { ES5: ES5.grammar });

Finally, we define the translation from our extended language to plain ES5. To do this, we extend a semantic function, modifiedSource, adding a method for each new production rule. Ohm automatically uses defaults for rules not mentioned in our extension.

var semantics = grammar.extendSemantics(ES5.semantics);
semantics.extendAttribute('modifiedSource', {
  IterationStatement_for5_named: function(_for, _five, _as, id, body) {
    var c = id.asES5;
    return 'for (var '+c+' = 0; '+c+' < 5; '+c+'++) ' + body.asES5;

Each parameter to the IterationStatement_for5_named method is a syntax tree node corresponding positionally to one of the tokens in the definition of the parsing rule. Accessing the asES5 attribute of a syntax tree node computes its translated source code. This is done with recursive calls to the modifiedSource attribute where required.

Our compiler is, at this point, complete. To use it, we need code to feed it input and print the results:

function compileExtendedSource(inputSource) {
  var parseResult = grammar.match(inputSource);
  if (parseResult.failed()) console.error(parseResult.message);
  return parseResult.succeeded() && semantics(parseResult).asES5;

That’s it!

> compileExtendedSource("for five as x { console.log(x); }");
'for (var x = 0; x < 5; x++) { console.log(x); }'


This style of syntactic extension is quite coarse-grained: we must translate whole compilation units at once, and must specify our extensions separately from the code making use of them. There is no way of adding a local syntax extension scoped precisely to a block of code that needs it (known to Schemers as let-syntax). For Javascript, sweet.js offers a more Schemely style of syntax extension than the one explored in this post.

Mention of sweet.js leads me to the thorny topic of hygiene. Ohm is a parsing toolkit. It lets you define new concrete syntax, but doesn’t know anything about scope, or about how you intend to use identifiers. After all, it can be used for languages that don’t necessarily even have identifiers. So when we write extensions in the style I’ve presented here, we must write our translations carefully to avoid unwanted capture of identifiers. This is a tradeoff: the broad generality of Ohm’s parsing in exchange for less automation in identifier handling.

Ohm’s extensible grammars let us extend any part of the language, not just statements or expressions. We can specify new comment syntax, new string syntax, new formal argument list syntax, and so on. Because Ohm is based on parsing expression grammars, it offers scannerless parsing. Altering or extending a language’s lexical syntax is just as easy as altering its grammar.


We have defined an Ohm-based compiler for an extension to ES5 syntax, using only a few lines of code. Each new production rule requires, roughly, one line of grammar definition, and a short method defining its translation into simpler constructs.

You can try out this little compiler, and maybe experiment with your own extensions, by cloning its Github repo.

by tonyg at February 05, 2016 08:57 AM

Table Titans

Tales: XTREME Smidget

You may assume that the tale of Smidget starting a religion was the only noteworthy thing he did in that campaign.

You would be wrong.

Our group ventured into an underground Dwarven city on our way to a quest. While there, one of the Fighters, my Ranger, and Smidget decided to go on a tour…

Read more

February 05, 2016 07:01 AM

Going beyond NS_ProcessNextEvent

If you’ve been debugging Gecko, you’ve probably hit the frustration of having the code you’re inspecting being called asynchronously, and your stack trace rooting through NS_ProcessNextEvent, which means you don’t know at first glance how your code ended up being called in the first place.

Events running from the Gecko event loop are all nsRunnable instances. So at some level close to NS_ProcessNextEvent, in your backtrace, you will see Class::Run. If you’re lucky, you can find where the nsRunnable was created. But that requires the stars to be perfectly aligned. In many cases, they’re not.

There comes your savior: rr. If you don’t know it, check it out. The downside is that you must first rr record a Firefox session doing what you’re debugging. Then, rr replay will give you a debugger with the capabilities of a time machine.

Note, I’m kind of jinxed, I don’t do much C++ debugging these days, so every time I use rr replay, I end up hitting a new error. Tip #1: try again with rr’s current master. Tip #2: roc is very helpful. But my takeaway is that it’s well worth the trouble. It is a game changer for debugging.

Anyways, once you’re in rr replay and have hit your crasher or whatever execution path you’re interested in, and you want to go beyond that NS_ProcessNextEvent, here is what you can do:

(rr) break nsEventQueue.cpp:60
(rr) reverse-continue

(Adjust the line number to match wherever the *aResult = mHead->mEvents[mOffsetHead++]; line is in your tree).

(rr) disable
(rr) watch -l mHead->mEvents[mOffsetHead]
(rr) reverse-continue
(rr) disable

And there you are, you just found where the exact event that triggered the executed code you were looking at was put on the event queue. (assuming there isn’t a nested event loop processed during the first reverse-continue)

Rinse and repeat.

by glandium at February 05, 2016 06:19 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

9 Things You Should Know About Female Genital Mutilation

Article by: Joe Carter

Tomorrow is the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation, a day set aside to raise awareness about the practice of Female Genital Mutilation and the goal of eliminating it by 2030.

Here are nine things you should know about this Satanic practice that harms women and girls around the globe. [Warning: Although the language is not graphic, the descriptions of the practice are disturbing. Also, you should stop reading if you’re offended by mentions of female body parts.]

1. Female genital mutilation (FGM) is the partial or complete removal of a girl’s external genitals for non-medical reasons (usually cultural, economic, or religious). There are no health benefits to FGM, and because the girl’s body is physically harmed by the removal of healthy tissue, the practice is recognized internationally as a human rights violation.

2. FGM is sometimes called Female Genital Cutting (FGC), Female Circumcision (FC), or excision. Many communities if which FGM occurs also use local names to refer to this practice including the Arabic terms ‘Tahor’ or ‘Sunna,’ These terms are sometimes used to avoid offending cultural sensibilities and to avoid the perception that the practice is always forced on women. In some communities in which the FGM occurs, elderly women often do the most to perpetuate the custom.

3. In communities where FGM occurs, most girls are cut before they turn 14 years of age. Some girls, however, are cut in infancy. As the Orchid Project notes, “In some areas of Ethiopia, for example, girls are often cut at just nine days old, and in half the countries in which FGC is practiced most girls undergo the procedure before the age of five.” They add that, “In the Central African Republic, Egypt, Chad, and Somalia about 80% of girls are cut between five and 14, often in relation to coming-of-age rituals and the marking of their passage into adulthood.”

4. The first type of FGM is clitoridectomy. This type entails the partial or total removal of the clitoris and, in very rare cases, only the prepuce (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoris).

5. The second type of FGM is excision. This type entails the partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora.

6. The third type of FGM is infibulation. This type involves narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the inner, or outer, labia, with or without removal of the clitoris. The remaining skin is sewn or sealed together leaving a tiny hole for menstrual blood and urine.

7. The other types of FGM involve a variety of other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping, and cauterizing the genital area.

8. FGM is often performed with razor blades or knives and without sterilized equipment or anesthetic. In some urban areas, however, medically trained personnel may perform the FGM.

9. Between 100 and 140 million girls and women across the globe have either been subjected to FGM or at risk of being affected. The practice is most prevalent in Africa (where it occurs in at least 28 countries), parts of the Middle East, and South East Asia. FGC also happens in diaspora communities, including communities in the United States.

Other articles in this series:

Orphans • Pastors • Global Persecution of Christians (2015 Edition) • Global Hunger • National Hispanic Heritage Month • Pope Francis • Refugees in America • Margaret Sanger • Confederate Flag Controversy • Elisabeth Elliot • Animal Fighting • Mental Health • Prayer in the Bible • Same-sex Marriage • Genocide • Church Architecture • Auschwitz and Nazi Extermination Camps • Boko Haram • Adoption • Military Chaplains • Atheism • Intimate Partner Violence • Rabbinic Judaism • Hamas • Male Body Image Issues • Mormonism • Islam • Independence Day and the Declaration of Independence • Anglicanism • Transgenderism • Southern Baptist Convention • Surrogacy • John Calvin • The Rwandan Genocide • The Chronicles of Narnia • The Story of Noah • Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church • Pimps and Sex Traffickers • Marriage in America • Black History Month • The Holocaust • Roe v. Wade • Poverty in America • Christmas • The Hobbit • Council of Trent • C.S. Lewis • Halloween and Reformation Day • Casinos and Gambling • Prison Rape • 6th Street Baptist Church Bombing • 9/11 Attack Aftermath • Chemical Weapons • March on Washington • Duck Dynasty • Child Brides • Human Trafficking • Scopes Monkey Trial • Social Media • Supreme Court's Same-Sex Marriage Cases • The Bible • Human Cloning • Pornography and the Brain • Planned Parenthood • Boston Marathon Bombing • Female Body Image Issues • Islamic State

Joe Carter is an editor for The Gospel Coalition and the co-author of How to Argue Like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History’s Greatest Communicator. You can follow him on Twitter.

by Joe Carter at February 05, 2016 06:18 AM

The Truth Behind ‘El Chapo’ Guzman

Article by: Carlos Contreras

It appears the capture of Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán is worthy of the highest news coverage these days. Speculations, exaggerations, and trivial facts about El Chapo abound. Apparently, the world wants to know if he was interested in producing an autobiographical film and who will star in the Hollywood production. They want to know what brand of cell phone he preferred, how many kids he really has, and if he was romantically involved with a famous Mexican actress.

The coverage raises the image of this famous drug trafficker to mythical proportions. And it makes it difficult for the average observer to separate fact from fiction.

But there are matters of deeper significance to address, and careful biblical analysis is needed to forge an accurate opinion on what all this means. As a Mexican pastor, I want to contribute to the discussion as one living in a country and city (Ciudad Juarez) that are the scene of what’s been called the “war on drugs.”

Scripture Describes El Chapo

First of all, we must recognize the famous “Chapo Guzmán” is a brutal and bloodthirsty criminal. He loves power and wealth and is ready to order the murder of hundreds—perhaps thousands—to secure a position of greater power and financial profit. This man should never be viewed lightly. Thousands in Mexico and other countries of the Americas have suffered the consequences of his criminal fervor. El Chapo is neither hero nor benefactor; he doesn’t deserve to be dignified in a film, nor to see his exploits enshrined in a popular song. He should be punished for his crimes and stopped from doing further evil. And while even a man like El Chapo has access to God’s grace and an opportunity to repent from his sins, it’s important we form judgments on people based on what Scripture says.

It’s easy to express opinions about the “phenomenon” of El Chapo. Why do men like him exist? What’s driving major drug lords? Is it governments? Poverty? The biblical answer is that El Chapo is a product of a fallen world. He’s an example of what Paul warned Timothy would characterize men in the last days:

But know this: There will be terrible times in the last days. For men will be lovers of themselves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; having a form of godliness but denying its power; from such turn away. (2 Tim. 3:1–5)

The Heart of Narcoterrorism

A fallen world produces fierce and ruthless men who generate all kinds of violence, corruption, abuse, and injustice. We should be careful not to interpret their existence as a result of nationality or race, or of social, educational, or economic status. Man’s problem is ultimately himself, not his environment or circumstances. The heart of the problem, then, is the problem of the heart.

When sin is encouraged rather than stopped, we encounter what we now see happening in countries like Mexico, where organized crime dares to challenge the government and society. If the government established by God (Rom. 13:3–4) doesn’t effectively combat evil, then crime and violence multiply. Jesus teaches us sin is always lurking in the hearts of men, willing to emerge in the worst way (Matt. 15:19). Every country in the world shows evidence of this, but in Latin America government failures have helped evil flourish to regrettable proportions.

As news like this surfaces, it’s important to consider the effect of drug traffic crime on a whole nation. Look at Mexico. Even though organized crime only represents about 0.3% of the Mexican population, that is enough to destabilize the whole governmental apparatus, similar to the way a small percentage of religious extremists can terrorize a whole region. This is why the operation of drug cartels has been labeled “narcoterrorism,” bringing more violence to a nation where poverty, ignorance, and social injustice already abound. We should respond to the news of El Chapo’s capture by remembering the widespread suffering and oppression his operations have inflicted. Our compassion should lead us to pray for his victims and for the nations who live in his wake.

The Real War on Drugs 

Even though governments seem to be making little progress in the fight against drug trafficking, during the last eight years the Mexican government has been involved in a bloody war against the cartels. An estimated 140,000 have been killed (most of them cartel members) and tens of thousands of criminals have been arrested. But this war strategy, also promoted and supported by U.S. government, has proven ineffective.

Mexico is paying a very high price for being the next-door neighbor to the largest consumer of illegal drugs in the world. On March 25, 2009, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confessed that America’s “insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade” and that America bears “shared responsibility” for the drug-fueled violence sweeping Mexico. Why is the war on drugs so ineffective? Because unless there’s a significant reduction in demand for illegal drugs (from an estimated 26 million American drug users), the capture or death of one drug trafficker will only mean he’s replaced by another, who could be more violent and voracious than his predecessor.

The Real Solution

Every illegal drug consumer needs to know that every dollar they spend on drugs contributes to the continuation and growth of drug cartel violence. Buying marijuana helps men like El Chapo. In response, governments are leaning toward the legalization of drugs. The hope is that eliminating its criminality will diminish the violence associated with its illegal trade. The solution proposed is to facilitate the access to drugs, apparently surrendering in the battle to reduce consumption.

In the final analysis, the only effective war on drug trafficking is one that transforms the heart of the consumer. A change of heart is required for one to abandon the selfishness and pleasure drugs produce and to be transformed into a lover of God and people. And only the gospel has that power.

The capture of El Chapo Guzmán should not produce amazement in us that people like him exist. Rather, it should encourage us afresh to proclaim that there’s a solution to the problem—and that it’s only found in the life-altering power of Jesus Christ.

​Carlos Contreras is pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. He’s married to María Eugenia (Kena) Flores, with whom he has four wonderful children and three grandchildren. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook.

by Carlos Contreras at February 05, 2016 06:02 AM

Learning to Pastor from Leviticus

Article by: Derek Rishmawy

When I was a college minister, Leviticus wasn’t the book I typically went to for pastoral theology. Actually, Leviticus wasn’t the book I typically went to for most things, with the exception of an atonement talk here or there. I suspect I’m not alone. Most of us don’t relish the idea of delighting our parishioners with details of cleansing skin diseases. 

But I’ve recently been learning how mistaken we are when we take this approach to Leviticus.

Pastoral Care in the Old Covenant 

In his recent work, Who Shall Ascend to the Mountain of the Lord?: A Biblical Theology of the Book of Leviticus (IVP Academic, 2015), L. Michael Morales draws our attention to the pastoral implications of Leviticus’ first verses:

The LORD called Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When any one of you brings an offering to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of livestock from the herd or from the flock. If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer a male without blemish. He shall bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the LORD.” (Lev. 1:1–3)

Whenever an Israelite offered a burnt offering to the LORD, he was to present it to the priests first. The priests were to inspect it for any hint of defect, blemish, disease, infirmity, or weakness (Lev. 22:17–28). As Morales points out, this gave the priests a chance to exercise pastoral care for God’s people.

Located at the center of the Torah, the provisions of the sacrificial system formed the heart of Israel’s shared life with God. Not only did God use them to instruct his people in holiness (contrary to what many of us have been trained to think, God likes to both show and tell), but they were how he brought sinful people into his presence. Sacrifice was as much about God’s longing for us to draw near as it was about our inability to do so.

Worshipers, then, were to offer God their best as an act of worship. Offering a weak or defective animal indicated either carelessness about the things of God or a lack of trust in his provision. They signaled a distant heart. So the presentation and inspection of the sacrifices was an opportunity for the priests to offer pastoral accountability, correction, and instruction.

Implications for New Covenant Shepherds

As members of the new covenant, we no longer offer burnt offerings in a tabernacle or temple. Christ’s finished work on the cross has done what the blood of bulls and goats could never do: cleanse us from iniquity and sin, and give us access to the presence of the living God (Heb. 10:4). But that doesn’t mean we’re done offering acceptable sacrifices to the Lord. Paul urges us to offer spiritual sacrifices with the whole of our lives in response to the glorious mercies unleashed on us in Christ (Rom. 12:1–2). This means Leviticus still has something to teach us.

The application can be taken in two directions. One is simply a call for greater self-examination on the part of God’s people. Just as individual Israelites were to be conscious of the offering they brought before the Lord, we too should be careful not to treat God as an afterthought with our time, energy, emotions, or devotion. He deserves our whole selves.

Two Reasons to Embrace Hardship

Pastors themselves can also gain much by reflecting on this text. Though pastors aren’t “priests” in the specialized, mediatorial sense, discipling and leading the people of God in the worship of God entails examining their sacrifices. It’s tempting to avoid the difficult work of pastoral care and correction, but in light of the Levitical system we should resist that temptation for two reasons.

First, God is worthy of your labors. Speaking through the prophet Malachi, he asks:

When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the LORD of hosts. (Mal. 1:8)

Pastors, encourage your people for the sake of God’s great name.

Second, your people need your labors. Though we no longer offer sacrifices for atonement, they’re still at the heart of our communion with God. If your people aren’t offering themselves to Jesus, they’re offering themselves to something else: money, sex, power, family, career, or some other idol that will destroy them. More than anything else, our people need to give themselves in worship to Jesus. It’s what they were made for.

Four Ways to Pastor Like Jesus

While I’m no expert at pastoral care, there are at least four things pastors must do if they’re going to shepherd their congregations in a manner consistent with the priestly heart of Jesus.

First, we must be close enough to our congregation to see their lives. Examining a bull or goat for a broken leg or goofy eye is relatively easy. Examining a human heart, however, takes time, care, and wisdom from the Holy Spirit. It also requires some proximity. In other words, pastors, if you’re going to properly exhort your people to offer themselves unequivocally to Jesus, you must be part of their lives. Pastors who stand apart from their sheep won’t know them, and their pastoral direction will be uninformed and misguided.

Second, we must love them. That should seem obvious, but it’s actually the dividing line often between genuine, tender care and the sort of destructive, authoritarian “examination” against which many wounded refugees of the church rightly react. We must be sympathetic in our “priestly” work, just as Jesus was (Heb. 4:14–15). We must remember that we’re in the same boat as our people, struggling with temptations, sins, and failures demanding corrective grace (Heb. 2:17–18).

Third, we must have courage to speak, because this sort of thing can be awkward. We don’t want to be pushy or intrusive, or misread someone’s heart by bringing a word of correction that does more harm than good. This is why the last two points are so important. Speaking frankly only works when your people know your words come from a heart of love, since you know them so well.

Finally, we must constantly preach a Jesus worthy of our sacrifice. Only when we present him as the crucified and risen one—the only one who lived a life of perfectly sacrificial obedience in order to offer himself, for us, without spot or blemish—will we be able to see sacrifice as a delight and not a duty.

If Jesus, blazing in all his glory, sits at the heart of our preaching and pastoring, then by God’s grace he will reign in the hearts of our people and the heart of their worship. 

Derek Rishmawy is a systematic theology PhD student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He contributes to Christ and Pop Culture, Christianity Today, and writes at his own blog, Reformedish. He also co-hosts a podcast called Mere Fidelity. You can follow him on Twitter.

by Derek Rishmawy at February 05, 2016 06:02 AM

How to Find Jesus in the Old Testament

Article by: Casey Croy

Though he may be most noted for his work as a lawyer and political commentator, David Limbaugh’s recent interests have included topics related to Christianity. His most recent bestseller, The Emmaus Code: Finding Jesus in the Old Testament, is an attempt to demonstrate how Christ is the central message of the Old Testament.

Limbaugh’s breakthrough in understanding the Old Testament came when he understood the centrality of Christ within it, and he hopes this book will guide others toward the same appreciation of the Old Testament’s Christological witness. The title of the book is, of course, a reference to Luke 24:27: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Limbaugh believes this text is in Scripture because God intends for all Christians to experience the kind of breakthrough those two travelers on the road to Emmaus experienced.

Christological Center 

The Emmaus Code begins by defending the Old Testament as a profitable portion of the Bible. Limbaugh then gives a summary of Old Testament history, which he believes aids readers by providing a broad perspective of how the various parts fit together. This historical perspective is the key, according to Limbaugh, for understanding how the Old Testament points to Christ. In the next section he explains important concepts such as covenant and typology. Limbaugh will frequently refer back to these concepts in the final section of The Emmaus Code, which gives a book-by-book examination of how the Old Testament testifies to the coming Messiah.

Overall, The Emmaus Code is a fine example of Christological biblical interpretation and will benefit a lay audience, even if readers don’t share Limbaugh’s dispensational outlook. Two aspects, I believe, help the book stand out.

First, Limbaugh notes the importance of progressive revelation for understanding how Christ is revealed in the Old Testament. “Progressive revelation” simply means the original audience (and even author) didn’t share the same perspective as New Testament readers. While the Old Testament does contain legitimate testimonies to the person and work of Christ, many of these passages can only be understood as pointing to Christ retrospectively. Though always present, an Old Testament text’s Christological significance only becomes clear in light of subsequent revelation. Progressive revelation is vital, then, since it allows us to affirm the Old Testament’s Christological significance without straining the text beyond what it can exegetically sustain. Limbaugh generally allows for Christ-centered passages to emerge with the help of later revelation. Thus he remains true to the concept of progressive revelation, which he describes early within The Emmaus Code. For a popular level book, this is a commendable feat.

Second, Limbaugh balances his conviction that Christ is the main theme of Scripture with his acknowledgement that Scripture’s message is wider and more complex than this theme alone. One danger in stressing Christ-centered interpretation is it can leave the reader thinking the only topic the Bible addresses is Christ; the central theme becomes the only theme. Limbaugh, however, frequently notes instances when, though Christ remains central, a biblical passage addresses a wide array of concepts.

Offsetting the Value 

Though The Emmaus Code has many positive aspects, it also has weaknesses. It’s noteworthy Limbaugh holds strongly to the historical reliability of the Old Testament, but his emphasis on history obscures the significance of some Old Testament books. He draws little distinction between text and event. More importantly, he doesn’t consider a book’s date of composition as a key indicator of the author’s intended message. Instead, he just focuses on the historical significance of the events described within the given book.

The most telling example is his discussion of 1–2 Chronicles. If read merely for historical material, much of their significance is mitigated since they essentially relate the same information as 1–2 Kings. If it’s acknowledged, however, that 1–2 Chronicles were written to the returning exiles at the end of Old Testament history, then we may contemplate what the author’s purposes are: rehearsing Israel’s history for those who’ve resettled the land over 100 years after the events described. This opens new options for considering the message and purpose of 1–2 Chronicles, which aren’t available if these books are only mined for the history they relate.

The Emmaus Code is essentially an overview of the Old Testament’s witness of Christ. The problem every such overview will encounter is inevitably gliding over difficulties that would be encountered in a detailed examination. Limbaugh frequently notes instances, for example, where the New Testament quotes the Old Testament to indicate its Christological significance. These New Testament quotations of the Old, however, often create significant exegetical and hermeneutical challenges which Limbaugh fails to acknowledge. For example, Limbaugh notes the use of Jeremiah 31:15 in Matthew 2:17–18 but doesn’t address any of the questions surrounding Matthew’s use of the Old Testament in this instance

The final evaluation of The Emmaus Code will be heavily dependent on one’s familiarity with the topics addressed. The book could provide a lay audience with an solid invitation to consider new avenues for understanding the Christological significance of the Old Testament. On the other hand, most pastors and biblical scholars will desire a more in-depth treatment of the material covered and may, at times, be unconvinced by many of Limbaugh’s exegetical and theological decisions.

David Limbaugh. The Emmaus Code: Finding Jesus in the Old Testament. Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, 2015. 420 pp. $27.99. 

Casey Croy is a PhD student in biblical theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He holds degrees from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and The Queen’s University of Belfast, Northern Ireland. He currently lives in Louisville, Kentucky, with his wife and newborn son.

by Casey Croy at February 05, 2016 06:02 AM

3 Ways I Share in the Pastor’s Study

Article by: Megan Hill

My husband and I have a running joke. When the milk puddles on the kitchen floor, or the laundry baskets explode in the family room, or the kids start leaping from the light fixtures, he eyes the door and calmly says: “Well, I’m just going to go to my office to pray and study the Bible now.” 

Typically, I respond by throwing a pair of just-matched socks at him. 

Like many Christians, I’d dearly love more opportunities to pray and study. I’d love to read more commentaries, listen to more sermons and lectures, fill the gaps in my knowledge of church history and systematic theology. 

And my husband has more time for studying than I do. As a pastor, it’s his job. 

Of course, I often fail to make use of the opportunities I do get. I have umpteen Bibles in my house and on my screens, I have joint ownership of and full access to a theological library of 5,000 volumes, and if I spend more time watching Netflix than praying, it’s no one’s fault but my own. 

But on a rainy Tuesday morning, when I’m folding laundry or commuting to work, he must study. And over the last 12 years of our marriage, I’ve come to realize that while I may be opening canned tomatoes, and he may be opening the letter to the Hebrews, I can and do have a share in his study. As a pastor’s wife—but also simply as a church member—his study is my privilege to participate in, particularly in three ways. 

1. I share in the content of his study. 

This is perhaps the most obvious, but I need to remind myself of it regularly. Every sermon, every pastoral prayer, every Bible study lesson, comes from hours of study. The reason he can clearly explain 1 Peter 2 or Exodus 28 is that he has studied those passages exhaustively—their original language, their context, their doctrinal themes, their varied applications. The reason he can lead publicly in prayer with wisdom and devotion is because he has prayed long in private. 

The pastor is also an advisor, curator, and reviewer for my own study. Because of his extensive reading, he can say to me: I think you’d benefit from this book; don’t bother buying that one. If you have time, read this whole book; if you don’t, just chapter 4 is extraordinarily helpful. He can gently ask: Have you considered this argument? Have you listened to this preacher? Have you read this text in light of this other one? The content of his study helpfully informs mine, saving me time and energy, if only I would ask him. 

Never send to know for whom the pastor studies. He studies for thee. 

2. I share in the reward of his study.

We often have a misplaced understanding of what actually happens in the pastor’s study. I can picture him, cup of still-warm coffee in hand, feet on the desk, casually browsing the latest release from Crossway. But “prayer and the ministry of the Word” (Acts 6:4)—the apostolic mission—is not a description of the life of ease. The apostles had to devote themselves to it (Acts 6:4), and they needed diaconal helpers to take the other, smaller burdens because this one was so huge (Acts 6:2–3). 

Prayer is not easy. Bible study is not easy. And the pastor needs my help. 

When I mop the milk or go to work so he can study, I will have the privilege of participating in the study’s reward. When I pray while he studies, or pray while he prays, I will also share in its fruit.

If the Word is proclaimed from the pulpit with power, I have a share in that. If sinners are brought to repentance, I have a share. If the Word rightly ministered reconciles marriages, directs the ignorant, shepherds the flock, I have a share. Only the last day will reveal what my sacrifice for his study accomplished in the spiritual places. 

3. I share in the joy of his study.

Before my husband is my husband, he is my brother. Before he is my pastor or my elder, he is my brother. Before he is either theology student or theology teacher, he is my brother. 

Last week, my husband texted me from a conference in another state after sitting under a particularly moving sermon: “Brought to see something of the depths of Christ’s love for the church and the privilege of serving. Praise the Lord!” And I rejoiced with him (Rom. 12:15). 

When, through prayer and the ministry of the Word, my brother grows to love Christ more, when he sees afresh the glory of the gospel, when he finds himself stirred by the Scriptures to greater devotion, when he kills sin and pursues holiness, when he has more of the Spirit, then I have a share in his joy.

If behind a closed study door, my brother delights in my Lord, then I will rejoice.

Editors’ note: Don’t miss The Gospel Coalition’s 2016 National Women’s Conference. Megan Hill will lead a workshop on “When Women Pray Together.” Workshops are filling up fast, so register now

Megan Hill is a pastor's wife and writer living in Massachusetts. She is the author of Praying Together, which will be released by Crossway in April 2016.

by Megan Hill at February 05, 2016 06:00 AM

What Should a Church Look Like?

Article by: Staff

Panelists:  Crawford Loritts, Tim Keller, Mark Dever

Date: April 13, 2011

Event: The Gospel Coalition 2011 National Conference, Chicago, Illinois

Crawford Loritts is senior pastor of Fellowship Bible Church in Roswell, Georgia, and a TGC Council member. Tim Keller is co-founder of The Gospel Coalition and senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. Mark Dever is senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. and a TGC Council member.

Subscribe to TGC’s podcast in iTunes or for other devices to get this and other interviews, workshops, and lectures. The Gospel Coalition Podcast is now available on Stitcher.

Editors’ Note: You can hear Tim Keller speak on prayer at The Gospel Coalition 2016 Women’s Conference, June 16 to 18 in Indianapolis. Register here.

by Staff at February 05, 2016 05:59 AM

Zippy Catholic

Electability and qualification for office

Liberalism is an objectively wicked, destructive, and murderous political philosophy. Therefore commitment to liberal principles objectively disqualifies a candidate for public office.

Lying about one’s commitments also objectively disqualifies a candidate for public office.

All candidates for notable public office in the United States are either genuinely committed to liberal principles or must lie about being committed to liberal principles in order to be electable.

Therefore, no electable candidates for notable public office in the Unites States are objectively qualified.

by Zippy at February 05, 2016 03:17 AM

February 04, 2016

John Lasseter looks back on 30 years of Pixar →

I'm not sure I can name another company that has brought so much joy to the world. Happy birthday, Pixar.


by Stephen Hackett at February 04, 2016 11:36 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

The New, New Economy: How the World of Online Publishing Is Changing, and Why You Should Care


For the past eight years I’ve made a good living through online publishing. I’ve shared much of the journey along the way, but I first documented the overall process in a manifesto, 279 Days to Overnight Success.

This manifesto went on to have a life of its own, thanks to the generous sharing of readers. Every single day—seven years later!—I hear from people who have found it online and enjoyed it.

And guess what? I think at least some of the lessons I taught so fervently back then are wrong.

Well, they aren’t necessarily incorrect—so maybe “wrong” is the wrong word.

But I don’t think the instructions are as timeless as I thought they were at the time. If, today, you do exactly what I said back then, I’m not entirely sure that success will follow. Or at the very least, the odds will be much lower.

I don’t want to overstate this, because there’s still good news. The good news is that the core principles remain the same: make something, help someone. Artists and hustlers will always find a way. Between working for yourself and entrusting your security and well-being to anyone else, the choice is still easy.

So that’s great. But what ISN’T GREAT is that the strategies I outlined, which many people have followed to varying degrees of success or failure, are far less relevant today than they were at the time. And that’s a problem!

What’s changed? Well, it’s a long list … but here are a few big things.

1. The thought leader space is oversaturated.

What happens when large numbers of people all pursue the same goal? Funny enough, they all pursue the same strategies to achieving that goal! They all set out to “build a following” and “create platform” for themselves. They all write ebooks (more on that in a moment). They all create online courses, some more helpful than others. The tech-savvy ones make apps.

And while some of this work is no doubt unique, and much of it is valuable, there is a real problem with lack of differentiation. Why is so-and-so’s course better than someone else’s? Does the world need another blog on minimalism and simplicity? (If we’re all trying to reduce, why do we keep adding?)

I realize it probably sounds unfair for the people who’ve been around for a while to complain about the space being crowded. But after all, the reason the space is crowded is because every leader actively encourages others to do much the same thing that they are doing.

Besides, just because something is unfair doesn’t mean it isn’t true. The fact that the space is oversaturated is an observation, not a judgment.

and let’s not stop there…


2. Digital products have greatly evolved.

Online publishers prospered for years, but much of it was a gold rush. I knew a guy who made six-figures with an ebook about beards. Beards! I know, beards are a thing … but still. Another story I’ve told frequently was about a guy who made multiple six-figures writing about guinea pigs. I am not making this up.

I remember the early days of eBay and other online auctions. In some cases it was possible to buy items from the store and then immediately resell them online for a higher price. That’s the kind of thing that happens in a gold rush, and there was one for online publishing, too.

The novelty has faded, and skepticism—which is normal consumer behavior for most markets—has set in. These days, it’s much harder for most people to reap a substantial profit on a new digital product without putting in a lot more work on both the development side and the marketing side.

Note that I’m not saying “information should be free.” Information has always been both free and for sale. I’m pretty sure you’ll always be able to buy a newspaper, in one form or another. I just mean that people are more skeptical in the first place and less willing to be persuaded even if you do capture their attention.


3. The “rules of engagement” for social media have changed.

I’m not a social media commentator and have only done fairly well on one network that is now on the defensive for lots of valid reasons. But you don’t need to be a futurist to see that the way the kids are using social is a lot different than five years ago, or even two years ago.

For one, people expect native engagement these days. Look at Humans of New York—does that guy even have a website? His social pages with millions of followers link straight to an Amazon listing. Presumably there’s something else floating around somewhere, but I’d guess that more than 99% of people who are huge fans and have helped the project become a massive success (with hundreds of thousands of books sold, by the way) have never been to his own website.

Instead, they engage almost entirely through social feeds. The story lives and grows through social. If there’s a hub somewhere, the hub supports the networks and not the other way around. This is the exact opposite of what you have been taught.

I used to say that there was no benefit to social networks unless you were able to “capture” that value elsewhere, like on your email list or through some other platform of your own. This is still the prevailing wisdom of most marketers. But I think the prevailing wisdom falls in the department of “nice work if you can get it.” Yes, it’s great to amass an email list. But if you want to truly amass a following or start a movement, you have to be thinking much differently about social.

In other words, I don’t think it’s fair to tell people to pursue business as usual, when it’s clear that business as usual no longer works.


4. On its own, blogging is no longer perceived as valuable and interesting.

Don’t get me wrong: I love blogging. If the world conformed to my whims and I could choose only one medium and platform—no social media, no email list, nothing else—I’d pick blogging.

Alas, just as blogs have changed, so too has the way that people engage with blogs. For example, I don’t have comments on my blog anymore, but that wasn’t entirely my choice. I didn’t change; the culture changed. User preferences changed.

There are exceptions to this pattern too, of course. Some people are still doing great with traditional blogs. So what’s different about those? From what I can tell, the exceptions are largely segmented along gender lines (meaning that those blogs are largely read by women or men, not both) and often focused on a specific industry or topic.

The point is that I don’t think you should look at the exceptions. You should look at the normal experience for most people, especially if you’re just starting out and are looking to find your way.

Personality still matters. There’s still hope. But the point is that you can’t just blog your way to stardom or wealth or whatever your goal is.


Here’s a real-world example. Giveaway posts used to be a sure-fire way of gaining attention and engagement. In a typical giveaway post, bloggers offer something for free and readers compete to win, usually in the form of posting a comment. Hopefully the “something” is something of value, not just a promotional item, and the goal is to get more people talking about and participating on the blog.

But even giving away free stuff isn’t working so great these days. I recently received an email pitch from a well-known travel blogger who was giving away a free trip. Understand that: a free trip! Not everyone can pack up and leave for an international excursion, but the point is that this was a valuable, legitimate offer.

The email pitch said something like:

“We all know how hard it is to get people to pay attention to giveaways these days, so I need your help. Will you spread the word?”

Think about this. What used to be the means of getting attention, i.e. something that would draw people in to something greater, now fails to attract much attention on its own, at least not without greasing the wheels a little. Wow.

I remember the days when popular blogs would sometimes get tens of thousands of comments for free stuff. And maybe some still do, but they are few and far between.

When Andrew Sullivan, the king of real-time, medium-form blogging, decided to quit, we should have known something had changed. I read Andrew’s blog for years and even found myself writing in “his” style more frequently, especially toward the end of 2014. But then he decided to pack it in, and I think he was ahead of his time, just as he was more than a decade earlier when he started.

If you want to predict when a social network will die, watch for how much discussion on the network is about the network itself. So too with blogging, I think. The abundance of blogging about blogging is a clear sign of blogging’s demise.

(And for the record, I’ve contributed to this too. Looking back I can sometimes see a lack of focus and an all-too-willingness to go along with the crowd.)


In Sum: What Worked Before Won’t Work Now

I could present more arguments and examples like the ones above, and maybe you can think of additional ones. Or maybe you might quibble with the thesis or present a counter-example. That’s fine, but the point is that things have changed. Because it’s a different world now, we need new models. And of course, let’s not forget:

If you look to the past to guide the future, you’ll just end up recreating the past.

If this were the old way of doing things, I’d feature a WordPress plugin here that encouraged people to “Click to Tweet” that phrase. But thankfully, though I’m a flawed human and have made many mistakes in life, I can go to my grave with the knowledge that I’ve never said “Click to Tweet” in anything other than an ironic manner.

You can safely consider that whole thing a sign of the demise of both Twitter and blogs.

The Future Is Already Here (“But as always, young Jedi, there’s still hope”)

This isn’t a warning that things are changing; it’s a statement that things have changed. The future is already here. What worked before won’t work now, friends. But that’s okay, because change is the only constant. The real winners will understand and grow.

The real winners won’t abandon the principles we started with years ago: make something, be helpful. If you want your values to lead the way, better have the right values.

But the goals and strategies and certainly the tactics will change. They have to. You’ll also be forced to do better work, and that’s good for all of us.

When I speak at events, there’s usually a tech person or assistant helping out backstage before the lights go on and the music starts playing. At some point, they’ll ask, “How are you feeling? Are you ready?”

I always have the same answer: “Ready or not, it’s time.”

Because that’s how it is. If you have to go on stage at a certain time, it doesn’t matter if you’re ready. You could stall for a minute or two, but not for long. And that’s exactly what’s happening with these changes. Are you ready? Ready or not, here we go.

The only choice you face is if you’ll try to live in the past or if you’ll adapt to a new reality.

I read this in someone else’s post (about a totally different topic) a while back:

“What I didn’t know then: wanting something badly wasn’t enough. There was no causal link between effort and success. It was possible to work extremely hard and not get the desired results. I needed direction, focus and business nous.”

I liked that because I too can work extremely hard. And in the past, when I’ve worked extremely hard, I’ve received “desired results.” But now it’s not just about working hard, it’s about working differently. For those on a quest for relevance and impact, something must change.

So if you’re just getting started over there, preparing to follow an old plan, I just wanted you to know before you did a ton of work. You now have to do it differently.

How so? Well, that’s what we’re all figuring out in real time. Ready or not.


*There are no comments here, because, well, it isn’t 2008 anymore. But if you’d like to share this post, I’d be just as grateful as I was back then.

Images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

by Chris Guillebeau at February 04, 2016 10:26 PM

Apple launches broken iPhone upgrade program →

Mark Gurman at 9to5 Mac:

The Apple Store Reuse and Recycle iPhone trade-in program currently allows a customer to bring in an older iPhone model and trade it in for credit toward the purchase of a new iPhone model. The main exception since the launch of the program is that this does not apply toward older iPhones with cracked displays, or broken cameras and buttons. That’s about to change …

Starting this week, the updated program will allow Apple Stores to give credit for iPhone 5s and iPhone 6/6 Plus units with damaged displays, cameras, and buttons within reason. Apple believes that this new program will encourage new iPhone upgrades versus a standard iPhone screen repair.

We've all seen people out in the world, using phones smashed to smithereens. Maybe there's some clear tape involved to hold the glass together.

In fact, here's an iPhone 6 I broke about a year ago:

(It fell down a flight of stairs in a parking garage. Whoops!)

I'm sure money is the main reason people will live with a shattered phone. Repairing a broken iPhone can be expensive, and I think people with broken older phones will just live with until they can upgrade again.

This new program from Apple takes aim at that with the goal for people to upgrade to a newer phone. Before this, a broken iPhone was basically worthless in terms of trade-in, and this will change that. More people may be able to upgrade via this system than before, which will those sales numbers from sliding. Seems like a win-win at this point.


by Stephen Hackett at February 04, 2016 09:48 PM

ASCII by Jason Scott

Reboot Continues

This one comes pre-formed without the ability to comment!

In late 2015, with my weight hitting a bothersome 245-250 and no end in sight, and with concerns about how much “stuff” is in my office and storage cube, I set off to shed both pounds and the additional stored items.

Since then, and as of February first, I’m at roughly 230 pounds. I’ve also shed 1,000 pounds (!) of materials I had stored in my office and cube. Neither of these trends is intended to stop.

In December, I stopped eating anything with sugar or significant carbohydrates. In early January, I stopped drinking anything with any sweetener (natural or otherwise), stopped taking in Caffeine of any sort, and stopped any non-natural flavoring. Basically, it’s been water and seltzer for over a month, nothing else.

The 230 weight is a bit of a wall, so I’ll be increasing activity (I have more energy anyway) and applying some level of portion control.

My goal is to hit 195, which would make me 10 pounds less than I was when I was 20 years old. We’ll see how that goes.

I’m mentioning all this mostly as a marker in time. I’ve focused the same obsessive approach I do in everything else to my health, and while weight is but one measurement of health, it’s a sign of paying attention to important things. I have intention of being around a significant amount of time.

Updates once a month.


by Jason Scott at February 04, 2016 08:18 PM

JB's Circuit

EDA Tool Reduces Chip Test Time With Same Die Size

Cadence combines physically-aware scan logic with elastic decompression in new test solution. What does that really mean?

By John Blyler, Editorial Director

Cadence recently announced the Modus Test Solution suite that the company claims will enable up to 3X reduction in test time and up to 2.6X reduction in compression logic wirelength. This improvement is made possible, in part, by a patent-pending, physically aware 2D Elastic Compression architecture that enables compression ratios beyond 400X without impacting design size or routing. The press release can be found on the company’s website.

What does all the technical market-ese mean? My talk with Paul Cunningham, vice president of R&D at Cadence, helps clarify the engineering behind the announcement. What follows are portions of that conversation. – JB


Blyler:  Reducing test times saves companies a lot of money. What common methods are used today?

Cunningham: Test compression is the technique of reducing the test data volume and test application time while retaining test coverage. XOR-based compression has been widely used to reduce test time and cost. Shorter scan chains mean fewer clock cycles are needed to shift in each test pattern, reducing test time. Compression reduces test time by partitioning registers in a design into more scan chains than there are scan pins.

But there is an upper limit to test time. If the compression ratio is too high, then the test coverage is lost. Even if test coverage is not lost, test time savings eventually dry up. In other words, as you shrink the test time you also shrink the data you can put into the compression system for fault coverage.

As I change the compression ratio, I’m making the scan chains shorter. But I’ve got more chains while the scan in pin numbers are constant. So every time I shrink the chain, each pattern that I’m shifting in has less and less bits because the width of the pattern coming in is the number of scan pins. The length of the pattern coming in is the length of the scan chain. So if you keep shrinking the chain, the amount of information in each pattern decreases. At some point, there just isn’t enough information in the pattern to allow us to control the circuits to detect the faults.

Blyler: Where is the cross-over point?

Cunningham: The situation is analogous to general relativity. You know that you can never go faster than the speed of light but as you approach the speed of light it takes exponentially more energy. The same thing is going on here. At some point, if the length of the chain is too short and our coverage drops. But, as we approach that cliff moment, the number of patterns that it takes to achieve the coverage – even if we can maintain it – increases exponentially. So, you can get into the situation where, for example, you half the length of the chain but you need twice as many patterns. At that point, your test time hasn’t actually dropped because test time it the number of patterns times the length of the chain. So the product of those two starts to cancel out. At some point you’ll never go beyond a certain level but your coverage will drop. But as you get close to it, you start losing any benefit because you need more and more patterns to achieve the same result.

Blyler: What is the second limit to testing a chip with compression circuitry?

Cunningham: The other limit doesn’t come from the mathematics of fault detection but is related to physical implementation. In other words, the chip size limit is due to physical implementation, not mathematics (like coverage).

Most of the test community has been focused on the upper limit of test time. But even a breakthrough there wouldn’t address the physical implementation challenge. In the diagram below, you can see that the big blue spot in the middle is the XOR circuit wiring. All that wiring in the red is wiring to and from the chains. It is quite scary in size.

Blyler: So the second limit is related to the die size and wire length for the XOR circuit?

Cunningham:  Yes - There are the algorithm limits related to coverage and pattern count (mentioned earlier) and then there are the physical limits related to wire length. The industry has been stuck because of these two things. Now for the solution. Let’s talk about the things in reverse order, i.e., the issue of the physical limits first.

What is the most efficient way to span two dimensions (2D) with Manhattan routing? The answer is by using a grid or lattice. [Editor’s Note: The Manhattan Distance is the distance measured between two points by following a grid pattern instead of the straight line between the points.]

So the lattice is the best way to get across two dimensions while giving you the best possible way to control circuit behavior at all points. We’ve come up with a special XOR Circuit structure that unfolds beautifully into a grid in 2D. So when Modus inserts compress it doesn’t just create an XOR circuit, rather, it actually places it. It takes the X-Y coordinates for those XOR gates. Thus, using 2D at 400X has the same wire length as 1D at 100X.

Blyler: This seems like a marriage with place & route technology.

Cunningham:  For a long time people did logic synthesis only based on the connectivity of the gates. Then we realized that we really had to do physical synthesis. Similarly, for a long time, the industry has realized that the way we connect up the scan chains need to be physically aware. That’s been done. But nobody made the actual compression logic physically aware. That is a key innovation in our product offering.

And it is the compression logic that is filling the chip – all that red and blue nasty stuff. That is not scan chain but compression logic.

Blyler: It seems that you’ve address the wire length problem. How do you handle the mathematics of the fault coverage issue?

Cunningham: The industry got stuck on the idea that, as you shrink the chains you have shorter patterns or a reduction in the amount of information that can be input. But why don’t we play the same game with the data we shift in. Most of the time, I do want really short scan chains because that typically means I can pump data into the chip faster than before. But in so doing, there will be a few cases where I lose the capability to detect faults because some faults really require precise control of values in the circuit. For those few cases, why don’t I shift in more clock cycles than I shift out?

In those cases, I really need more bit of information coming in. But that could be done by making the scan deeper, that is, by adding more clock cycles. In practice, that means we need to put sequential elements inside the decompressor portion of the XOR Compressor system.  Thus, where necessary, I can read in more information. For example, I might scan in for 10 clock cycles but I’ll scan out (shift out) for only five clock cycles. I’m read in more information than I’ve read out.

In every sense of the word, it is an elastic decompressor. When we need to, we can stretch that pattern to contain more information. That stretched pattern it then transposed by 90 degrees into a very wide pattern that we then shove into those scan chains.

Blyler: So you’ve combined this elastic decompressor with the 2D concept.

Cunningham: Yes – and now you have changed the testing game with 400x compression ratios and achieving up to 3X reduction in test time without impacting the wire length (chip size). We have several endorsements from key customers, too.

In summary:

  • 2D compression: Scan compression logic forms a physically aware two-dimensional grid across the chip floorplan, enabling higher compression ratios with reduced wirelength. At 100X compression ratios, wirelength for 2D compression can be up to 2.6X smaller than current industry scan compression architectures.
  • Elastic compression: Registers embedded in the decompression logic enable fault coverage to be maintained at compression ratios beyond 400X by controlling care bits sequentially across

Blyler: Thank you.

by jblyler at February 04, 2016 06:16 PM

'This darkest of narratives' →

Jason Snell:

I’d like to say that the iPad will settle in at an average rate of 12 million units per quarter, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. I suspect iPad sales will be down for at least one more quarter, and then may stabilize as people upgrade to the iPad Air 3.

But I have to admit, that’s my optimism talking. I’ve come to love the iPad and I don’t think Apple will abandon it. In fact, the company now seems committed to improving it at a pitch that was lacking during its first few years of existence. Perhaps this couple of years in the doldrums will end up being the thing that turns the iPad around.

Or perhaps I’m kidding myself, and in the end the iPad will be small niche product, an outsized iPhone accessory. As someone who loves his iPad, the idea that I might be part of a tiny enthusiastic minority in a largely uncaring world is heartbreaking. But looking at the numbers, it’s entirely possible that this darkest of narratives is, in fact, the right one.

Until the iPad settles out, it'll be hard to tell, but I think it's going to be more of a sibling to the Mac, not its replacement, at least on a macro level.


by Stephen Hackett at February 04, 2016 05:48 PM

Zippy Catholic

Justice Anthony Kennedy is right

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy famously wrote, in his opinion on Planned Parenthood vs Casey:

At the heart of [political] liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.

This statement is correct.

I have explained in many different ways how and why liberalism simultaneously

  1. Is rationally incoherent, and therefore logically implies everything and its opposite all at once; but in a way which is not immediately transparent.
  2. Affirms individuals in their expectations and exalts what individuals happen to desire or will over reality: cafeteria realism.

One of the interesting functions of the Supreme Court in the American political system is that it gives conservatives a strange attractor for hope and blame: a political sink to absorb their resentments, hopes, and fears while stopping short of repudiating liberalism. Authentic political freedom and republican democracy would work if only those tyrants in the Supreme Court would stop legislating from the bench. Certainly (goes the argument) it is unfair to blame democracy and liberalism – authentic classical liberalism – for the tyrannies of the Court.

The Supreme Court keeps everyone on the reservation by playing the roles of referee and tyrant. Part of the problem with populism is that sometimes people decide that liberalism isn’t what they really want: subsidiary authorities and electoral majorities will sometimes violate liberal principles if someone doesn’t keep the electorate and subordinate government bodies in line. So social conservatives end up simultaneously excoriating the Court and hoping to gain control of it, so that their truly authentic vision of freedom and equal rights can be achieved.

Meanwhile, even when the judges are appointed by conservatives – Anthony Kennedy was appointed by Ronald Reagan – those judges inevitably find (shocking, I know) that liberal principles imply substantively liberal outcomes for disputes in law.

When Kurt Gödel was applying for US citizenship he almost got his citizenship denied, because he would argue that theoretically the US could vote itself in a king or strongman dictator. His friend Albert Einstein calmed him down and reassured him that this theoretical possibility was not really a practical possibility: whatever the formal structures may theoretically allow, the United States was incorrigibly committed to freedom and equality as bedrock political principles.

I’ll just suggest that conservatives who think that liberal democracy could work out great, if only it weren’t for the tyrannical Supreme Court, are no Einsteins.


by Zippy at February 04, 2016 05:05 PM

Justin Taylor

Ken Myers: “What Is Culture?”

Ken Myers, founder and proprietor of Mars Hill Audio Journal:

Most anthropologists and sociologists define a culture as a way of life informed by and perpetuating a set of assumptions or beliefs concerning life’s meaning. Anthropologist Clifford Geertz, for example, offers a typical definition of culture as

an historically transmitted pattern of meanings embodied in symbols, a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms by means of which men communicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge about and attitudes to life.

A culture is a system or network of abstractions (beliefs or attitudes) as well as specific things (e.g., books, songs, buildings, schools), which are sustained by conventional practices and institutions. Just as a garden is an ecosystem that includes soil, plants, insects, rainfall, patterns of sunlight, the effects of heat and cold, and weeding and fertilizing procedures, so a culture is a complex whole comprising elements that interact and influence one another.

But there is also, Myers claims, an irreducible incarnational aspect to human cultures:

Human cultures are more complex, since they also include beliefs, ideas, and the spiritual aspects of human personhood. But those intangible elements are only sustained by taking form. Cultures may be said to be inherently incarnational, the spirit necessarily taking flesh for a culture to be present.

Myers goes on to explain how cultures take shape in space and time:

Cultures take shape in space (through artifacts and practices) and also in time, through the transmission and perpetuation of a kind of legacy or inheritance. Missiologist Lesslie Newbigin writes that a culture is

the sum total of ways of living developed by a group of human beings and handed on from generation to generation.

Cultures may be said to exist for the sake of passing on from one generation to the next a vision of life well lived, a set of loyalties, a body of wisdom. Cultures cultivate the hearts, the minds, and the embodied actions of their current and their future members. They convey explicit beliefs through teaching and ritual, but at a more subtle level they convey a way of being in the world that renders some beliefs more plausible than others.

He then makes a theological turn:

Speaking more theologically, we may think of culture as what we make of Creation. Cultural artifacts from primitive tools to fine art are manufactured from the physical stuff of Creation. Such artifacts—together with the institutions, practices, and beliefs that call them forth—are often expressions of what we make of Creation in a figurative sense. Forms of cultural expression contain and convey assumptions about what kinds of beings we think we are and what we believe about the world that we inhabit.

What is most fundamentally cultivated by a culture is a posture or orientation to Creation, and thus to the Creator. This gives us a standard by which to evaluate cultural forms: Do they represent well the kinds of creatures we are and the kind of world in which God has placed us?

by Justin Taylor at February 04, 2016 04:44 PM

Crossway Blog

Introducing the ESV Holy Bible for Kids, Large Print

Help Your Kids Engage with God’s Word

The ESV Holy Bible for Kids, Large Print was created as a tool to help parents introduce their kids to the Bible. Building on the original ESV Holy Bible for Kids, this new edition features larger, 10-point type, making it easier to read. Furthermore, the Bible sports a durable Smyth-sewn binding, ensuring that it will hold up for years.

With twenty-four pages of illustrations depicting major scenes in the story of redemption and kid-friendly maps in the back, this Bible is one that young children will love to call their own.

Other Bible Resources for Kids

by Crossway at February 04, 2016 02:12 PM

Table Titans

Tales: The Negotiator

I've played D&D for many years, but as time moves on people come and go. My old group had been disbanded due to work, family, and other RL hassles for some time, but I stumbled across a few coworkers who were fascinated with the idea of D&D and wanted to start their own group.

Elated at…

Read more

February 04, 2016 07:01 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

How to Preach to Both Head and Heart

Article by: Jeff Robinson

Editors’ note: This is the fifth installment in a multi-part series on expository preaching, part of our new Expository Preaching Project. TGC Council pastors are preparing free instructional resources on expository preaching in both video and print formats in six strategic languages. We are prayerfully seeking to raise $150,000 to fund the project. To make a donation, please click here and select “Expository Preaching” from the designation list.  


Expository preaching seems to be on the rise among younger evangelicals, but its recovery raises numerous questions. Is verse-by-verse exposition valid for every type of church? Does it appeal to more intellectual audiences than to more emotional ones? And what exactly is “expository preaching” anyway? 

Robert Smith has been working through these issues as both a teacher and a practitioner of preaching for the past several decades. He serves as Baptist chair of divinity at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama, where he teaches preaching. Previously he served as preaching professor at Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, and for 20 years pastored New Mission Missionary Baptist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. 

There seems to be an unspoken assumption that expository preaching is a heady form of sermonizing, best for “cold and rational” audiences that may be less emotional. Would you say expository preaching is for all churches and Christians from all ethnic and social backgrounds?

I think that’s a false assumption. We’re called to preach the whole gospel to whole persons. Jesus says in Luke 10:27: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The intent of expository preaching is to preach to the whole individual, the emotional as well as the mental, the cranial as well as the cardiological. If I start with the assumption that expository preaching is only for the “cold and rational,” then I won’t meet the standard of Jesus, regardless of my audience. With ethnic congregations, you might have to start with the heart to get to the head. With white congregations, you might have to start with the head and move to the heart. So there are 18 inches between the head and heart that must be traversed in any setting, no matter where you start.

When I’m preaching to a white congregation and start with the head, I’m aiming to teach the mind, and thereby stir the heart and move the will. Moving the will brings transformation. That’s the Holy Spirit’s work. You’re not going to reach them simply with an emotional presentation. You have to start with content. But with many black or multiethnic congregations, you may need to start with emotions, then move to the head. 

Think about John the Baptist and Herod Antipas. In Matthew 14, John tells Herod: “It is not right for you to have your brother’s wife. It’s adultery, it’s wrong.” He uses a straightforward and cognitive approach. But in 2 Samuel 12, Nathan starts with emotion and imagery. He tells David, who’d committed adultery and murder, a story about a stolen ewe lamb in order to convict him. Both John and Nathan are dealing with the same issue—adultery—but they do so in different ways. John moves from the head to the heart, while Nathan moves from the heart to the head. David repents and Herod doesn’t, but that’s not in the hand of the preacher.

It’s vitally important to know your audience. If we don’t bridge the gap between the head and the heart, we haven’t done our job. 

Do you see more expository preaching today in minority congregations? Is there more emphasis on it?

Expository preaching is more common today in minority congregations because there’s more training. Though not all seminaries are theologically astute or biblically accurate, we have more seminary-trained clergy now. Many years ago, the big problem in the African American church was that many were called to preach, but not many were trained. They didn’t have the opportunity. Neverthless, many black preachers have been preaching expositionally without knowing it. They’ve used the art form of narrative—known as narrative exposition. About three-fourths of the Old Testament is narrative, and many exposited the texts in a narratival way. They told stories. It hasn’t been verse-by-verse or alliterative preaching, but they’ve taken the essence of the story and applied it. So, in essence, they were doing explanation, illustration, and application in their narrative exposition.

So yes, I’ve seen more of it, and yet I’m beginning to see a reduction of it. Some preachers have superimposed their own story over the biblical story. They spend more time using illustrations out of their own lives so that their story becomes master, while the biblical story becomes servant. This breaks my heart. A revival of biblical preaching is breaking out in some places, but in others it’s receding. Some think that you draw a crowd by telling stories, but that’s motivational speaking, not preaching. They just motivate people with anthropocentric messages, not Christocentric ones. But such messages don’t transform anyone; only God’s Word does that.

How would you define expository preaching? What does it look like, week in and week out within a congregation?

Defining expository preaching is difficult since so many definitions exists. Let me offer three. 

First, E. K. Bailey defined it as a message that renders the precise meaning of a passage of Scripture. In doing so, the preacher pointedly motivates the hearer to adopt actions and attitudes dictated by the text in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Second, John Stott said expository preaching is opening up the inspired text with such faithfulness and sensitivity that God’s voice is heard and his people obey.

The third definition is what I try to try to teach. Expository preaching is the ushering of the hearer by the Word of God into the presence of Christ, the Son of God, through the power of the Spirit of God, for the purpose of transformation. It’s Trinitarian. It’s our job as preachers to move people by the Word of God. The Word is our map and GPS. I have nothing to say to anyone unless I’m saying it by the Word of God. We preach for transformation, not just information or inspiration.  

I’d combine those three definitions to show the significance of taking a whole passage and dissecting it. Expository preaching isn’t a style; it’s a principle. One can preach expositionally by using other styles, whether verse-by-verse, three-points, or narrative. The Bible has all kinds of genres, and there are just as many valid styles of preaching. But in expository preaching, you’re giving the essence of what that text is saying.

How might pastors train their congregation to better hear expositional preaching, particularly if the people are accustomed to hearing a different form?

The Bible is exciting and attractive, but it becomes less exciting when preachers say the same thing over and over again. Effective preaching is saying what the Bible has always said in fresh ways.

It’s going to take time to give people an appetite for Scripture. Paul declares, “I have not kept back anything that was profitable unto you” (Acts 20:20). And elsewhere: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16). Profitable, not palatable. The Word of God may not be initially palatable. Indeed, it might seem bland, tasteless, and uninteresting.

When I was a child, there were certain foods I never wanted to eat. But my mother kept giving them to me because she knew they were profitable. I wanted French fries, ketchup, and hamburgers; she kept giving me lima beans, okra, and collard greens. You know what I like now? Lima beans, okra, and collard greens. In the same way, I know people often don’t want expository preaching. They’re not used to it, and they don’t know its value. Just because it’s palatable to me doesn’t make it palatable to them. The preacher, then, should keep giving it to them so they develop an appetite for it. And when your congregation finally does develop an appetite for the Word rightly exposited, they won’t tolerate anything else.

When your congregation finally does develop an appetite for the Word rightly exposited, they won’t tolerate anything else.

What advice would you give young preachers for how to preach compelling expositional sermons?

For those of us who preach expositionally, it’s important to keep the content of preaching the same, but to understand the packaging can be changed. If I bought a gift for you, the color of the wrapping paper is less important than what’s inside. You don’t change the gospel. Paul even says that if an angel from heaven arrives with a different gospel, let that angel be damned (Gal. 1:8). You don’t change the content, but it’s okay to change the approach or style.

But I hope preachers understand that God is very diversified when it comes to the box. Scripture has many genres. And we must be Christ-centered. The Bible isn’t just talking about the plan of salvation; it’s talking about the man of salvation. The Bible is a “HIM-book.” It’s about Jesus. I hope we’ll find fresh ways of saying the same thing Scripture has always been saying, and allow the passage—whether it’s epistolary, prophetic, or narrative—to give us the form.

Jeff Robinson (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is a senior editor for The Gospel Coalition. He also pastors a church plant in Louisville, Kentucky, and serves as senior research and teaching associate for the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies and adjunct professor of church history at Southern Seminary. Prior to entering ministry, he spent nearly 20 years as a newspaper journalist in Georgia, North Carolina, and Kentucky, covering various beats from politics to Major League Baseball and SEC football. He is co-author with Michael Haykin of the book To the Ends of the Earth: Calvin’s Mission Vision and Legacy. Jeff and his wife, Lisa, have four children. You can follow him on Twitter.

by Jeff Robinson at February 04, 2016 06:03 AM

Why Misrepresenting Jesus Harms the Poor

Article by: Mez McConnell

Between my time church planting in Brazil and my work in Edinburgh in one of Scotland’s most deprived housing “schemes”—a mixture of social housing and low-income homeowners—I’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of short-term missions teams. And while I appreciate the help, I’ve noticed over the years that a lot of well-meaning, Jesus-loving groups from the United Kingdom and United States will show up with their paintbrushes and hammers, but with little understanding of the gospel they’ve come to proclaim.

The gospel is good news, the best news in fact. It is essential that we both get the message correct and also keep it in the proper place. If we get the message wrong, it’s like taking corrupted medicine: it can’t heal you. If we put other things in the gospel’s priority of place, it’s like buying a diamond engagement ring but forgetting to buy a diamond: we’re left with a setting that beautifully displays . . . nothing.

We must be willing to take the time to get the message right and to communicate it faithfully. Here are five reasons why:

1. Because Eternity Matters Most 

The gospel addresses all of life, both in this life and the one to come. Many who want to serve on a short-term basis in the Scottish housing schemes are on fire for the poor and about being “missional” and “breaking down barriers,” but they often unwittingly put the emphasis in the wrong place. The gospel message isn’t simply that Jesus loves you or that God would like to get you out of your current difficulties. 

The biggest problem in the schemes isn’t social or economic; it’s that people are alienated from a holy God because the stench of their sin is an offense to him. So the people of the schemes need a real Lord and Savior who died and rose so he can take away their sins and replace their idolatrous hearts of stone with worshipful hearts of flesh. No other message even begins to help.

To be clear, we’re not opposed to helping people with their day-to-day physical problems. There are situations where it would be positively wicked for a church not to help someone in physical need. But there must be priority given to the gospel message; it has to come first. Poverty, violence, and injustice are real problems at a personal and societal level. But they’re the symptoms of the spiritual disease we all carry around with us. Treating symptoms is good and noble, but without the gospel cure the patient will surely die. As we approach evangelism and outreach in our needy housing schemes, we must do it with this inside-out mentality.

2. Because It’s the Only Way People Are Saved 

In Acts 4:12 we read, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” If that’s true, people must believe the true gospel in order to be saved. Salvation is in no one else; there’s no backup plan. Emptying a few trash cans and digging a garden in a scheme won’t transmit gospel truth by some form of spiritual osmosis. Faith comes through hearing (Rom. 10:17), so we proclaim Jesus’s sin-bearing sacrifice rather than offer a self-help program.

Good works such as caring for the poor are a powerful sign to nonbelievers (1 Pet. 2:12), but in the book of Acts it’s the Word of God that spreads and causes the explosive growth in the early church (e.g., Acts 6:7). Of course first-century believers were doing good works by feeding the poor, looking after widows, and helping the elderly. But these things were byproducts of a life lived for the glory of the gospel; they weren’t the gospel itself. The poor will only be saved if they hear the gospel word proclaimed to them in a clear and comprehensible manner. There’s no other way.

3. Because Otherwise We Will Give Up

If we don’t get the gospel right, we can forget any type of serious church planting work in schemes. We must know what we’re coming to do and the state of the people we’re coming to serve. We cannot allow ourselves to be surprised and discouraged by the depth of human depravity. People in the housing schemes don’t hide it as well as those in the suburbs.

Also, we cannot despair about whether there’s a solution to the problems people face. We need the full gospel, which tells us both the terrible truth about our sin and our glorious hope in Christ. If we alter, softsell, or pervert the gospel, Paul calls us accursed (Gal. 1:8), and we shouldn’t expect the favor of God on our work.

4. Because Real People Are Going to Hell

In Hebrews 9:27 we read: “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” Likewise, when asked about a tower that fell and killed 18 people, Jesus himself called people to repent or else perish for their sins (Luke 13:5). That might not seem like a very pastoral response to a question about people who’d died tragically, but Jesus cared too much about the souls of his hearers to beat around the bush.

Biblically speaking, there’s something worse than poverty or low self-esteem: hell. It is real, eternal, and conscious. All people are naturally under sin and children of wrath (Rom. 3:9; Eph. 2:3). Coming from a difficult background doesn’t mitigate that reality. In an age when much of the prevailing Christian thought about the poor concerns loving them and boosting their self-esteem, hell can seem like a bridge too far. How often people come to the schemes with the idea that all people need is to be loved or, worse yet, to learn how to love themselves. That diagnosis is unloving, for it eradicates the reality of eternal judgment. 

I fear most of the church’s evangelistic lethargy is due to the fact we don’t take the doctrine of hell seriously enough to care. The most loving thing we can do for the poor isn’t to help them with their electricity bill, help them find work, clean them up, give them a bed, or help with their drug habit. The most loving thing we can do is to proclaim the reality and seriousness of hell, no matter what they might think of us afterward. That’s a selfless act of love. Part of the truth about God simply won’t do.

5. Because of the Glory of God

The gospel is ultimately about the glory of God (notice in 2 Corinthians 4 Paul calls it “the gospel of the glory of Christ”). God chose to save sinners in a way that shows himself to be both just and forgiving (Rom. 3:26). He chose to redeem his people in a way that stirs eternal praise in their hearts (Rev. 5:12). He chose to accomplish this in a way that magnified his wisdom while nullifying and frustrating the so-called wisdom of the world in rebellion against him (1 Cor. 1:21). Do we presume to know better than God? Do we have a better, more glorifying gospel than the one God planned from all eternity and executed in time?

A man-centered gospel glorifies sinners. Without a message of judgment, God seems unjust and permissive, not glorious. Without a call to repentance and holiness, Jesus is proclaimed as a Savior who’s impotent to defeat sin in the lives of his people (contrast with 1 John 3:8). God wants to save sinners, but he won’t do it through any other means than the glorious gospel of his Son. He won’t share his glory, so half-gospels won’t do.

They Told Me I Was Going to Hell

Fourteen years ago a small band of young Christians turned up outside a community center on the streets of England and told me I was going to hell.

They then told me what I needed to do to avoid it. Hear the good news, receive the good news, repent, believe, and be baptized.

I didn’t want to hear it. But four years and lots of pain, anger, and some genuine repentance later, I was saved by the merciful grace of God. I write these words as a pastor today because those Christians (literally) took their life in their hands and gave it to me “straight up.” That’s what God asks of us. That’s our primary task if we want to reach and help people in need.

Editors’ note: This is an adapted excerpt from Mez McConnell and Mike McKinley’s Church in Hard Places: How the Local Church Brings Life to the Poor and Needy (Crossway, 2016).

Mez McConnell has been the senior pastor of Niddrie Community Church since September 2007. Prior to that he spent four years with UFM Worldwide working with street children in Brazil and planted the Good News Church in one of the most deprived parts of the country. He has been involved in full-time pastoral ministry since 1999 and has written Preparing for Baptism: A Personal Diary (Grace Publications Trust) and Is There Anybody Out There?: A Journey from Despair to Hope (Christian Focus). He is also the director of 20Schemes, a new church planting and revitalization initiative in Scotland whose aim is to plant healthy, gospel-centered churches in 20 of the country’s most deprived housing communities. Mez is married to Miriam and has two daughters, Keziah and Lydia.

by Mez McConnell at February 04, 2016 06:02 AM

Learning to Pastor from Leviticus

Article by: Derek Rishmawy

When I was a college minister, Leviticus wasn’t the book I typically went to for pastoral theology. Actually, Leviticus wasn’t the book I typically went to for most things, with the exception of an atonement talk here or there. I suspect I’m not alone. Most of us don’t relish the idea of delighting our parishioners with details of cleansing skin diseases. 

But I’ve recently been learning how mistaken we are when we take this approach to Leviticus.

Pastoral Care in the Old Covenant 

In his recent work Who Shall Ascend to the Mountain of the Lord?: A Biblical Theology of the Book of Leviticus (IVP Academic, 2015), L. Michael Morales draws our attention to the pastoral implications of Leviticus’ first verses:

The LORD called Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When any one of you brings an offering to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of livestock from the herd or from the flock. If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer a male without blemish. He shall bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the LORD. (Lev. 1:1–3)

Whenever an Israelite offered a burnt offering to the LORD, he was to present it to the priests first. The priests were to inspect it for any hint of defect, blemish, disease, infirmity, or weakness (Lev. 22:17–28). As Morales points out, this gave the priests a chance to exercise pastoral care for God’s people.

Located at the center of the Torah, the provisions of the sacrificial system formed the heart of Israel’s shared life with God. Not only did God use them to instruct his people in holiness (contrary to what many of us have been trained to think, God likes to both show and tell), but they were how he brought sinful people into his presence. Sacrifice was as much about God’s longing for us to draw near as it was about our inability to do so.

Worshipers, then, were to offer God their very best as an act of worship. Offering a weak or defective animal indicated either carelessness about the things of God or a lack of trust in his provision. They signaled a distant heart. So the presentation and inspection of the sacrifices was an opportunity for the priests to offer pastoral accountability, correction, and instruction.

Implications for New Covenant Shepherds

As members of the new covenant, we no longer offer burnt offerings in a tabernacle or temple. Christ’s finished work on the cross has done what the blood of bulls and goats could never do: cleanse us from iniquity and sin, and give us access to the presence of the living God (Heb. 10:4). But that doesn’t mean we’re done offering acceptable sacrifices to the Lord. Paul urges us to offer spiritual sacrifices with the whole of our lives in response to the glorious mercies unleashed on us in Christ (Rom. 12:1–2). This means Leviticus still has something to teach us.

The application can be taken in two directions. One is simply a call for greater self-examination on the part of God’s people. Just as individual Israelites were to be conscious of the offering they brought before the Lord, we too should be careful not to treat God as an afterthought with our time, energy, emotions, or devotion. He deserves our whole selves.

Two Reasons to Embrace Hardship

Pastors themselves can also gain much by reflecting on this text. Though pastors aren’t “priests” in the specialized, mediatorial sense, discipling and leading the people of God in the worship of God entails examining their sacrifices. It’s tempting to avoid the difficult work of pastoral care and correction, but in light of the Levitical system we should resist that temptation for two reasons.

First, God is worthy of your labors. Speaking through the prophet Malachi, he asks:

When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the LORD of hosts. (Mal. 1:8)

Pastors, encourage your people for the sake of God’s great name.

Second, your people need your labors. Though we no longer offer sacrifices for atonement, they’re still at the heart of our communion with God. If your people aren’t offering themselves to Jesus, they’re offering themselves to something else: money, sex, power, family, career, or some other idol that will destroy them. More than anything else, our people need to give themselves in worship to Jesus. It’s what they were made for.

Four Ways to Pastor Like Jesus

While I’m no expert at pastoral care, there are at least four things pastors must do if they’re going to shepherd their congregations in a manner consistent with the priestly heart of Jesus.

First, we must be close enough to our congregation to see their lives. Examining a bull or goat for a broken leg or goofy eye is relatively easy. Examining a human heart, however, takes time, care, and wisdom from the Holy Spirit. It also requires some proximity. In other words, pastors, if you’re going to properly exhort your people to offer themselves unequivocally to Jesus, you must be part of their lives. Pastors who stand apart from their sheep won’t know them, and their pastoral direction will be uninformed and misguided.

Second, we must love them. That should seem obvious, but it’s actually the dividing line often between genuine, tender care and the sort of destructive, authoritarian “examination” against which many wounded refugees of the church rightly react. We must be sympathetic in our “priestly” work, just as Jesus was (Heb. 4:14–15). We must remember that we’re in the same boat as our people, struggling with temptations, sins, and failures demanding corrective grace (Heb. 2:17–18).

Third, we must have courage to speak, because this sort of thing can be awkward. We don’t want to be pushy or intrusive, or misread someone’s heart by bringing a word of correction that does more harm than good. This is why the last two points are so important. Speaking frankly only works when your people know your words come from a heart of love, since you know them so well.

Finally, we must constantly preach a Jesus worthy of our sacrifice. Only when we present him as the crucified and risen one—the only one who lived a life of perfectly sacrificial obedience in order to offer himself, for us, without spot or blemish—will we be able to see sacrifice as a delight and not a duty.

If Jesus, blazing in all his glory, sits at the heart of our preaching and pastoring, then by God’s grace he will reign in the hearts of our people and the heart of their worship. 

Derek Rishmawy is a systematic theology PhD student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He contributes to Christ and Pop Culture, Christianity Today, and writes at his own blog, Reformedish. He also co-hosts a podcast called Mere Fidelity. You can follow him on Twitter.

by Derek Rishmawy at February 04, 2016 06:02 AM

5 Rookie Pastor Mistakes

Article by: Hershael York

Finally, after all your training and praying and longing, you receive a call from your first church. You are elated—and determined to do a great job. They are God’s people, and he has graciously allowed you to serve them as their pastor. You have so many ideas for how to make them a stronger, more doctrinally sound, more Christ-centered church.

Three years later, after a series of anonymous letters, tense deacon confrontations, and rancorous business meetings, you are summarily dismissed from the office you couldn’t wait to hold.

What happened? What could you have done differently? Could you have avoided this outcome?

To be sure, some churches are filled with unregenerate members who would not respond to the apostle Paul. Some churches wouldn’t follow a pastor’s leadership no matter how spiritual or skillful he is. But often conflicts arise because well-intentioned pastors make rookie mistakes—the missteps that occur at the intersection of the ideal and reality.

Here are the five most common rookie pastor mistakes I’ve observed.

1. Have high expectations of the church.

Every pastor enters a church with a sense of what needs to be changed for it to meet his standard of what’s authentically biblical. Even before he arrives he envisions a strategy to get the church to “where it needs to be.” As admirable as many of those goals may be, their implementation makes the members feel like pawns in the pastor’s hand. Whether he’s determined to teach the church a particular doctrine or lead them to adopt a certain type of governance, the people who called him can’t help but read his immediate changes as “Let me show you poor people what you’ve been doing wrong all along.”

The pastor may be right, but he can be right and find himself unemployed.

Though it may seem counterintuitive, the best strategy for any pastor assuming a new ministry is to lower expectations of the church but raise expectations of himself. In other words, instead of having a list of things the church must do, he should have a list of actions he must take. His efforts should focus on preaching well, loving his people, winning the lost, visiting people in their jobs and homes, and inviting members into his. People will more readily follow a man who works hard and loves them. There is no shortcut to credibility, but there is a direct route.

2. Fail to embrace the church’s unique culture.

Just like families, churches have their own quirks, idiosyncrasies, preferences, and traditions—all of them for historical, theological, or sociological reasons. To ignore them is not only foolish, but also dangerous. What may seem trite or hokey to a new pastor may be a cherished institution or a theological conviction to the members who called him and pay his salary.

Small slights against the church’s culture can create an antipathy among some that will later undermine the pastor’s ability to make the substantive convictional changes the Bible would require.

3. Invoke pastoral authority without earning pastoral credibility.

A pastor only has the authority the congregation lets him have. While Scripture clearly grants teaching and leadership authority to an elder (e.g., Heb. 13:17), he can make it either easier or harder for his parishioners to follow him. Any pastor who constantly has to remind the church that he’s the leader has already surrendered his leadership.

Leadership can be granted by virtue of the office, but it can be kept only by maintaining a mutual respect and love between pastor and members. Credibility comes by walking through life together amid grief, joy, disaster, weddings, funerals, hospital visits, fellowship suppers, and, especially, the faithful teaching of God’s Word. 

Pastors who try to reap the dividends of authority without making the investment of credibility will quickly find themselves in a leadership deficit.

4. Mistake preference for conviction.

When a pastor insists on his preferences and suggests they are biblical truths, he will lose trust and influence. Church members have the Holy Spirit and the Bible at their disposal just like he does, and will usually know the difference. Further, if he twists the Scriptures to justify his self-centered demands, so will they.

A wise pastor will always practice “truth in labeling,” being honest with the church about the things that arise from clear biblical teaching and the things that arise from his own sanctified tastes.

5. Show fear or anger in the face of opposition.

A pastor may rightly feel hurt or infuriated at the way he’s treated. What he must not do, however, is show it. Anger breeds anger, but calm in the face of insult or opposition is a significant assertion of leadership. Self-control yields situation control.

Similarly, if the pastor shows fear when someone dissents or resists leadership, the sharks will smell blood in the water and a feeding frenzy will ensue. Fear is inherently contradictory to trust. The shepherd who shows no fear when under attack or accusation will earn more and greater confidence from his flock. 

Difficulties and crises come to every pastor, regardless of his temperament or experience. The challenge is to apply godly wisdom, genuine humility, and servant leadership so his actions make the situation better and not worse.

​Hershael York is the Victor and Louise Lester professor of Christian preaching at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and pastor of the Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort, Kentucky.

by Hershael York at February 04, 2016 06:00 AM

Day One 2 released →

Day One 2 is now out as a new, paid upgrade to the excellent Mac and iOS journaling app. The new version supports multiple photos per journal entry, multiple journals and a more powerful filter system.

I've been using the betas for a while, and have been impressed. Day One has been a constant on my iPhone's homescreen for years, and I'm happy to pay again for an app that means so much to me.

Here's a bit from Jake Underwood's review at MacStories:

Day One 2 has all the possibilities of bringing home as many awards as its successful predecessor. It's a carefully crafted app that took what made the first iteration so loved while transitioning it to a new piece of software with useful and exciting changes. On any and all platforms, Day One 2 shines at being an example of what premium software feels like.

I couldn't agree more.

The Mac app is currently $19.99 and the universal iOS app is $4.99. This is half-off for a week, so go download them and get to journaling those important moments.


by Stephen Hackett at February 04, 2016 02:37 AM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Publishing Emacs News as plain text, HTML, and attached Org file

Update 2016-02-05: Since @ThierryStoehr linked to this post about Emacs News-related code, I figured I’d add a link to the other support functions I’ve been using to help me with Emacs News summarization. There’s also this bit:

(let ((date (org-read-date nil nil "-mon")))
     (my/org-list-from-rss "" date) "\n"
     (shell-command-to-string (concat "~/bin/ emacs " date)) "\n"
     (shell-command-to-string (concat "~/bin/ org-mode " date)) "\n"
     "- New packages:\n"

Handy little things!


I’ve been publishing these weekly summaries of Emacs-related links on my blog and to the emacs-tangents mailing list / newsgroup. I started by posting plain text from Org Mode’s ASCII export, and people asked for Org Mode and HTML formats. So here’s some code that prepares things for pasting into a Gnus message buffer.

It turns out that order matters for multipart/alternative – start with plain text, then include richer alternatives. First time around, I put the HTML version first, so people didn’t end up seeing it. Anyway, here’s something that shows up properly now: text/plain, then text/html, with text/x-org attached. The heavy lifting is done with org-export-string-as, which exports into different formats.

  (defun my/share-emacs-news ()
    "Prepare current subtree for yanking into post."
    ;; Draft Gnus article
      (let ((org-export-html-preamble nil)
            (org-html-toplevel-hlevel 3)
        (setq output
               "<#multipart type=alternative>
<#part type=\"text/plain\" disposition=inline>
<#part type=\"text/html\" disposition=inline>
<#part type=\"text/x-org\" disposition=attachment name=\"\">
                (lambda (format)
                  (org-export-string-as (buffer-substring (point-min) (point-max)) format t))
                '(ascii html org))))
        (kill-new output))))

Howard Abrams showed me something like this in June 2015’s Emacs Hangout (~1:18:26) using org-mime-org-buffer-htmlize, which probably does the job in a much cooler way. =) I thought he had a blog post about it, but I can’t seem to find it. Anyway, there’s my little hack above!

The post Publishing Emacs News as plain text, HTML, and attached Org file appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at February 04, 2016 02:25 AM

February 03, 2016

John C. Wright's Journal

Superversive Guest Post: My Hero, Lost On A Mountain In Maine

Today’s column is by S. Dorman

One of my heroes was lost on a mountain in Maine. Not on just any mountain, but The Greatest Mountain—Katahdin, it was named of the Abenaki. Highest mountain in the state and sharing with downeast coastal Quoddy Head first light each day in the continental U.S.. The mountain has a distinctive profile, standing lone and long. Its two often cloud-swathed peaks are connected by a narrow path of eroding stone called the Knife Edge, some places 2-3 ft. wide, some places dropping off almost sheer to the valley below. Below the summit of Baxter is a plateau where my hero spent part of his first day wandering in clouds, once dropping through krumholtz. Thoreau, one of the first to write about Katahdin, was guided partway by a native Abenaki and, going on from there, he may have taken the Abol Slide for his climb. We don’t think he made it to the top. The slide has been a well-known hazardous trail for generations. Abol is recently closed to hikers for its accident prone unstable debris, in most places solely an abrupt fall of talus, the unending eating away of rock in numberless pieces by frost-wedging — action begun by the glaciers. That glacial debris is in the Gulf of Maine an eon after these giants left us with nothing but rocks. Rocks.

My hero was lost on this mountain, terminus of the Appalachian Trail, in 1939. How can someone be lost on a mountain, you say? There’s only one direction to go — down. After reaching the summit with his companion, he descended to wander through cloud on the plateau below the summit over rocks and stunted mountain trees called krumholtz. But the surrounding wilderness below Katahdin is where my hero was truly lost, while searchers refused to look anywhere but on the mountain itself. They did not come within ten miles of him afterward, believing him perhaps fallen into a crevice of rock. He had fallen so, in the krumholtz, but managed to climb up and out. Altogether he was lost nine days, and covered perhaps 75 erratic miles. Coming from the suburbs of New York City, he nonetheless had had some youthful training in Boy Scouts, and tried to follow what he had learned with them: follow streams down. He needed fresh water more than anything and thought this plan would keep him from thirst and bring him out to civilization. He was dressed as a day hiker on getting separated from his party in clouds at the summit.

To tell you why Donn is my hero would take a catalog of physical, mental, and spiritual difficulties. At the head of the physical list is weakness from hunger. Next, for me, would be biting bugs: relentless blackflies, deer flies, mosquitoes, and another category of blood eaters, leeches, a.k.a. bloodsuckers. Partial nakedness was a difficulty: Before his separation in the clouds he’d kept his jacket but given his sweatshirt to a companion. Donn also lost his dungarees to miscalculation in a leap over one of the numerous gaps caused by glacial erratics in a stream he was following. After slashing his sneakers on talus, he lost them and suffered embedded thorns, deep cuts and swollen feet, stiff toes, and the loss of part of his big toe. I don’t need to add wild animals to the list because these turned out to be a source of comfort to him, even the bears. I think this would not be so today because coyotes now roam in packs through the state, but add rainstorms, fierce sunburn, sickness and vomiting.

Read the whole thing:

by John C Wright at February 03, 2016 11:15 PM

Karen De Coster


The headline reads, “DC bill would pay people stipends not to commit crimes.

They say crime doesn’t pay, but that might not be entirely true in the District of Columbia as lawmakers look for ways to discourage people from becoming repeat offenders.

The D.C. Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a bill that includes a proposal to pay residents a stipend not to commit crimes. It’s based on a program in Richmond, California, that advocates say has contributed to deep reductions in crime there.

This bill is trying to address violent crimes perpetuated by repeat offenders. Wait – aren’t we already paying police and politicians enough dough?

by Karen De Coster at February 03, 2016 10:21 PM

Assault(s) By Badge: Local Roundup

The Detroit media is saturated, this week, with a rash of stories involving police abuse of power. In Inkster, ex-officer William Melendez was sentenced to prison for the brutal beating of Floyd Dent, an unarmed man who was dragged out of his car and tased, punched, and kicked during a traffic stop. (See video below.) Thanks to the power of social media and public backlash, the police chief was forced out of his job earlier this year. If you turn to the 28-second spot of the 2nd video in this story, you’ll see the buffoons back at the station, mocking Dent, his injuries, and his reaction to the gang beating.

In nearby Dearborn, the police currently have two cases pending where unarmed citizens were killed by their assailants-in-blue. Just last week Janet Wilson, who was unarmed, was murdered in her car after she left a mall where she had a run-in with security. The Medical Examiner ruled the death a homicide, as Janet was shot multiple times.

In December, Kevin Matthews was wanted for a misdemeanor warrant. He was involved in a struggle with a Dearborn cop after a foot chase, when he was shot and killed. The Medical Examiner reported multiple gunshot wounds and ruled the death a homicide. Media reports say he was “on medication for schizophrenia.”

by Karen De Coster at February 03, 2016 10:03 PM

Aaron M. Renn

Why the New Urban Enthusiasm Is Destined to Fade

secular-age-charles-taylor-coverCanadian philosopher Charles Taylor’s mammoth book a A Secular Age is a very important work that traces the history of secularization from the late Middle Ages through to today. Taylor is indebted to many others, including notably Weber, but his comprehensive view obviates the need to read many of those other sources. (I haven’t read Weber, and probably never will).

It’s an incredibly invigorating read, but also extremely long. So I can’t in good conscience recommend that you read it unless you are interested in such things. I did, however, and plan to share a series of three posts with some applications I took away from the book.

Taylor has three definitions of secularization. One is in effect the separation of church and state, or the secularization of government. The second is the decline of individual spiritual belief.  The third, and the one on which Taylor focuses, is the process by which we went from a world in the year 1500 in which it was impossible not to believe in God to today’s world in which unbelief is one choice among many. And in which transcendent goals that are not rooted in earthly well-being disappear. As he puts it, “A secular age is one in which the eclipse of all goals beyond human flourishing becomes conceivable; or better, if it falls within the range of imaginable life for masses of people.”

His primary objective is to rebut what he terms the “subtraction hypothesis.” In the subtraction view, secularization was an inevitable byproduct of science. Astronomy, Darwin, etc. chipped away at religious belief as it was found to be untenable, and what remained is the secular world we know today.

Taylor doesn’t deny the importance of subtraction, as in the case of Darwin, but he also documents crucially the process of addition.  We did not just tear down religious beliefs and the worldview that sustained them, we also socially constructed new realities to take their place. Among these are the so-called “buffered self” and the “modern moral order.”  This post will talk about one aspect of the former.

The creation of the buffered self is linked to what Weber called “disenchantment”, or the gradual elimination of the idea of “magic” from the world. In an enchanted world, meanings could exist in external things, and those meanings could impose themselves on us. The boundary between our being and the world was porous, leaving us vulnerable.  So a love potion, for example, had the power to make us fall in love.

In our disenchanted world, meanings exist totally in the mind. There is a barrier between ourselves and the world. Potions no longer have the power to make us fall in love. Being in love is state that exists in the mind.  Per Taylor, “As a bounded self I can see the boundary as a buffer, such that things beyond don’t need to ‘get to me’, to use the contemporary expression. That’s the sense to my use of the term ‘buffered’ here. The self can see itself as invulnerable, as master of the meanings of things for it.”  We see this concept of the self as buffered from the world in, for example, the vast number of mindset oriented self-help books, such as those of Tony Robbins, which are predicated on our personal reality being primarily an internal construct.  The concept of a boundary between the mind and the world is also critical to particularly modern undertakings such as science, which puts meaning in the mind while rendering the world purely as mechanism.

The creation of the buffered self had consequences, however. By disconnecting us from the world, and draining the world of meanings, the buffered self creates a sense of improverished existence.  That is to say, it produces the pervasive modern sense of malaise long commented on by Freud and others.  But whereas Freud saw malaise as the inevitable byproduct of the sense of guilt necessary to make civilization possible, for Taylor it is rooted specifically in Western modernity’s sense of the buffered self. He says:

But [the buffered self] can also be lived as a limit, even a prison, making us blind or insensitive to whatever lies beyond this ordered human world and its instrumental-rational projects. The sense can easily arise that we are missing something, cut off from something, that we are living behind a screen…Although we respond to it very differently everyone understands the complaint that our disenchanted world lacks meaning….[T]here is a particular way of framing this issue of division from nature which is especially worth mention. It is the malaise at the adoption of a purely instrumental, “rational” stance towards the world or human life. The close link to [loss of unity with nature] comes in the fact that it is usually this stance which is indicted as what has in fact closed us off from nature and the current of life within us and without. But still, the attack on the instrumental stance takes up another side of this self-closure which has had its own devastating consequences. In the effort to control our lives, or control nature, we have destroyed much that is deep or valuable in them. We have been blinded to the importance of equilibria which can be upset, but can’t be created by instrumental rationality. The most important of these in our contemporary debates is obviously the one touching the ecological balance of our entire biosphere.

This sense of malaise, resulting from the buffered self and the loss of a sense of transcendence, can been see in several ways:

  • The loss of meaning in life and search for an overall sense of purpose or significance
  • An inability to “solemnize” key moments of our life that we sense should have special significance (which is why even non-believers often get married in a church or otherwise try to mark the event as “sacred”)
  • A sense of the “flatness” of the ordinary world (such as the banality of our consumer culture)

This sense of malaise has been fought against in various ways, for example, by the Romantics, or what Taylor calls the “tragic axis” of people like Nietzsche who reject the modern moral order. But all of us at some level, I think, rebel at some aspects of our world in this manner.

What does this have to do with the present urban resurgence, you might ask?

Good question. The reason I bring this up, and use Taylor specifically to talk about the malaise concept, is his rich and wide ranging list of examples and applications. He even, as it turns out, talks about suburbanization as an attempt to overcome modern malaise.

For instance, some people sense a terrible flatness in the everyday, and this experience has been identified particularly with commercial, industrial, or consumer society. They feel emptiness of the repeated, accelerating cycle of desire and fulfillment in consumer culture; the cardboard quality of bright supermarkets, or neat row housing in a clean suburb; the ugliness of slag heaps, or an aging industrial townscape. We may respond negatively to the elite’s stance, the judging of ordinary people’s lives without real knowledge, that these feelings seem to reflect But however mixed with unacceptable social distance and superiority, these feelings are easy to understand and hard to shake off. And if we think of the immense popularity in our civilization of the flight away from certain townscapes, to the country, the suburbs, even to wilderness, we have to admit the virtual universality of some reactions of this range. The irony of the suburb, or garden city, is that it provokes in more fortunate others some of the same feelings, viz., of the emptiness and flatness of an urban environment, which were responsible for its existence in the first place. [emphasis added]

While Taylor notes the specifically elite character of much of the rebellion against the suburbs, where the elite start, everyone else often follows. Most of the arguments about the future primacy of the urban life are predicated on exactly this happening.

But if we consider the root causes of malaise, we see that it does not arise from the built environment, not even that of the banality of the suburbs. So the attempt to find meaning, create more richness to our lives, etc. through changes in the physical organization of our life, while they may have some benefits, won’t cure the disease. While there are debates about what causes this underlying sense of malaise, Freud vs. Taylor for example, its persistence as a feature of modern life and the coming and going so many responses to it over at least two centuries suggest that it derives from something inherent in our civilization or the human condition.

So just as at some level the suburbs failed to satisfy, and just as the previous urban environments likewise did, we should expect contemporary urbanism to also fail. Thus it seems destined to being a fashion that, like so many others before, will ultimately burn itself out, except for those to whom (like myself perhaps) it is particularly well-suited. Urbanism, however much we might like it, and though its day in the sun may go on for quite a while, does not represent the end of history or the answer to the quest for meaning, human connection, or depth of experience in life.

by Aaron M. Renn at February 03, 2016 07:40 PM

Doc Searls Weblog » Doc Searls Weblog »

The Giant Zero

The Giant Zero

The world of distance

Fort Lee is the New Jersey town where my father grew up. It’s at the west end of the George Washington Bridge, which he also helped build. At the other end is Manhattan.

Even though Fort Lee and Manhattan are only a mile apart, it has always been a toll call between the two over a landline. Even today. (Here, look it up.) That’s why, when I was growing up not far away, with the Manhattan skyline looming across the Hudson, we almost never called over there. It was “long distance,” and that cost money.

There were no area codes back then, so if you wanted to call long distance, you dialed 0 (“Oh”) for an operator. She (it was always a she) would then call the number you wanted and patch it through, often by plugging a cable between two holes in a “switchboard.”

Distance in the old telephone system was something you heard and paid for.

Toll-free calls could be made only to a few dozen local exchanges listed in the front of your phone book. Calls to distant states were even more expensive, and tended to sound awful. Calls outside the country required an “overseas operator,” were barely audible, and cost more than a brake job.

That’s why, to communicate with our distant friends and relatives, we sent letters. From 1932 to 1958, regular (“first class”) letters required a 3¢ stamp. This booked passage for the letter to anywhere in the country, though speeds varied with distance, since letters traveled most of the way in canvas bags on trains that shuttled between sorting centers. So a letter from New Jersey to North Carolina took three or four days, while one to California took a week or more. If you wanted to make letters travel faster, you bought “air mail” stamps and put them on special envelopes trimmed with diagonal red and blue stripes. Those were twice the price of first class stamps.

An air mail envelope from 1958, when the postage had gone up to 7¢. This one was mailed from a post office, where the sender paid an extra penny for the second green imprint on the left there.

The high cost of distance for telephony and mail made sense. Farther was harder. We knew this in our bodies, in our vehicles, and through our radios and TVs. There were limits to how far or fast we could run, or yell, or throw a ball. Driving any distance took a sum of time. Even if you drove fast, farther took longer. Signals from radio stations faded as you drove out of town, or out of state. Even the biggest stations — the ones on “clear” channels, like WSM from Nashville, KFI from Los Angeles and WBZ from Boston — would travel hundreds of miles by bouncing off the sky at night. But the quality of those signals declined over distance, and all were gone when the sun came up. Good TV required antennas on roofs. The biggest and highest antennas worked best, but it was rare to get good signals from more than a few dozen miles away.

In TV’s antenna age, you needed one of these if rabbit ears wouldn’t do. The long rods were for channels 2–6 (no longer in use), the medium ones were for channels 7–13, and the short ones were for channels 14–83 (of which only 14–50 are still operative). The pigeons were for interference, and often worked quite well.

All our senses of distance are rooted in our experience of space and time in the physical world. So, even though telephony, shipping and broadcasting were modern graces most of our ancestors could hardly imagine, old rules still applied. We knew in our bones that costs ought to vary with the labors and resources required. Calls requiring operators should cost more than ones that didn’t. Heavier packages should cost more to ship. Bigger signals should require bigger transmitters that suck more watts off the grid.

A world without distance

Everything I just talked about — telephony, mail, radio and TV — are in the midst of being undermined by the Internet, subsumed by it, or both. If we want to talk about how, we’ll have nothing but arguments and explanations. So let’s go instead to the main effect: distance goes away.

On the Net you can have a live voice conversation with anybody anywhere, at no cost or close enough. There is no “long distance.”

On the Net you can exchange email with anybody anywhere, instantly. No postage required.

On the Net anybody can broadcast to the whole world. You don’t need to be a “station” to do it. There is no “range” or “coverage.” You don’t need antennas, beyond the unseen circuits in wireless devices.

I’ve been wondering for a long time about how we ought to conceive the non-thing over which this all happens, and so far I have found no improvements on what I got from Craig Burton in an interview published in the August 2000 issue of Linux Journal:

Doc: How do you conceive the Net? What’s its conceptual architecture?

Craig: I see the Net as a world we might see as a bubble. A sphere. It’s growing larger and larger, and yet inside, every point in that sphere is visible to every other one. That’s the architecture of a sphere. Nothing stands between any two points. That’s its virtue: it’s empty in the middle. The distance between any two points is functionally zero, and not just because they can see each other, but because nothing interferes with operation between any two points. There’s a word I like for what’s going on here: terraform. It’s the verb for creating a world. That’s what we’re making here: a new world.

A world with no distance. A Giant Zero.

Of course there are many forms of actual distance at the technical and economic levels: latencies, bandwidth limits, service fees, censors. But our experience is above those levels, where we interact with other people and things. And the main experience there is of absent distance.

We never had that experience before the Internet showed up in its current form, about twenty years ago. By now we have come to depend on absent distance, in countless ways that are becoming more numerous by the minute. The Giant Zero is a genie that is not going back in the old bottle, and also won’t stop granting wishes.

Not all wishes the Giant Zero grants are good ones. Some are very bad. What matters is that we need to make the most of the good ones and the least of the bad. And we can’t do either until we understand this new world, and start making the best of it on its own terms.

The main problem is that we don’t have those terms yet. Worse, our rhetorical toolbox is almost entirely native to the physical world and misleading in the virtual one. Let me explain.

Talking distance

Distance is embedded in everything we talk about, and how we do the talking. For instance, take prepositions: locators in time and space. There are only a few dozen of them in the English language. (Check ‘em out.) Try to get along without over, under, around, through, beside, along, within, on, off, between, inside, outside, up, down, without, toward, into or near. We can’t. Yet here on the Giant Zero, everything is either present or not, here or not-here.

Sure, we are often aware of where sites are in the physical world, or where they appear to be. But where they are, physically, mostly doesn’t matter. In the twenty years I’ve worked for Linux Journal, its Web server has been in Seattle, Amsterdam, somewhere in Costa Rica and various places in Texas. My own home server started at my house in the Bay Area, and then moved to various Rackspace racks in San Antonio, Vienna (Virginia) and Dallas.

While it is possible for governments, or providers of various services, to look at the IP address you appear to be using and either let you in or keep you out, doing so violates the spirit of the Net’s base protocols, which made a point in the first place of not caring to exclude anybody or anything. Whether or not that was what its creators had in mind, the effect was to subordinate the parochial interests (and businesses) of all the networks that agreed to participate in the Internet and pass data between end points.

The result was, and remains, a World of Ends that cannot be fully understood in terms of anything else, even though we can’t help doing that anyway. Like the universe, the Internet has no other examples.

This is a problem, because all our speech is metaphorical by design, meaning we are always speaking and thinking in terms of something else. According to cognitive linguistics, every “something else” is a frame. And all frames are unconscious nearly all the time, meaning we are utterly unaware of using them.

For example, time is not money, but it is like money, so we speak about time in terms of money. That’s why we “save,” “waste,” “spend,” “lose,” “throw away” and “invest” time. Another example is life. When we say birth is “arrival,” death is “departure,” careers are “paths” and choices are “crossroads,” we are thinking and speaking about life in terms of travel. In fact it is nearly impossible to avoid raiding the vocabularies of money and travel when talking about time and life. And doing it all unconsciously.

These unconscious frames are formed by our experience as creatures in the physical world. You know why we say happy is “up” and sad is “down”? Or why we compare knowledge with “light” and ignorance with “dark”? It’s because we are daytime animals that walk upright. If bats could talk, they would say good is dark and bad is light.

Metaphorical frames are not only unconscious, but complicated and often mixed. In Metaphors We Live By, George Lakoff and Mark Johnson point out that ideas are framed in all the following ways: fashion (“old hat,” “in style,” “in vogue”), money (“wealth,” “two cents worth, “treasure trove”), resources (“mined a vein,” “pool,” “ran out of”), products (“produced,” “turning out,” “generated”), plants (“came to fruition,” “in flower,” “budding”), and people (“gave birth to,” “brainchild,” “died off”).

Yet none of those frames is as essential to ideas as what Michael Reddy calls the conduit metaphor. When we say we need to “get an idea across,” or “that sentence carries little meaning,” we are saying that ideas are objects, expressions are containers, and communications is sending.

So let’s look at the metaphorical frames we use, so far, to make sense of the Internet.

When we call the Internet a “medium” through which “content” can “delivered” via “packets” we “uploaded,” “downloaded” between “producers” and “consumers” through “pipes,” we are using a transport frame.

When we talk about “sites” with “domains” and “locations” that we “architect,” “design,” “build” and “construct” for “visitors” and “traffic” in “world” or a “space: with an “environment,” we are using a real estate frame.

When we talk about “pages” and other “documents” that we “write,” “author,” “edit,” “put up,” “post” and “syndicate,” we are using a publishing frame.

When we talk about “performing” for an “audience” that has an “experience: in a “venue,” we are using a theater frame.

And when we talk about “writing a script for delivering a better experience on a site,” we are using all four frames at the same time.

Yet none can make full sense of the Giant Zero. All of them mislead us into thinking the Giant Zero is other than what it is: a place without distance, and lots of challenges and opportunities that arise from its lack of distance.

Terraforming The Giant Zero

William Gibson famously said “the future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed.” Since The Giant Zero has only been around for a couple decades so far, we still have a lot of terraforming to do. Most of it, I’d say.

So here is a punch list of terraforming jobs, some of which (I suspect) can’t be done in the physical world we know almost too well.

Cooperation. Getting to know and understand other people over distances was has always been hard. But on The Giant Zero we don’t have distance as an excuse for doing nothing, or for not getting to know and work together with others. How can we use The Giant Zero’s instant proximity to overcome (and take advantage) of our differences, and stop hating The Other, whoever they may be?

Privacy. The Giant Zero doesn’t come with privacy. Nor does the physical world. But distance alone gives some measure of privacy in the physical world. We also invented clothing and shelter as privacy technologies thousands of years ago, and we have well developed manners for respecting personal boundaries. On The Giant Zero we barely have any of that, which shouldn’t be surprising, because we haven’t had much time to develop them yet. In the absence of clothing, shelter and boundaries, it’s ridiculously easy for anyone or anything to spy our browsings and emailings. (See Privacy is an Inside Job for more on that, and what we can do about it.)

Personal agency. The original meaning of agency (derived from the Latin word agere, meaning “to do”), is the power to act with full effect in the world. We lost a lot of that when Industry won the Industrial Revolution. We still lose a little bit every time we click “accept” to one-sided terms the other party can change and we can’t. We also lose power every time we acquiesce to marketers who call us “assets” they “target,” “capture,” “acquire,” “manage,” “control” and “lock in” as if we were slaves or cattle. In The Giant Zero, however, we can come to the market as equals, in full control of our data and able to bring far more intelligence to the market’s table than companies can ever get through data gathered by surveillance and fed into guesswork mills that: a) stupidly assume that we are always buying something and b) still guess wrong at rates that round to 100% of the time. All we need to do is prove that free customers are more valuable than captive ones — to the whole economy. Which we can if we build our own tools for both independence and engagement. (Which we are.)

Politics and governance. Elections in democratic countries have always been about sports: the horse race, the boxing ring, the knockout punch. The Internet changes all that in many ways we already know and more we don’t. But what about governance? What about direct connections between citizens and the systems that serve them? The Giant Zero exists in all local, state, national and global government contexts, waiting to be discovered and used. And how should we start thinking about laws addressing an entirely new world we’ve hardly built and are years away from understanding fully (if we ever will)? In a new world being terraformed constantly, we risk protecting yesterday from last Thursday with laws and regulations that will last for generations — especially when we might find a technical solution next Tuesday to last Thursday‘s problems.

Economics. What does The Giant Zero in our midst mean for money, accounting and everything in Econ 101, 102 and beyond? Today we already have Bitcoin and its distributed ledger, the block chain. Both are only a few years old, and already huge bets are being made on their successes and failures. International monetary systems, credit payment and settlement mechanisms are also challenged by digital systems of many kinds that are zero-based in several different meanings of the expression. How do we create economies that are both native to The Giant Zero and respectful of the physical world it cohabits?

The physical world. We live in an epoch that geologists are starting to call the Anthropocene, because it differs from all that preceded it in one significant way: it is altered countless ways by human activity. At the very least, it is beyond dispute that our species is, from the perspective of the planet itself, a pestilence. We raid it of irreplaceable substances deposited by life forms (e.g. banded iron) and asteroid impacts (gold, silver, uranium and other heavy metals) billions of years ago, and of the irreplaceable combustible remains of plants and animals cooked in the ground for dozens to hundreds of millions of years. We fill the planet’s air and seas with durable and harmful wastes. We wipe out species beyond counting, with impunity. We have littered space with hundreds of thousands of pieces of orbiting crap flying at speeds ten times faster than bullets. The Giant Zero can’t reverse the damage we’ve caused, or reduce our ravenous appetites for more of everything our species selfishly calls a “resource.” But it puts us in the best possible position to understand and deal with the problems we’re causing.

The “Internet of Things” (aka IoT) is a huge topic, even though most of the things being talked about operate in closed and proprietary silos that may not even use the Internet. But what if they actually were all to become native to The Giant Zero? What if every thing — whether or not it has smarts inside — could be on the Net, at zero distance from every other thing, and capable of interacting in fully useful ways for their owners, rather than the way they’re being talked about now: as suction cups on corporate and government tentacles?

Inequality. What better than The Giant Zero’s absent distance to reduce the distance between rich and poor — and to do so in ways not limited to the familiar ones we argue about in the physical world?

The unconnected. How do we migrate the last 1.5 billion of us from Earth to The Giant Zero?

A question

I could go on, but I’d rather put another question to those of you who have made it to the end of this post: Should The Giant Zero be a book? I’m convinced of the need for it and have a pile of material already. Studying all this has also been my focus for a decade as a fellow with the Center for Information Technology and Society at UCSB. But I still have a long way to go.

If pressing on is a good idea, I could use some help thinking it through and pulling materials together. If you’re interested, let me know. No long distance charges apply.

This piece is copied over from this one in Medium, and is my first experiment in publishing first there and second here. Both are expanded and updated from a piece published at on May 16, 2008. The drawing of the Internet is by Hugh McLeod. Other images are from Wikimedia Commons.


by Doc Searls at February 03, 2016 06:13 PM

Karen De Coster

Federal Reserve: Finally, Going Broke Has Become Affordable

I don’t want to believe that I am the only one amused by this article: “The Return of the Affordable Starter Home.” The opening paragraphs from the article are exactly what I would expect from a story in The Onion. But it’s real, and very serious in its tone.

Surging prices have almost closed off the new-home market to young buyers like Brandon and Quincey Lindemann. But the Denver-area couple has found a way in.

The Lindemanns paid $350,000 in October for a three-bedroom house at Tri Pointe Group Inc.’s Terrain, a new Castle Rock, Colorado, community designed for first-time buyers. While the home has press-board kitchen counters and a yard too small for the children the Lindemanns plan to have, it’s almost 30 percent cheaper than the average for a new house in the area.

“We were willing to sacrifice some luxury to have some solid equity in a home,” said Brandon Lindemann, 25, an auto-repair shop manager who plans to install tile flooring himself. “We couldn’t afford much more than the basic, but I’m a pretty big do-it-myself person.”

What stands out, first of all, is that a $350k home is even tagged as a starter home, let alone being hailed as “affordable.” Furthermore, a $350k home has press-board counters and a yard barely capable of sustaining a child’s plastic pool. Also, the buyer is 25 years old and an auto mechanic. An auto mechanic buying a $350k home? The glorification of false prosperity has become so unrestrained and routine that the bubble mentality is the accepted orthodoxy. Decades of conditioning the masses on the virtues of living in debt to live beyond one’s means has made a permanent mark on American society. The “American Dream,” as it is currently defined, is being doled out equitably to all who apply for their fair share of affluence.

A “homebuilding analyst” from Bloomberg is quoted in this article, and it is almost as comical: “The recovery in the move-up segment is getting long in the tooth — there are only so many buyers who can pay $400,000 and above.” This is written as if $400k is the point where home prices are considered to start getting a bit pricey. Inflation is not to be feared, but revered. The conditioning of the American mindset triumphs over the realities of prior experience. The meltdown of 2007-2008 and beyond never happened. It passed, therefore it ain’t.

This article is so full of ‘money’ quotes, with this being another one to point out.

Most builders continue to chase larger profit margins by catering to move-up and luxury buyers. Large builders such as Lennar Corp. and PulteGroup Inc. continue to focus on wealthier customers rather than first-time homeowners.

The words “affluent” and “luxury” and “wealthy” are tossed out without regard as to their actual definitions. Actually, the vast majority of these buyers are not wealthy at all, but it is true that they are luxury buyers, thanks to the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy, the US government’s political policies, and the political manipulation of financial markets. These are middle-class, high time preference buyers who have been conditioned to accumulate debt to live beyond their means in a home they believe represents an “investment.”

I found numerous articles on the Internet that describes this Castle Rock community in Colorado as breaking new ground to make homes affordable for millennials. These $300-$500k homes are described as “low-cost,” and of course, the millennials who mortgage their future away are referred to as “affluent.” Welcome to Meltdown, Part II.

by Karen De Coster at February 03, 2016 04:08 PM

Zippy Catholic

Profiting from decay

Why doesn’t the mutuum borrower owe at least enough interest to compensate for inflation?

It is often said that money now is worth more than money later, and a common argument is that this justifies charging interest on mutuum loans: at least enough interest to compensate for the effects of inflation or currency devaluation.

As is typical of modern anti-realist views of property (see Question 10 for a realist view), this gets things almost exactly backwards. In fact if the argument from counterfactuals or opportunity cost were valid in the first place, what would follow is that the lender should pay interest to the borrower.

Property in itself is always subject to decay. Suppose you lend me fresh peaches, and I personally guarantee to give you the same number of fresh peaches six months from now.

In order to provide you with fresh peaches six months from now I have to take risks and invest more capital and labor. If I just hang on to your peaches and return them to you they will be rotten, because the peaches you lent to me are subject to decay. You should pay me interest, since when I give you fresh peaches in six months you are getting a greater value back than what you gave. I personally guaranteed you fresh peaches in six months, and took all of the risk and labor of providing them upon myself.

Guaranteed fresh peaches later requires investment, labor, and risk. (Question 48 is pertinent). Peaches in a bucket right now require none of those things. If any interest based on counterfactuals is justifiable at all it should go to the party who takes on the task and the risk of providing fresh peaches in six months: the borrower.

And the same is true of money, or any property. If entropy or decay (for example inflation) justifies charging interest on a mutuum loan at all, the interest it justifies is due to the borrower not the lender; because the borrower is the person who has taken on all of the risk and expense of preserving the lender’s capital.

The borrower should be compensated for the expenses the lender would have incurred if the lender had kept his capital locked (for a fee) in a safe deposit box rather than giving it to the borrower for preservation and safekeeping. If the borrower is providing a service roughly equivalent to a safe deposit box, interest should flow the opposite direction from what the usurer proposes. Safe deposit boxes have to be rented for a reason.

The fallacy in all of this is in the notion that opportunity costs are compensable in mutuum lending in the first place (see Question 14), and the idea that mutuum lending is ever morally licit as a means to economic gain – where wealth preservation is a kind of gain – as opposed to an act of charity or friendship.

But once we grant the premise that opportunity costs are compensable for the sake of argument, the lender should be paying interest to the borrower.  The borrower’s story about counterfactual might-have-beens is more in touch with reality than the lender’s story about counterfactual might-have-beens, because preserving and maintaining property against the forces of entropy always requires risk, work, and investment.

by Zippy at February 03, 2016 03:11 PM

Kbase Article of the Week: OS X El Capitan: Start up in single-user mode →

Another useful article this week:

To troubleshoot your computer’s startup sequence using only UNIX commands, start up in single-user mode. You should do this only if you’re comfortable with UNIX.


by Stephen Hackett at February 03, 2016 03:00 PM

Karen De Coster

Lawrence Welk and the Federal Reserve

I’ve been working on an article or two, plus some blogs on matters of the financial markets, housing bubble, auto bubble, the perpetuation of near-zero interest rates, real estate tomfoolery, student debt bubble, stock market bubble, household debt, retail bubble, corporate stock buybacks, and assorted other corporate earnings shenanigans. Along the way, I came up with a logo that is a cheery representation of current trends.

Lawrence Welk

by Karen De Coster at February 03, 2016 02:30 PM

Crossway Blog

What Motherhood Teaches Us about Womanhood

This post features a roundtable discussion on motherhood adapted from Women in the Church: An Interpretation and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 (3rd Edition), edited by Andreas J. Köstenberger and Thomas R. Schreiner.

Why Motherhood Matters

Andreas Köstenberger and Thomas Schreiner:
In light of Paul’s and the Bible’s teaching on motherhood, what is the significance of women being mothers? Beyond the obvious biological differences, does motherhood tell us anything about the difference between males and females? What do you have to say to women who are not mothers (1 Tim. 2:15)?

Mary Kassian:
I’ll answer this question with a quote from True Woman 101:

Every normal woman is equipped to be a mother. Certainly, not every woman in the world is destined to make use of her biological equipment. But motherhood, in a much deeper sense, is the essence of womanhood. The first woman’s name affirms and celebrates this truth: Eve means “life-giver.” God’s purpose is that every woman—married or single, fertile or infertile—will bring forth life. Regardless of her marital status, occupation, or age, a woman’s greatest aim ought to be to glorify God and further His kingdom by reproducing—bearing spiritual fruit. [1]

The Lord wants women to be fruitful for the purpose of advancing and expanding the family of God. The point of motherhood is to bring forth and nurture children in the faith. Women who have no biological children also participate in this calling:

“Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married,” says the Lord. (Isaiah 54:1 ESV)

He gives the childless woman a household, making her the joyful mother of children. Hallelujah! (Psalm 113:9 HCSB)

Gloria Furman:
Since womanhood cannot be handcuffed to mere biology, I would say to women who are not biological mothers that nurturing cannot be relegated to procreation. Through the gospel we see that fertility and “filling the earth” extend to Christian discipleship that bears lasting fruit. This is a joy-filled responsibility that every Christian woman bears. The clear glass of the gospel shows us that we are part of God’s bigger story in which he is calling out worshipers from every nation to come and adore his Son forever. So the goal of our nurturing is to promote human thriving in the most magnificently fulfilling capacity possible. As women who are in Christ, then, we should aim to do everything he gives us to do so that all the nations would see and savor him forever. Motherhood, according to God’s good design, includes biological and spiritual mothering and is woven into the very fabric of what it means to be a woman. Women lovingly mother others, using their God-given gifts to meet their needs for Jesus’s sake (2 Cor. 4:5).

Tony Merida:
It seems God has given women a wonderful nurturing instinct. I don’t mean to imply that men can’t be nurturers, nor that women are only nurturers. However, the fact that women can give birth and feed and nurture babies and children in ways that men cannot highlights the beautiful uniqueness women possess as caregivers. A woman does not have to be married, nor be a mother, to nurture those in need. I would encourage all women to pour out their lives in deeds of service to those in need, such as victims of abuse, orphans, widows, the elderly, the homeless, the hungry, and the afflicted, through thousands of God-honoring involvements.

Trillia Newbell:
First Timothy 2:15 has been debated and theorized so much, I’m not sure I can add to the conversation! We know that women are not actually saved (as in regenerated) through childbirth. Yet Paul uses this language, and so we cannot ignore it. And I could write an entire chapter (or even a book) on what the Lord says about motherhood. So instead, I’ll focus on the last question about women who aren’t mothers. God was kind to begin the creation story by letting us know that all men and women are made in his image; therefore, unmarried women are no less significant than mothers. Also, because all the Word is useful, all females can be encouraged and challenged by what they read in regard to women in the Word. So the question is, what can we learn about God when we read these Scriptures? That’s how we all—including my unmarried sisters—should approach this passage.

Theresa Bowen:
If 1 Timothy 2:9–15 were the whole of Scripture, we might assume that salvation for women is somehow tied to childbearing, but of course it is not. The full witness of Scripture teaches that the basis of salvation is grace alone through Christ’s atoning death and not works (childbearing or anything else we can do). Therefore Paul must have referred to childbearing to represent Eve’s original (and perfect!) design as a life giver and perhaps her sphere as being more familial. Biologically, the woman alone has been designed to bear children. And while she can reject children or, for reasons known only to God, be denied them, this is one area of her design that a woman cannot exchange with a man. But as glorious as physically giving birth is, being a life giver involves so much more. It is that nurturing, maternal spirit that God has sovereignly placed within the woman’s design. It involves viewing children (her own and others) and younger women as gifts and as worthy of her time and best efforts.

Darrin Patrick:
Childbearing is one of the good works with which godly women are to adorn themselves. It’s just in a woman to want to have a baby, and as a Christian, the best way to extend your legacy is through your children— really, the best disciples you’re ever going to have are your kids. And yet we know that this world is broken. We have many women in our church who are dealing with prolonged, unwanted singleness. Many couples are walking through infertility and miscarriages. As we walk alongside them in their pain, we want to constantly encourage our church that their opportunity for influence extends well beyond their biological family.

Monica Rose Brennan:
Women who embrace who they are (their true identity) and fulfill God’s purpose will be rewarded. Motherhood reveals the nurturing, helping nature that God has formed in every woman’s heart. Mothers have such a high calling and privilege to train their children to follow Christ and to discover God’s purpose for their lives. I can’t think of a greater role in all the world; it is truly a gift from God. Those who cannot bear children are still called to be nurturers and minister to children and other women in a way that only a woman can. Women who are not mothers can be spiritual mothers to others and minister in a variety of ways.

Theresa Bowen:
Exactly. The life-giving aspect of our design in no way excludes single women. All women—married, single, with or without children—can nurture and speak life-giving words into other’s lives. And despite the loud disrespect and disregard for such “menial” work in our supposedly enlightened age, this role is still largely accepted in society. Most still expect the child with a bloodied knee to run to mom for comfort, most homemaking blogs are penned by women, and Hollywood borrows from God’s design every time the hero steps in and saves the damsel in distress rather than standing idly by or following in her steps. Being a life giver is huge! Ironically, we assign more respect to a woman spending eight hours at a computer in a cubicle than one speaking words of life to a discouraged husband or straying child. It is that nurturing spirit that creates the intangible atmosphere that makes a house a home. And while it may begin in her home, a life giver’s nurturing words and actions are often known throughout her sphere and beyond, sometimes throughout the world. Indeed, something powerful can happen when we align with and embrace our God-given design.

Rosaria Butterfield:
I am a mother by adoption. Two of our four children came to us at the age of seventeen out of the US foster care system. Many good Christians uttered their concern about adopting teenagers. Will they love us? Will they reject us? Will they hurt us? And what about my identity as a mother? Am I less of a mother to my children if I meet them as older teenagers? Am I not a “real” mother if I did not carry them in my body? Am I less of a disciple of Christ if I met him in middle age (as I did)? God constantly reveals to us his covenant love by forging impossible trails through the conflicts of our lives. But covenant love has earthly vessels. One earthly highway of God’s covenant love is the spiritual mothering that leads others to our Savior. Hospitality is a touchstone of the ministry that Kent and I share together. And for me, hospitality and mothering go together, as both flow out of the doctrine of adoption and both require hands-on service and consistent and sacrificial love.

[1] Mary Kassian and Nancy Leigh DeMoss, True Woman 101: Divine Design (Chicago: Moody, 2012), 188.

Andreas J. Köstenberger (PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is senior research professor of New Testament and biblical theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. He is a prolific author, distinguished evangelical scholar, and editor of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. His books include The Heresy of Orthodoxy, God, Marriage, and Family, The Final Days of Jesus (with Justin Taylor), and God's Design for Man and Woman (with Margaret Köstenberger). Dr. Köstenberger and his wife have four children.

Thomas R. Schreiner is the James Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He holds an MDiv and ThM from Western Conservative Baptist Seminary and a PhD from Fuller Theological Seminary. He has published a number of articles and book reviews in scholarly journals.

by Crossway at February 03, 2016 02:18 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

Why the Best Way to Earn Miles & Points Still Hasn’t Changed


Link: Chase Sapphire Preferred (50,000 Points Bonus)

I’m always on the lookout for new travel hacking opportunities. Even though I don’t need to earn as many miles and points as I used to, it’s still fun.

This year I’ll be flying in The Apartment at 30,000 feet.


I’ll be going back to my favorite country, Australia.


I’ll be heading out on a 30-city book tour. (You can come, too.)


… and I’m sure there will be many other adventures along the way.

For all of these experiences and more, I’ll be using the same credit card.

Way back in the day, I had more than 20 active cards. Yes, really—and my credit score is 750+. It’s largely a myth that more accounts damages your credit score, as long as you pay off the balances and continue to live responsibly.

These days, life is simpler. I still have a bunch of different cards, especially for various business expenses, but almost all of my personal travel goes straight to my Chase Sapphire Preferred, and I’m something of an evangelist for it.

Despite many other changes happening in the travel hacking world, there’s no better single offer. If you can only get one card, this is the first one to look at.

So, Why Is This Card So Great? Here Are a Few Reasons

  • You’ll earn 40,000 currently 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months
  • You can also earn an extra 5,000 points when you add an authorized user within the first 3 months and they make a purchase of any amount (there’s no charge to add an authorized user, and no minimum spend to earn the additional bonus)
  • Ultimate Rewards points transfer (usually on a 1:1 basis) to nearly a dozen travel partners, including United, Hyatt, Marriott, British Airways, Korean Air, Singapore Airlines, and Southwest Airlines
  • You’ll earn 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & one point per dollar spent on all other purchases (very helpful the next time you visit 12 restaurants in one day)
  • There are no foreign transaction fees (that’s why this is my primary card for travel)
  • The annual fee of $95 is waived for the first year (and if you want, you can cancel before it shows up in year two—though for many of us the card is well worth keeping)

Again, there are other good cards. But people often ask me for a single recommendation, and unless you have a compelling reason why something else would be better, this is a great first start.

Link: Chase Sapphire Preferred (50,000 Points Bonus)

Other Posts


Images: 1, 2, 3

by Chris Guillebeau at February 03, 2016 01:40 PM

Front Porch Republic

One Good Politician

Aristides and the commonerIt can be discouraging watching people vie for political power. That they are motivated by a concern for our good is often hard to believe. A man like Aristides is a refreshing reminder: it can be otherwise. There are people that have the moral as well as the intellectual qualities to govern.

Plutarch relates a famous anecdote of when a public vote was being taken in Athens on whom to banish for ten years. Citizens would vote by writing a name on a ‘sherd.’

As therefore, they were writing the names on the sherds, it is reported that an illiterate clownish fellow, giving Aristides his sherd, supposing him a common citizen, begged him to write ‘Aristides’ upon it; and he being surprised and asking if Aristides had ever done him any injury, ‘None at all,’ said he, ‘neither know I the man; but I am tired of hearing him everywhere called the Just.’ Aristides, hearing this, is said to have made no reply, but returned the sherd with his own name inscribed. At his departure from the city, lifting up his hands to heaven, he made a prayer (the reverse it would seem, of that of Achilles), that the Athenians might never have any occasion which should constrain them to remember Aristides.

The willingness of Aristides to oblige this man by writing his own name for banishment is noteworthy. But his prayer for the city as he is being banished is truly remarkable.

We must recall that to be banished, or ‘ostracized,’ was for an Athenian to lose everything one holds dear. And of course as indicated by Plutarch, Aristides was far from worthy of such a punishment. Yet not only did he forgive. He prayed. May they not have occasion to regret this. May what service I have done still bear fruit. For, my life is about their lives.

A few years later when the Persians attacked, again, Athens would recall Aristides. And he came, he saw, and he served.

We can look for more from our public servants. We can also give more and be better public servants ourselves.

Plutarch (46-120 A.D.), a Boeotian Greek who became a Roman citizen, was especially known as a biographer of famous Greek and Roman men. This post is the final in a short series considering the life of Aristides (530-468 BC), one of the greatest of Athenian statesmen.

Image: Aristides writing his own name on the illiterate man’s sherd.

Originally posted at Bacon from Acorns

The post One Good Politician appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by John Cuddeback at February 03, 2016 12:04 PM

Table Titans

Tales: The Cure to Power Gamers

I've run a gaming group for almost a decade now, and while the lineup occasionally changes the group as a whole has been remarkably stable. This is great, as it gives me the opportunity to try things I normally couldn't; the group trusts me enough that I can get away with all sorts of things.

Read more

February 03, 2016 07:01 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Your 7 Job Responsibilities as a Church Member

Article by: Jonathan Leeman

When you hear the words “church government,” what do you think? Members’ meetings? Elder board rooms? Fights over the budget or the color of the carpet? Too often it can seem that way. 

Yet church government should involve so much more. In fact, it should tie into the everyday life of the church. And everyone has a role to play. 

Did you know, ordinary church member, that Jesus has given you a job? Your elders have a special office, to be sure, but so do you. And Jesus has given you elders in order to train you to do your job. 

So if Jesus’s discipleship program gives every single member a job, what responsibilities come with this job? There are at least seven.

1. Attend Church Regularly 

You, as a baptized Christian and ordinary member of a church, are responsible to attend church regularly. Scripture could not be clearer about this fundamental responsibility so that you can give yourself to love and good works and encouragement.

And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near. (Heb. 10:24–25)

The author threatens final judgment if you do not attend (vv. 26–27). The stakes are high indeed. After all, if you do not attend, you cannot fulfill the next six responsibilities. Attendance makes everything else possible.  

2. Help Preserve the Gospel

You, as a baptized Christian and ordinary member of a church, are responsible for protecting and preserving the gospel and the gospel’s ministry in your church.

Think about Paul’s “amazement” in Galatians 1: “I am amazed that you are so quickly . . . turning to a different gospel” (v. 6). He upbraids not the pastors, but the members, and tells them to reject even apostles or angels who teach a false gospel.

What this means, Christian, is that you are responsible to study the gospel and know it. Can you summarize the gospel in 60 seconds or less? Can you explain the relationship between faith and works? Can a Christian live in unrepentant sin? Why or why not? Why is it important for a Christian to affirm the doctrine of the Trinity? What role do good deeds, fellowship, and hospitality play in promoting a church’s gospel ministry? Why should a church never let its identity and ministry be subverted by a political party?

These are the kinds of questions, Christian, that you are responsible to answer in order to help guard the gospel. I am not telling you to find answers independently of your elders. They should equip you to answer such questions. If they aren’t, you might not be in the best church.

Know the gospel, and what the gospel requires in the church’s and a Christian’s life.

3. Help Affirm Gospel Citizens

You, as a baptized Christian and ordinary member of a church, are responsible for protecting the gospel and the gospel’s ministry in your church by affirming and disaffirming gospel citizens.

In a matter of discipline Paul doesn’t address the Corinthian elders, but the Corinthian church itself (1 Cor. 5:1–13; 2 Cor. 2:6–8). Likewise, it is your responsibility, Christian, to receive and dismiss members. Jesus has given it to you. For you to neglect this work only cultivates complacency, nominalism, and eventually theological liberalism.

Of course, the job here is bigger than showing up at members’ meetings and voting on new members. It involves working to know and be known by your fellow members seven days a week. You cannot affirm and give oversight to a people you don’t know, not with integrity anyhow. That doesn’t mean you’re responsible to know personally every member of your church. We do this work collectively. But look for ways to start including more of your fellow members into the regular rhythm of your life. Paul offers a useful checklist for doing this:

Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lack diligence; be fervent in spirit; serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. (Rom. 12:10–13)

How are you doing on this list?

4. Attend Members’ Meetings

So how do you preserve the gospel and affirm gospel citizens? By showing up consistently for members’ meetings.

Different churches make decisions in different ways, which is fine. But whatever venue your church uses for making the decisions concerning the gospel “what” (the doctrine of the gospel) and the gospel “who” (the people of the gospel), you should be there.

You cannot do your job if you don’t show up to the office.

Admittedly, members’ meetings have a bad rap. I understand. So many are unhealthy cauldrons of dispute and insurgency. But don’t let bad marriages cause you to give up on marriage. By God’s grace, I’ve been a part of several churches now where the members’ meetings feel like warm, encouraging, and engaging family gatherings. Part of that depends on the leadership of the pastors in those meetings and how they plan it. Part of that depends on you.

5. Disciple Other Church Members

You, as a baptized Christian and ordinary member of a church, are responsible for protecting the gospel and the gospel’s ministry in your church by discipling other church members.

Remember Ephesians 4:15–16. The church builds itself up in love as each part does its work. You have work to do to build up the church. And part of that includes the ministry of words. A few verses later, Paul says, “Speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, because we are members of one another” (v. 25). Speak truth to them, and help them to grow. Our words should be “good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29). Also, make yourself available to be spoken to. Are you willing to listen?

Basic Christianity involves building up other believers. It is a part of fulfilling the Great Commission and making disciples. Speaking of . . .

6. Share the Gospel with Outsiders

If through union with the second Adam God has reinstated you as a priest-king, your whole life should reflect the gospel in word and deed. You are an ambassador. Paul’s charge and example is worth repeating here:

He has committed the message of reconciliation to us. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” (2 Cor. 5:19b–20)

Every Christian has been reconciled, and thus every Christian has received this message of reconciliation. Therefore, we plead and we pray for sinners to be reconciled to God.

This, too, is a part of your job. The command to “Go and make disciples” belongs to you (Matt. 28:19).

7. Follow Your Leaders

It’s the job of the pastors or elders to equip the saints for the work of ministry: for these previous six responsibilities (Eph. 4:12). If elders aren’t teaching the gospel, catechizing the church in the gospel, teaching them their responsibility for one another, then they’re ill-equipping the church for the job Jesus has given them.

Christian, this means that you’re responsible to avail yourself of the elders’ instruction and counsel. Hold on to the pattern of sound teaching you’ve learned from them (2 Tim. 1:13). Follow their teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, love, and endurance, along with their persecutions and sufferings (2 Tim. 3:10–11).

Be the wise son or daughter in Proverbs who takes the path of wisdom, prosperity, and life by fearing the Lord and heeding instruction. It is better than jewels and gold.

Authority Brings Responsibility

The Bible gives final authority and therefore responsibility to the gathered congregation. With authority comes responsibility. By joining a church, you become responsible for what your church teaches and for every single member’s discipleship.

  • You are responsible to act if Pastor Ed begins to teach a false gospel.
  • You are responsible to help ensure Member Candidate Chris adequately understands the gospel.
  • You are responsible for Sister Sue’s discipleship to Christ, and that she’s being cared for and nurtured toward Christlikeness.
  • You are responsible to ensure Member Max is excluded from the fellowship of the church if his life and profession no longer agree.

Who trains you for all this work? Your elders. Add your responsibilities together with theirs and you have Jesus’s discipleship program.

More than 75 Minutes

When people come to join my church, they are asked to do an interview with an elder, where they are asked to share their testimony and to explain the gospel. At the conclusion of any interviews I personally conduct, assuming I’m going to recommend the person for membership to the whole congregation, I will say something like the following:

Friend, by joining this church, you will become jointly responsible for whether or not this congregation continues to faithfully proclaim the gospel. That means you will become jointly responsible both for what this church teaches, as well as whether or not its members’ lives remain faithful. And one day you will stand before God and give an account for how you used this authority. Will you sit back and stay anonymous, doing little more than passively showing up for 75 minutes on Sundays? Or will you jump in with the hard and rewarding work of studying the gospel, building relationships, and making disciples? We need more hands for the harvest, so we hope you’ll join us in that work.

How about you? Have you undertaken this work? 

Editors’ note: This excerpt is adapted from Jonathan Leeman’s new book, Understanding the Congregation’s Authority. Copyright 2016 by B&H Publishing Group. 

Jonathan Leeman is a member of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., editorial director of 9Marks, and author of The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love, Reverberation, Church Membership, and Church Discipline. His PhD work is in the area of political theology. You can follow him on Twitter.

by Jonathan Leeman at February 03, 2016 06:03 AM

The Protestant Reformer Under a Parking Lot

Article by: Sean Michael Lucas

Academic historians do their work well when they illuminate the past, recover controversial figures, and connect the dots to the present. Jane Dawson, professor of ecclesiastical history at the University of Edinburgh, accomplishes all three of these in her magisterial biography, John Knox.

While there have been solid academic treatments of John Knox—most notably Jasper Ridley (1968), W. Stanford Reid (1974), Richard Greaves (1980), and Rosalind Marshall (1998)—never before has there been such a thoroughly and sympathetically critical treatment of the 16th-century Scottish reformer’s thought and times. Dawson acknowledges a “darker side to Knox with his ‘holy hatred,’ increasing intransigence, bouts of depression, and gloomy predictions about the future of Protestantism” (3). But she’s also determined not to allow Knox’s darker side to overwhelm her treatment. The result is a joy to read and a book to value.

Young Knox

Dawson describes well Knox’s early years, showing how his sense of identity as a man from the banks of the River Tyne set his trajectory. Bound by ties of kinship, shaped by the perspectives of the Scots yeomen among whom he was raised, and lacking the humanist training Luther, Melanchthon, and Calvin all shared, the young Knox would influence the older Knox.

And yet there would be differences. Obviously, Knox’s twofold conversion—both to Christ and to the Protestant cause—would change everything for him. Dawson traces three stages in his move away from Roman Catholicism toward a larger role in the rising Scots Protestant movement. The first stage was his determination to stop practicing as a notary apostolic and a Roman Catholic priest. As he transitioned away from his prior commitment to Rome, the Scots Parliament allowed the reading of Scripture in the vernacular. Knox seized on this increased access to the Bible and spent a great deal of time in study. His growth in biblical knowledge would soon be evident to all.

The second stage was his meeting with George Wishart in 1543. “Master George” became Knox’s beau ideal of a preacher and Reformer: brave, selfless, prophetic, Wishart was a force of nature who rallied Scots to the Earl of Arran’s reforming cause. As Dawson notes, there’s little doubt Wishart exercised a formative influence on Knox (32). Wishart’s penchant for casting spiritual battles in eschatological form—“Christ versus Satan”—would be Knox’s own preferred mode as well. In addition, Wishart’s insistence on worship being reformed according to Scripture, casting aside Roman “accretions” and rituals, would also be Knox’s demand. Psalm-singing especially became central to Knox’s reformation as a result of Wishart’s influence.

The third stage was Knox’s sense of calling to be a Protestant preacher and pastor. This calling, which came forcefully to him during the seizure of St. Andrew’s Castle in 1546–47, would never leave him and would sustain him as he experienced exile from Scotland. His time of exile, along with his 19 months as a galley slave, created a sense of belonging to the true remnant forced out by corrupt elements in church and state. Knox would continue to view the Reformation in just these terms; he was a pastor to those righteous few who went outside the camp to Christ himself. This binary ministerial vision would dominate the way he would preach and lead after 1560.

Knox the Reformer

Throughout her treatment, Dawson’s strength is her ability to sketch the political context in which Knox operated. Both during his time of exile in Geneva and Frankfort and after his return, the larger forces of English-Scots politics shaped the moves Knox and his fellow reformers made. Knox’s ally, Christopher Goodman, alienated potential friends in both Scotland and England through his writings, making it difficult for him to return. Knox himself, previously beloved in England, would find the situation changed after he sounded The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women (1558); unlike the time during Edward VI’s reign, when Knox found a ready place in English councils, after 1558 he was persona non grata in Elizabeth’s court.

This political context, both Scots and English, limited what was possible for Knox to accomplish as a reformer. And yet how much he accomplished! Along with the other “Johns,” he helped to write the Scots Confession of Faith (1560); his liturgy, developed in Frankfort with the English remnant, would eventually become “Knox’s liturgy,” and the basis of the Book of Common Order (1564); and he helped craft the First Book of Discipline, a document never adopted but extremely influential in the future of the Church of Scotland (1560). Add together with these three documents his emphasis on psalm-singing and his support of the Geneva Bible, both of which put the Bible in the hands and hearts of laity, and Knox permanently set the direction of Scots Presbyterianism and all its subsequent branches.

Knox was not content with a “spirituality of the church” doctrine that avoided “intermeddling” with civil affairs. He regularly used his pulpit to preach for or against state decisions, thundering against Mary’s consorting with Catholics (which was never merely religious), encouraging partnership with the English (with a wary eye to future “apostasy”), and upbraiding the privy council for their folly. The idea his later successors, especially in the 19th-century American South, would develop—that the social or political realm was out of bounds for preachers—would have struck him as odd. Reformation had to come to all of life, Sunday and Monday, church and state. His country was in covenant with God, just like Israel of old; and he was God’s prophet, urging her to repent.

Dawson’s treatment in John Knox rehabilitates this man who was so little thought of by his own country that his grave marker is now part of an Edinburgh parking lot. In the same way Bruce Gordon did with Calvin in 2009, Dawson brings this often reviled yet undoubtedly significant man to life. Perhaps far more than his grave marker, this biography will serve as his true monument.

Jane Dawson. John Knox. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2015. 373 pp. $45.00

Sean Michael Lucas is senior minister at the First Presbyterian Church, Hattiesburg, Mississippi. He serves as associate professor of church history at Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, Mississippi, and he's the author most recently of For a Continuing Church: The Roots of the Presbyterian Church in America (P&R, 2015).

by Sean Michael Lucas at February 03, 2016 06:02 AM

An Artist’s Struggle Between Fame and Obscurity

Article by: Bethany Jenkins

Laura Waters Hinson is a documentary filmmaker and mother of two in Washington, D.C. Her films span a variety of subjects—from female entrepreneurship in Rwanda to street vendors in D.C. Her documentary, As We Forgive, won the 2008 Student Academy Award for best documentary, and her latest film, Many Beautiful Things, releases this weekend nationwide.

What do you do every day?

Most of my time is spent managing film projects. Whether that means I’m on location or reading transcripts or working with an editor or doing grassroots promotional work, I’m always trying to move my films forward, cast a vision for my team, and tell stories in compelling ways.

I’m also a mom, which means I’m getting my kids ready for school and doing other family-related things. They keep me grounded, balanced, and in community.

Where does your personal brokenness come up against your craft?

I identify a lot with Lilias Trotter, the woman at the center of my newest film, Many Beautiful Things. In the late 1800s, art critic John Ruskin told her that she could be one of the best painters of her day—if only she would focus exclusively on her art. But she was conflicted because she wanted to be a missionary, too. She knew she could do both art and mission work, but not if she wanted to become a famous painter. In other words, her struggle wasn’t between art and ministry, but between fame and obscurity.

Like most artists, I’m not content with doing my art for no one to see. I want it to have an impact and be significant, especially since I feel a responsibility to my investors. The struggle for me is to trust God’s plan for my work and that my vocation is a calling from him even if no one sees my films.

What challenges do you face as a filmmaker?

Many Beautiful Things, for example, was challenging because the person at its center has been dead since 1923, and no one who knew very well her is still alive. Our question was, “How can we tell the story of a woman we barely know?” Thankfully, although we didn’t have any video footage of her, we did have access to hundreds of her paintings and sketches, which an animator was able to bring to life. Also, we used “symbolic representational memories” with actors and voiceovers by Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey) and John Rhys-Davies (Lord of the Rings) to create relational intimacy between Lilias and John.

What do you hope to evoke in your audience?

Even though there are many nihilistic storytellers in the world who conclude that the world is random and meaningless, I believe human beings have an inherent need to make sense of life. My hope is to create films that help people see beauty and hope coming out of dark places. Whether I’m making a film about genocide and forgiveness or women entrepreneurs and creativity, I want my audience to see that great eschatological vision of the re-creation of the world, where healing comes out of brokenness.

To experience Many Beautiful Things in surround sound, which features an original film score by Sleeping At Last (Ryan O’Neal), you can attend a theatrical screening in one of more than 40 cities across the nation between Saturday, February 6, and Sunday, February 14. Find your tickets here.

Editors’ note: The weekly TGCvocations column asks practitioners about their jobs and how they integrate their faith and work. Interviews are edited and condensed.

Bethany L. Jenkins is the Director of The Gospel Coalition’s Every Square Inch, the Director of Vocational & Career Development at The King’s College, and the Founder of The Park Forum. She previously worked on Wall Street and on Capitol Hill. She received her JD from Columbia Law School and attends Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, where she is a current CFW Fellow and a former Gotham Fellow through the Center for Faith & Work. You can follow her on Twitter.

by Bethany Jenkins at February 03, 2016 06:01 AM

The Pleasures and Perils of the Online Life

Article by: Samuel James

“I want you to talk to me!”

My wife’s voice shook me out of my Twitter-induced hypnosis at the dinner table. She had caught me again: immersed in some sort of conversation on my iPhone. In my mind, I was a welcome guest at a table of intellectual powerhouses, eagerly listening in to their latest discussion, planning how I would jump into this Very Important Conversation.

At least, that’s what I was imagining. But in reality, I wasn’t a participant in a faraway dialogue. I was a husband, sitting two feet away from the person I love most on this planet—and I wasn’t paying any attention. I have no memory of what I was looking at on my iPhone, but I do remember the annoyed look on Emily’s face, and the jealous affection in her voice as she tried to snap me back to life.

Social Media’s Dangerous Allure

I don’t think this kind of moment is unique to me. In fact, the temptation to let social media monopolize our waking thoughts isn’t so much a “bug” of the mobile information age as it may be a feature. That realization is precisely what led Alan Jacobs, professor of humanities at Baylor University, to unplug from most social media—for good. Jacobs wrote last December of the measures he has taken to withdraw from the tug of constant online connection, including unfollowing everyone on his Twitter account (so as to make his profile simply a place where his new writings can auto-share) and downgrading from a smartphone to a “dumb, dumb phone.”

Earlier this month, Jacobs reflected on social media’s culture of “now,” and the pressure it puts on users to be actively engaged in everything and to put forth an opinion on it all immediately. He’s opted out of that game entirely:

I spent about seven years reading replies to my tweets, and more than a decade reading comments on my blog posts. I have considered the costs and benefits, and I have firmly decided that I’m not going to be held hostage to that stuff any more. The chief reason is not that people are ill-tempered or dim-witted—though Lord knows one of those descriptors is accurate for a distressingly large number of social-media communications—but that so many of them are blown about by every wind of social-media doctrine, their attention swamped by the tsunamis of the moment, their wills captive to the felt need to respond now to what everyone else is responding to now.

I imagine many of us read Jacobs’s critiques of the social media vortex and said, “Amen!” Not only are his descriptions of the pressure to constantly have a “voice” spot-on, but his larger observation seems inarguable: feeling consumed by social media isn’t an accident but actually the end to which apps and websites and smartphones inevitably tend.

So why, despite all the smothering, do we keep coming back? I’ve taken occasional “fasts” from mobile apps. These generally last a few days; if I’m downright heroic, I’ll manage a week or two. But whether it’s a 48-hour “blackout” or a purposeful social media cleanse, invariably I find my way back to Twitter, back to Facebook, back to world of never-ending content.

That’s why I resonated with Matthew Malady’s recent essay for The New Yorker, “The Useless Agony of Going Offline.” Malady writes that after reading of a man who fell to his death while distracted by his phone, he decided to try a full electronic device withdrawal for 72 hours. He writes, “At midnight on New Year’s Eve, my wife and I exchanged a kiss. We used wooden spatulas to bang on some pots. Then the experiment began, and I did not look at my phone or computer for the next three days.”

But Malady reports that, rather than experiencing mental and emotional liberty, he felt listless. Without laptop or phone, he was disconnected from what he craved most: information. In his words: “I was less harried, I suppose, but I was also far less informed, and not as advanced in my understanding of all sorts of things that interested me.” For Malady, the loss of the instantaneous connection to the web was not therapeutic, but stifling: “I felt as though I were standing still rather than moving forward. And while standing still for a while can be pleasant, it’s not without its drawbacks. Instead of feeling more relaxed, I mainly felt unfulfilled.”

It seems to me that Jacobs and Malady are both right. Social media and mobile connectivity give off a kinetic thrill. There’s something genuinely satisfying about always being mere seconds away from fresh writing, or new commentary, or even the most picturesque family photos or funniest YouTube clips. Yet the thrill comes at a price. As online media both grows (through more content) and compresses (with fewer mediums), the opportunity to displace flesh-and-blood with pixels becomes more and more serious. Texting and checking Facebook can illicitly ape our God-given desire for friendship. Twitter’s 24-hour, 7-days-a-week, all-purpose commentary can convince us we’re learning a great deal when in fact we aren’t. And Instagram can rob us of the memories that we might form in the quiet moments of our lives if we weren’t so eager for the sense of approval our posted pictures can generate.

As Christians we believe that what happens in our minds is integral to what happens in our souls. That’s why the Scriptures command us to be transformed through the renewing of our minds, rather than conforming them to the image of this fallen world (Rom. 12:2). Because social media engages our minds and emotions, we have a Christian obligation to evaluate whether we engage to our benefit or to our stumbling.

To do this, we must begin by acknowledging that social media and mobile web technology may not be morally neutral. Often evangelicals talk of material things as inconsequential in and of themselves. “It’s how you use it that matters,” we say. But material things—like smartphones—can have intrinsic moral properties. As Neil Postman wrote of television in his classic book Amusing Ourselves to Death, “The medium is the message.” You don’t have to watch porn on your smartphone for the technology to be shaping your mind and heart in subtle, dangerous ways.

Because careful thinking and meaningful reflection are Christian disciplines, any material thing that encourages uncareful thinking or shoddy reflection ought to be viewed with suspicion. For those of you who, like me, enjoy Twitter’s ever-present cultural commentary, this is an important point. The nature of Twitter tends toward both self-glorification, with the retweets and likes, and shallowness, with content less thoughtful and fair than caustic and flippant.

Using Social Media Christianly

We would do well to heed Jacobs’s warnings; he did, after all, literally write the book on reading in our “age of distraction.” Social media’s compression of information and revolving door of immediacy undermine the kind of thoughtful, measured, and truthful speech that ought to characterize those who “speak the truth with love” (Eph. 4:15). The best way to combat this is to be aware of it, to not fall for the trap of thinking that whatever gets rewarded on social media is the right thing to say.

We should also hold everything, including our smartphones and social media accounts, with a loose grip. Our need to give up a particular digital habit is directly proportional to how unwilling we are to even entertain the idea of a break. If you’re so emotionally invested in social media that you respond with anger or frustration at the mere suggestion of logging off for a while, then you should probably interpret that as an urgent indication you need to do exactly that.

Finally, our digital lives must always exist in balance with our offline ones. This can be difficult, especially if you, like me, have a job that requires use of social media and email. But the principle is true even in a digital economy: perpetual isolation from live interaction with others not only gives sin a foothold, it also negatively affects our emotional and mental health. Human beings need a daily intake of conversation and sunlight, as Clyde Kilby wisely observed. For those whose jobs require hours of online work, we ought to weave in (intentionally scheduled) offline times.

Navigating the pleasures and perils of social media requires wisdom, reflection, and a life lived in close proximity to the means of grace God has ordained for his church. It sounds silly, but many of us would be more like Jesus if we followed Jacobs’s example. Unplugging can be helpful, but even more helpful than unplugging from the Internet is plugging into the truth of God’s Word, the beauty of God’s world, and the community of God’s people. Let’s not store all our intellectual treasures where time and chatter destroy, or trolls break in and steal.

Samuel James works in the Office of the President at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. You can read more of his writing on his blog and follow him on Twitter.

by Samuel James at February 03, 2016 06:00 AM

What Does It Mean to Live by Faith?

Article by: Staff

“Faith is not a blind leap in a dark room hoping there's a floor. It's unseen, but it's based upon the God who has revealed himself.” — Erik Raymond

Text: Hebrews 11

Preached: March 8, 2015

Location: Emmaus Bible Church, Omaha, Nebraska

Erik Raymond is senior pastor of Emmaus Bible Church in Omaha and blogs for The Gospel Coalition at Ordinary Pastor. He is the author of Gospel-Shaped Outreach, part of the Gospel-Shaped Church curriculum from TGC and The Good Book Company.

Subscribe to TGC Word of the Week in iTunes or through other devices to receive midweek sermons to encourage your faith. TGC Word of the Week is also available on Stitcher.

by Staff at February 03, 2016 05:59 AM

Natural Running Center

Yoga Flexibility, Yoga Stretching, & Mobility

By Dr. Steve Gangemi Continuing our 4 part SockDoc Stop Mindless Stretching series, we focus now on Flexibility, Fascia, and Your Nervous System. Contrary to popular belief, yoga is not Sanskrit for stretching. It actually means to join or unite, and it is a combined spiritual, mental, and physical practice. Assuredly, most yoga poses do focus on flexibility […]

by NickP at February 03, 2016 02:49 AM

February 02, 2016

Bible Reading Project

Receiving the Word of God (February 2016 Newsletter)

And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet. Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot.”

File_001So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him. The place in the Scripture which he read was this:
“He was led as a sheep to the slaughter;
And as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
In His humiliation His justice was taken away,
And who will declare His generation?
For His life is taken from the earth.”
So the eunuch answered Philip and said, “I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. Acts 8:27-35

This month I went to L____’s house in the morning with my brother in Christ Neil to read Isaiah 53 with L____. L____ comes from a Muslim background and has been very responsive to the gospel and articulated his faith in Jesus as the sacrifice for his sin and that Jesus was King over his life. English is not L____’s first language, and I wanted to be sure of his understanding and commitment to Christ.

We caught up with L___, prayed with him, and asked him about sharing last week’s story, which was the story of Moses and the Passover. L____ had shared the story of the Passover with a Muslim friend from work.

“Some things are different,” L____ explained, “He didn’t know about the blood on the door.” We talked more about the sacrifice of the lamb and how the Bible is different from what he had heard before. Then we began to read Isaiah 53. We read it in English and then in L____’s language. He took his time and asked questions, “This is a poem,” he said. “Does Isaiah write this about himself or someone else?” Neil and I looked at each other, reminded of the Ethiopian eunuch who asked the same question. We explained that Isaiah was writing about Jesus. We asked L____ what he would say if he were to retell this story to a friend in his own words. He took a long time to reread the passage several times and then explained, “God had a plan for Jesus to be the sacrifice for our sins.” He continued to retell the passage, ending with “Some people, they like Jesus, and some people, they do not.” He reaffirmed his faith in the cross and resurrection.

Two weeks later we returned to his house to read the story in Mark 5 of the demoniac who Jesus delivered from bondage. We looked at how the man wanted to stay with Jesus, but Jesus commanded him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you” (Mark 5:19). After thoroughly going through the passage in two languages we asked L____ to make a map of friends and family who he needed to tell about what God had done in his life through Jesus. He listed four Muslim friends and his mother! All five of the people L____ were from unreached people groups and there were two different people groups on his list. He will be sharing across cultures. Please pray for continued miracles, blessing, and Holy Spirit transformation in L____’s life. The best for him is yet to come!

Read the rest of the February 2016 Newsletter

by Jonathan Ammon ( at February 02, 2016 11:20 PM

Zippy Catholic

I think I am getting the hang of this poetry thing

A commenter posted a link to an article which I found to be quite inspiring.  Excerpt:

Laurie Woodward, the director of the Student Union, said that when she approached the union with the question of if they wanted to keep the current MLK quote or supplement a new one, one of the students asked, “Does the MLK quote represent us today?”

“Diversity is so much more than race. Obviously race still plays a big role. But there are people who identify differently in gender and all sorts of things like that,” sophomore architecture major Mia Ashley said.

Here is the result of my muse:

Black is the new white

by Zippy

niggardly niggardly niggardly noobs,
militantly tolerant of men with boobs,
heckle and snark administrative rubes,
until MLK day goes down the tubes

by Zippy at February 02, 2016 10:17 PM

Market Urbanism

Return to Sender: Housing affordability and the shipping container non-solution

Washington, D.C. has a monopoly on many things. Bad policy, unfortunately, isn’t among them. Last month, a development corporation in Lexington, Kentucky installed a shipping container house in an economically distressed area of town to improve housing affordability. The corporation is a private non-profit, though a line near the end of this article indicates that the project received public support: “The project is funded through an assortment of grants from the city’s affordable housing fund [and two philanthropic organizations].” Shipping container projects designed to improve housing affordability aren’t limited to my Old Kentucky Home: a quick Google search reveals that the idea of using shipping containers to put a dent in housing costs is popular among policymakers and philanthropists all over the world.

The sad reality is that shipping container homes likely have little—if any—role to play in handling the nationwide housing affordability problem. Aside from being inefficient for housing generally, there’s decent evidence that shipping containers appeal far more to reasonably well-off, single urbanites than to working families in need of affordable housing. More broadly, the belief that these projects could address the growing affordability crisis hints at a profound misunderstanding of the nature of the problem and distracts policymakers from viable solutions.

Before digging into the meatier problems, it’s worth looking first at the problems with the structures themselves. I’ll yield to an architect:

Housing is usually not a technology problem. All parts of the world have vernacular housing, and it usually works quite well for the local climate. There are certainly places with material shortages, or situations where factory built housing might be appropriate—especially when an area is recovering from a disaster. In this case prefab buildings would make sense—but doing them in containers does not.

The source goes on to detail the enormous costs associated with zoning approval, insulation, and utilities. Then there’s the somewhat obvious fact that they’re small. As in, 144 square feet small, or a little over one seventh the size of the average American apartment. That’s without insulation, which shaves off valuable feet. One could argue that American homes should be smaller, but as we should have learned by now, public housing projects are no place for social experiments. Working-class families are already the victims of public policies that undermine housing affordability. There’s no need to salt the wound by publicly supporting housing they have no interest in inhabiting.

The uncomfortable fact is that these homes may not even be made for working-class residents. While data on shipping container residents is limited, tiny house demographic data serves as a helpful proxy. According to data from a popular tiny houses website (take it with a grain of salt), tiny house residents have a per capita income of $42,038, putting them just over $10,000 above the typical Fayette County (home to Lexington) resident. Residents are also twice as likely as the general public to have a master’s degree. Who are these people with high human capital and average wages? We might follow the urban theorist Richard Florida and call them “bohemians.” Consider this quote from the initial piece:

A single person may make up to $38,200 a year to qualify for the program. A family of four may make up to $54,550.

Set aside for a moment the horrifying mental image of a family of four living in a 144 square foot shipping container. Who is this “single person” earning up to $38,200 who might want to live in an experimental home? To be frank, it sounds like the typical recent college graduate: individuals with modest incomes, liberal lifestyle preferences, and little need for space. While one might reasonably be on the fence about natural gentrification in cities, policymakers and philanthropists should be careful not to needlessly displace those they’re trying to help.

Shipping container houses are in all likelihood a poor fit for working-class Americans, and widespread government support for them in low-income communities runs the risk of rapid, unnatural gentrification. Worse still, treating the emerging shipping container house movement as a housing affordability fix distracts us from the true cause of “too-damn-high” rent: restrictions on the supply of housing.


Northern Lexington, via Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government. The brown is R-3, multi-family housing subject to various density restrictions. The yellow—which makes up much of the city’s urban area—is R-1, single-family housing, also subject to density restrictions.


The problem of rising housing costs is, at its heart, a supply and demand problem. In a working housing market, developers and non-profits are able to meet unmet demand through new construction. Yet in many American cities, including Lexington, the ability to build new houses and apartments is strictly limited. Policies as diverse as minimum lot sizes, mandatory parking minimums, urban growth boundaries, and inclusionary zoning all serve to arbitrarily limit the supply of housing, driving up rents and house prices as demand increases. Though zoned for multi-family housing, the area in question—northern Lexington—is subject to a variety of regulations that needlessly restrict supply, including mandated parking requirements, a three-story height limit, and density-reducing use restrictions. Worse still, this is comparatively liberal zoning in a town mostly zoned for single-family houses and agriculture. It may be politically difficult, but the policy fix for improving housing affordability is clear: eliminate regulations that needlessly restrict the housing supply.

When it comes to ensuring housing affordability, the focus must remain on building a dynamic urban housing market in which working-class people have the choice to live wherever they like, whether that’s a shipping container or a house in the suburbs or an apartment downtown. This means reigning in land-use regulations that undermine new development. The fact that this project took a year to gain approval speaks to the problem. Lexington is a great city, and people are realizing it. If demand continues to increase while supply remains restricted, housing affordability will only get worse. A few shipping container houses may look cool, but they won’t sustainably address the problem.

by Nolan Gray at February 02, 2016 08:38 PM

Connected #76: Dreaming is Enough →

This week on Connected, Federico and I talk about my 20th Anniversary Mac and video Airmail, Federico's new NAS and the iPad Air 3.

My thanks to our sponsors this week:

  • Braintree: Code for easy, online payments. Get your first $50,000 in transactions fee-free.
  • Squarespace: You should. Use code WORLD for 10% off.


by Stephen Hackett at February 02, 2016 07:30 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Monthly review: January 2016

January was mostly about planning, people, and preparations. I re-read my blog posts and reviewed my sketches as part of my annual review process. It was great to see the overall patterns from 2015, and from the past ten years that I’ve been here. =)

We had W-‘s family over for a holiday dinner, and we cooked lots of food. Unfortunately, our source for pork belly closed soon afterwards, so we’ve been checking out different places to find a new favourite.

I’ve been gradually transitioning my consulting tasks over to the team. They’re doing wonderfully, and will probably do even more awesome things than I can pull off. =D I’ve also been building little tools for myself, like a web-based interface that lets me use the tablet to review my sketches. Some sewing, some decluttering, some freezer cooking… Everything’s pretty much ready for the next step.

Let’s see how February goes!

2016-02-02c January 2015 -- index card #monthly #review output

Blog posts



(my/quantified-compare "2015-12-01" "2016-01-01" "2016-01-01" "2016-02-01" '("Business - Build" "Discretionary - Play" "Unpaid work" "Discretionary - Social" "Discretionary - Family" "Sleep" "Business - Connect" "Business - Earn" "Discretionary - Productive" "Personal"))

The post Monthly review: January 2016 appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at February 02, 2016 06:43 PM

Zippy Catholic

What else might trump our principles?

I admit to some not insignificant amusement and schadenfreude over the sounding of the Great Trumpet accompanied by his Great Strumpets.

But I will just gently suggest that if the siren song of Donald Trump, of all people, is capable of luring some ‘principled’ non-voters out into the liberal version of bowing toward Mecca, that those particular non-voters probably aren’t really what I would call principled.

That’s no surprise, I guess, because in the land of lies every day is opposite day.

by Zippy at February 02, 2016 05:59 PM

John C. Wright's Journal

The Superversive World of Harry Potter

Amazing what you can find on the Internet. Here is an article I wrote two years ago which I frankly have no memory of writing, nor was it listed in my list of published works: but it is clearly mine.

It was published by the same fine fellows, Intercollegiate Review, who published my seminal article that started my career as an Evil Legion of Evil author, that is, nonpolitically correct: Heinlein, Hugos and Hogwash.

In reality, the best way to find reality is through fairyland.Fairy tales of any sort are more truthful about the eternal verities of the human condition than many a tale told in the realistic style.

Stories about a bold champion of Camelot or the enchantress of Aeaea, or the great dragon beneath the Lonely Mountain, will tell you more of sin and salvation, love and loss and love found again, than a yarn about a cuckold in turn-of-the-century Dublin, or a decadent drunk living in West Egg, Long Island.

This is because so-called realistic tales deal only with the surface features of life, what we see with our eyes, so to speak; fairy tales touch the mystery and wonder at the core of life.

This is true even of tales that treat the matter of ancient epics and ballads lightly, as when a young orphan discovers he is not of our world but a wizard from the land of magic hidden from human eyes. Harry Potter somewhat cheekily, and with tongue in cheek, puts all the tropes of once-upon-a-time into modern garb, so that broom-riding witches play rugby in midair, and the sorcerer’s apprentice goes to boarding school straight out of Tom Brown’s School Days to face bullies as bad as Flashman.

But even a lighthearted treatment of the eternal things will brush up against eternal themes: Harry must face a Dark Lord who is a dark reflection of his own soul, and he bears the wound of his mother’s love, which saved him as a babe, upon his brow.Harry Potter is the most successful book of all time next to Pilgrim’s Progress and the Sear’s Catalogue.

And so, naturally, there is a certain cult, known in his world as Deatheaters, and in our world as Political Correctness, that seeks repulsively to claim that success as their own.A recent article in i09 reports that Anthony Gierzynski, a political scientist at the University of Vermont, found that Harry Potter fans are more open to diversity and are more politically tolerant than nonfans.

The fans are also less likely to support the use of deadly force or torture, more politically active, and more likely to have had a negative view of the Bush administration.From this the conclusion is put forth (in a leap of logic that would make the cow jumping over the moon blush with shame) that Harry Potter draws children toward the political Left.

What an utter load of rubbish.

I have inspected neither Gierzynski’s data nor his methods, but I know blast-ended skrewt dung when I smell it.

Asking on a questionnaire whether one is open to diversity is like asking whether one likes raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. And the caricature of conservatives as cretins who applaud deadly force and torture, intolerance and cruelty, is as much of a world make-believe as Voldemort himself.

Finding that no one in real life believes what bigoted leftists pretend conservatives believe does not mean most people lean left: it means leftists are bigots.

It is no surprise that more leftists buy books, including fairytale books, for their children, and pass along their political viewpoints as well. Leftists already live in Cloudcuckooland, which is next door to fairyland.

I suggest that some enterprising political scientist perform a similar study for any book-reading of any kind, not just books about schoolboy wizards, or, indeed, any idle pastime whatsoever. Leftism is found more among idle folk whose mental immune system is weak: among teens, among university professors, and among everyone else who does not work for a living. (And the People’s Republic of Vermont is as thick with the leftism-carrying vectors as a fever swamp with mosquito and tse-tse fly.)

As part of their ongoing attempt to politicize private life, and spread their cult, leftists since the 1930s at least have attempted to import their messages into movies, popular songs, television, everywhere. It is a particular badge of courage to them if they can get a conservative father to buy a book containing propaganda for his child unknowingly.

When a leftist critic calls a book “subversive.” he means it as a compliment. He means that the work undermines the expectations of art form but also that it undermines the current social order, because, to the Left, even art forms, even children’s books, can carry the plague vector of their worldview.

For better or worse, reality is conservative. Because of this, drama in any form tends to be conservative: readers still enjoy reading love stories and heroic adventures. Hence a book like Harry Potter, which is based on archetypes as old as cave paintings — wise men with long gray beards, evil serpents, trusted comrades, the unloved orphan (who, like Hercules or Moses, is chosen by fate to slay monsters or evil lords and save his people) — is innately conservative.

And so, ironically, the faithful leftist reading of Professor Gierzynski’s dimwitted paper, fooled by the pseudo-scientific smell the paper emits, will find the tables turned. It will be the conservatives who cackle when the unwitting leftist buys these magical books for his child. These books teach the most solid and conservative of messages imaginable.

And, no, I do not mean that they teach that intolerance is good and torture is even better. I mean these books show clear and edifying examples of core conservative values in action. Let us list a few:

  • The families in Potter consist of mothers and fathers, not various partners of various genders engaged in various acts of free love. Ron’s family is a shining example of a loving family, with a father who works and a mother who is willing to face mad witches if need be for her large and well-loved brood. Harry Potter himself is saved by his mother’s love and protected from the evil spells of her murderer.
  • The government in Harry Potter’s world, as in ours, in inept, corrupt, and regarded as an obstacle rather than the source of salvation. Each boy relies on his own wit and courage and friendships to save himself and to save the world.
  • The press in Harry Potter’s world, as in ours, is inept, corrupt, and a source of outrageous falsehoods. The main reporter-witch can assume the form of a mosquito.
  • The moral universe in Harry’s world rejects any form of relativism. There are no shades of gray here, or examples of a thing being right for one group and wrong for another. The ends do not justify the means here either: knowing that Voldemort is also an orphan raised in poverty does not automatically make him one of the oppressed and therefore excused in anything he does, as it would in the left-wing world.
  • Dumbledore is gay! And the one example in the book of Dumbledore’s love is an evil man who manipulated him. Aside from that, as best the text can show, Dumbledore lives chastely.
  • Do I even need to say anything about the alleged occultism in Potter? We Christians invented the medieval romance from which the modern novel takes its form, and modern fantasies slavishly copy, including this one. Romance is as Roman as Rome. If you think Sir Orfeo or Orlando Furioso or Le Morte D’Arthur is occult, go find the nearest exorcist: you’re possessed by the imp of stupid.
  • They keep score in Quidditch. I just thought I would throw that in.
  • There is no cult of victimology here. Anyone who gets ahead, even the Chosen One, is because he works hard. The Twins open a joke shop when they graduate; they do not go on the dole.
  • “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” Harry conquers death by submitting to it at Voldemort’s hand, and destroys the Dark Lord by being reborn. He sees the Dark Lord’s soul as the shriveled and pathetic thing it is, not glorious.
  • Salvation requires sacrifice.
  • Rules are made to be broken.

A word on this last point. One might think that we conservatives, who are law-and-order types, would object to a book in which the hero defies a government order and trains in secret with his fellow students against a day of war. However, conservatism, if it is anything, is the belief in limited government. We like rebels when the authority oversteps it role and turns corrupt, as it does in Harry Potter, with the various fussy bureaucrats, traitors, and cowards occupying the Ministry of Magic.

Leftism by its nature is totalitarian, since it extends its reach to every element and aspect of life. For leftists, life is politics and politics is life. For them, everything is a political issue, from the weather in the Arctic to the size of your bank account to the volume of your toilet tank to the chemicals in a hairspray bottle to the pronouns you use when the antecedent is unknown to whether a Catholic can refuse to bake a wedding cake for a ceremony that desecrates a sacrament.

In other words, leftists applaud revolution only when it is directed to the overthrow of whatever stands in the way of their socialist utopia. No leftist of which I am aware has ever expressed sympathy and solidarity for Lech Walesa, for the Hungarian Uprising of 1956, for the protesters of Tiananmen Square, for the protest novels of Solzhenitsyn. They applaud Malcolm X and Saul Alinsky. Leftism is statism; whenever the state is growing, leftists frown on rebels. It is only small and healthy states they want rebels to overthrow.

The first thing I ever heard about Harry Potter, back before I had read it, and the thing that most strongly recommended it to me, was that liberals thought it was a bad example to give kids because the young hero defied authority.

Had I known that the book also offered up rather clear examples of Christ-like self sacrifice, self-reliance, and moral clarity, not to mention a pro-family hence antipress and antiauthoritarian message, I would have rushed out even quicker to buy it.

So, adding this all up, I would say these books are about as left-wing as a portrait of George Washington crossing the Delaware meeting Saint Peter walking on the water coming the other way, with Merlin the Magician in the background talking to Aslan the Great Lion.

This book is the opposite of subversive. To subvert means to overturn from below, and make noble things seem base. This story uplifts from above, and uses the dark material of witch and warlocks to fashion a tale of light. Harry Potter overturns expectations of the low, crude,  selfish, and replaces them with the good, noble, self-sacrificing. If I may coin a term, the story of Harry Potter is superversive.


by John C Wright at February 02, 2016 04:16 PM

Light Blue Touchpaper

Can we crowdsource trust?

Your browser contains a few hundred root certificates. Many of them were put there by governments; two (Verisign and Comodo) are there because so many merchants trust them that they’ve become ‘too big to fail’. This is a bit like where people buy the platform with the most software – a pattern of behaviour that let IBM and then Microsoft dominate our industry in turn. But this is not how trust should work; it leads to many failures, some of them invisible.

What’s missing is a mechanism where trust derives from users, rather than from vendors, merchants or states. After all, the power of a religion stems from the people who believe in it, not from the government. Entities with godlike powers that are foisted on us by others and can work silently against us are not gods, but demons. What can we do to exorcise them?

Do You Believe in Tinker Bell? The Social Externalities of Trust explores how we can crowdsource trust. Tor bridges help censorship victims access the Internet freely, and there are not enough of them. We want to motivate lots of people to provide them, and the best providers are simply those who help the most victims. So trust should flow from the support of the users, and it should be hard for powerful third parties to pervert. Perhaps a useful mascot is Tinker Bell, the fairy in Peter Pan, whose power waxes and wanes with the number of children who believe in her.

by Ross Anderson at February 02, 2016 04:00 PM

The Finance Buff

Encrypted USB Flash Drive For Financial and Legal Documents

As many employees working for a large company do these days, I get a laptop issued by the company. You are not supposed to use it for personal business, but I’m not that good in strict compliance. Sometimes I put personal documents on it just for convenience.

A recent glitch made me re-think that practice. Now I make sure all personal documents go on a personal USB flash drive that I own. Using a flash drive this way comes with its own problems. If I lose the flash drive, whoever picks it up will be able to read my documents. I want it encrypted.

You can put an encryption program on a USB drive. Sometimes it requires something installed on the host system as well. For me as a regular user though, I just want something that works out of the box. I bought Kingston DataTraveler Locker+ G3 from Amazon. The 8GB version only costs $12 (versus $5 for one without the encryption feature).

It works for both Windows and Mac. You don’t need anything installed on the computer. When it’s plugged in, it adds itself as a DVD drive. When you launch the “DVD” a program runs and it asks for a password, which you set when you used it the very first time.

When you enter the correct password, it opens up another removable disk drive. This is the real one on which your documents are stored. The documents are hardware encrypted with an embedded AES 256-bit key when you save them to the drive (you can’t view the key or supply a different key yourself). The documents are automatically decrypted when you open them from the drive. When you are done working with the drive, you click on an icon in the system tray to shut down the removable disk drive.

If you enter the password wrong too many times when you launch the drive, it resets and wipes out all your encrypted data.

This works for my purpose. If you want more features, you can get the “business-grade” Kingston DataTraveler Vault Privacy 3.0 drive. The 8GB version costs $21 instead of $12.

If you require more security, you can get the “military-grade” Apricorn Aegis Secure Key, with a built-in keypad on the drive to unlock it, and FIPS 140-2 Level 3 certification, whatever that means. The price goes up quite a bit though. The 4GB version costs $60; 8GB costs $83.

With an encrypted USB flash drive, I can download statements, 1099s, etc. to it before I upload them to FidSafe, the online safe deposit box by Fidelity.

[Image credit: Flickr user Ape Lad]

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Encrypted USB Flash Drive For Financial and Legal Documents is copyrighted material from The Finance Buff. All rights reserved. ( b87e8215d24496480249d6aaf20c77ea )

by Harry Sit at February 02, 2016 02:56 PM


Mere Fidelity: Is it Immoral to Watch the Superbowl?

Mere FidelityKids, the Superbowl is coming up, so being the athletes that we are, we decided to take up the subject of Football (American style) for conversation. Matt, Alastair, and I invited Matt Millsap (professor of Christian studies at Midwestern Baptist) to come on and join us.

The premise is basically this: given the recent studies about the long-term damage to players’ mental and emotional health, is it moral to watch the sport or support it? Should changes be made to the way the game is played? Should our kids play it? Should we listen to anything Alastair says on the subject given the fact that he loves cricket and was probably knitting while we discussed this?

I’ll leave it for you to decide after you give it a listen.

Soli Deo Gloria

by Derek Rishmawy at February 02, 2016 02:43 PM

The 20th Anniversary Mac

The 20th Anniversary Mac is one of the most unique and unusual computers Apple has ever released.

When it went for sale in 1997 with a $7,500 price tag, it didn't do amazingly well in the market. While only 11,600 were sold, each one was built to be special. The TAM doesn't share the same startup chime or paint color as other Macs of its age, and the one-off ADB keyboard featured a leather palm rest and removable trackpad. The mouse was too common for users of this machine. Apple could even send someone to set up the entire system for you. Rumor has it that they would do so in a tuxedo.

The external unit was both a subwoofer and the power supply and attached to the head unit by a thick umbilical cable. The sub was part of the Bose-designed sound system. The cloth-covered speakers completed the system, which could be controlled via the buttons on either side of the vertically-oriented CD drive.

The 20th Anniversary Mac shipped with the ability play television and FM radio, and came with an infrared remote. Apple really pitched this as more than just a computer; it could be a complete entertainment system.

The 20th Anniversary Mac brought with it a vision for the future. Its built-in LCD was ground-breaking for desktop users used to CRTs. It was a computer that made a statement. Apple was saying that it valued design and could build something ready for the 21st century.

The TAM ended up having a short life. After a couple of steep price cuts, it was discontinued in March 1998. Even though it wasn't a big hit, it was an important computer, and set to define many of the things we've come to expect from Apple desktops in the years since.

by Stephen Hackett at February 02, 2016 02:14 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

4 Lessons Learned From 4 Years of Being a Creative Nomad

Becoming a nomad isn’t always a conscious choice. For Nathalie Sejean, it was the culmination of moments out of her control — but those moments changed her life, and today she shares what she’s learned since then.

Los Angeles Airport. December 24th 2011. 8pm: I was waiting at a Turkish Airlines counter, armed with a Persian cat, a camera and three overweight suitcases. After a few years growing as a filmmaker, and a whole 365 days trying and renew my visa, I had to depart from the United States with what I could physically carry, leaving everything else behind.

I spent Christmas Eve flying over Earth and wondering what my next step was going to be. I had no plan. I had no money. And, though I didn’t know it back then, I had no creative juice left in me. I was in full creative burnout.


The idea of chasing money to make rent had become the reason I would take on projects, and the justification behind the shrinking time I would spend creating for the sake of it. And I couldn’t take it anymore.

Wandering Istanbul, I decided not to pay rent again until I had found my creative balance back. Life unfolds in unexpected ways, as it always does, and that day I embarked on a journey I didn’t even know was an option.

I thought I would live as a nomad for a few months. It’s been four years.



During my annual review, I realized there were 4 key lessons living out of a suitcase has taught me:

1) Creativity never strikes where you expect it.

I used to think that to be creative, you needed to have the perfect setting and mind-space; so when I became a nomad, I thought my destination would be where the muse would show up.

Turns out when I’m in beautiful places, or with loved-ones, I don’t create. I absorb plenty of raw data, but I can’t transform and produce. It’s when I sit, stay still, and remain silent that the accumulated data takes a life of its own and ideas appear.


2) If you can only talk with your hands, you’ll cut to the chase.

When you don’t speak a language, or speak it poorly, it is exhausting to try to express yourself. Each word must be carefully chosen to convey what you want to say as clearly and quickly as possible.

It feels like you’re three years old again. You can’t say much and everything will lack subtlety. I love this bizarre state where you regress and can no longer hide behind big statements, quotes and concepts.

When you master a language, there is easiness in aligning one world after another, responding to whatever is said without giving much thought about it.

But when you have 25 words, two hands and a limited amount of energy to converse, you start paying attention to every idea you want to share: “Do I really feel so strong about this idea that I want to try to explain it?” I now know what ideas I can’t not fight for, and when I can let go, lay back, sip my beer and listen to the noise.


3) The “analog web” is your most valuable asset.

Regaining my creativity meant making it a priority (and thus making very little money). To add insult to injury, I’m terrible at maximizing miles, points, benefits and getting stuff for free. So how do you not pay rent for four years and not end up living under a bridge?

You cultivate your analog web.

Your analog web is made of your loved ones, the people you care about and who care about you. It’s gotten hard to connect to our loved ones, despite all the tools at our disposal. We get jobs in other towns, we get busy crossing off all the must-dos on our to-do-lists, and years can pass before you can see people you really care about.

One of the biggest perks of my life now is that I’ve been able to cultivate my relationships by going to see the people I love. I adapt to their lifestyles and rhythm, building new memories with them as we work (them for a salary, me not), and I am an active participant in their lives for several days at times.


4) Everything will work out as long as you’re kind to yourself.

Being kind to yourself is much harder than being kind to others (or being mean to yourself). But when you change places every few days or weeks, sleep on couches, and spend a lot of time on public transportation, being kind to yourself is a must if you want your body and mind not only to stay healthy, but to thrive.

I’m constantly reminded that there is no solid ground but the one within, and that plans can get disrupted in a blink: a friend can no longer host me; my computer, camera and phone die within a week; a loved one dies; I hit my pinky toe; I lock myself outside the apartment; I can’t create. Disruption comes daily to agitate me, but it’s the way I react that determines how I get through it, and what I get out of it. And I found that being kind to myself was the best way to always make it work.

Everything is not perfect being a creative nomad. But I feel richer with these four lessons, and whatever happens next, that I’m better armed to lead the life I want.

Follow Nathalie’s art and life at her site or on Twitter @mentorless.


by Chris Guillebeau at February 02, 2016 01:39 PM


WebView stats!

After my recent post about updating Chromium WebViews I was contacted by Scientia Mobile, the company behind the WURFL database, and was offered actual real-life stats!

The situation is less dire than I assumed. About 90% of the users do in fact use the latest Chromium WebView. This number is based on several hundred million hits in December 2015, primarily from North America and Europe.

The full results are here, split by device vendor. In general, well over 80% of the users of a particular vendor use the latest (Chromium 46 or 47) WebView. Although there are a few vendor with less modern WebViews (Asus 44%, Kyocera 60%, ZTE 64%), they are small fry compared to Samsung, who scores 88% on modern WebViews and is by far the largest vendor in this sample (69%). Anyway, take a look for yourself.

Thus, at least in North America and Europe, you can reasonably expect most of your users to have the latest WebView installed. In Asia, especially China, the situation may be different, since Chinese Android devices are decoupled from Google, and vendors may work on alternative WebViews or simply refuse to update the Google ones. Unfortunately this dataset does not allow us to draw conclusions about Asia.

Also, this snapshot only counts users who actually use apps to surf the web. Those that don’t may have different update patterns. Then again, we don’t have to worry about people who don’t surf the web.

Anyway, there you have it. Although the Android update process is still broken, most users tend to use the latest WebView. Many thanks to Scientia Mobile for sharing this data (and they may share more in the future).

by ppk ( at February 02, 2016 11:16 AM

Justin Taylor

Don’t Have Time to Read Books? Try This One Weird Trick

book chair 2Sorry for the clickbait headline. I’ll keep this short.

Here’s my suggestion: if you don’t have time to read books, start reading chapters instead.

Almost every time I read from a book—whether a novel or a biography or a non-fiction book—I have two things with me: a pen and a bookmark.

I use the pen to underline or circle phrases or make notations in the margins. This makes finding things easier, and I tend to remember things better when I mark them.

I then place the bookmark at the end of the chapter. That creates a small goal: I simply want to finish the chapter. It’s motivation when I’m tired and I see there are just a few pages left—I can press on and get it finished. It allows me to hear the author’s coherent argument (or with biography or fiction, to see the picture that the author wants me to see). It doesn’t give me the entire argument or picture, but it gives me a coherent part of the whole.

If the average person readers 250-300 words a minute, and if the average book page has about that many words, then you can use that as a rough calculation. If you can find 10-15 minutes in your day to read, you can often get through a chapter.

Not every book needs to be finished. But I suspect if you think in terms of reading chapters, rather than reading “whole books” or reading “just a few pages,” you’ll end up finishing more books by thinking this way than the other ways.

Just a suggestion.

by Justin Taylor at February 02, 2016 09:25 AM daily

2015 in Gaming

I put together an overpowered gaming PC at the start of 2015 and got back into PC gaming (particularly FPS’s) big time. It was fun!

I missed doing this in 2014 (and barely played anything in 2014) and I’m a month late doing it for 2015 but whatever, here we go!

Highly Recommended


My game of the year 2015. Dropsy is a wordless point and click adventure game. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking and magical and everything that we used to wish adventure games would turn into.


This first-person sci-fi transhumanist adventure is one of the most memorable gaming experiences I’ve had in years. The small world it creates is so haunting, interesting, and beautiful.

It’s flawed - clearly had some gameplay issues and design decisions that weren’t great, the skippable mini-game thing in particular is awful. But it’s so daring and different than anything else - wish it had gotten more attention. One of the best and most beautiful experiences I’ve had in gaming.

Grand Theft Auto V

I’m not a big GTA or Rockstar fan but loved this game. “Did Somebody Say Yoga” is one of favorite moments in gaming.

Her Story

Loved everything about this, from the attention to detail in the interface, to the acting, writing, unique gameplay. And don’t worry, even people who don’t have a weird predilection to loving mediocre or obscure retro-FMV games think it’s good.

Wolfenstein: The New Order

Basically great. It’s great. I mean it’s dumb and great. Tight gameplay, and given the expectation for writing for a Wolfenstein game, was actually not bad there either. The half assed stealth elements were garbage, need to play it by blowing shit up and it’s great.

Beast Boxing Turbo

Takes everything I nostalgically think I love about Mike Tyson’s Punch-out, makes them better, more charming, and has super great art and gameplay.

Axiom Verge

Surprising depth, innovation, and fun in this Metroidvania. Clearly is a love letter to Metroid but feels accessible, sharp, modern and stands on its own.

Ultra Street Fighter IV

I got back into Street Fighter this year, and man, it’s still so much fun.

Also I’m coming to accept that I am better on a keyboard than stick or pad due to years playing weird emulated fighting games over the past 20 years.


Divekick is esports!

2 buttons is all you need.

Far Cry 4

Far Cry games never let me down, and actually seem to just keep getting better. Over the top crazy fun, tight gameplay, and killer graphics, the most fun I had when I initially set up my new gaming PC.


FPS’s I played because I wanted to use my 21:9 monitor but were all mediocre / forgettable:

Weirdly I didn’t think any of the CODs I had missed over the past few years were good. I had high hopes for Black Ops 3 since I love Black Ops 1 and 2 but was pretty meh on this one.

Injustice: Gods Among us Ultimate Edition - turns out I like the comics better? I still just don’t get Mortal Kombat style gameplay. It’s kind of fun?

The Typing of the Dead: Overkill House of the Dead: Overkill on Wii is amazingly fun, this fell flat to me, but still basically any Typing of the Dead game is a good game.

Not Recommended / Abandoned

  • The Beginners Guide - high concept but didn’t connect with me emotionally at all
  • Batman Arkham Origins - the worst Arkham game?
  • Mind: Path to Thalamus: beautiful but didn’t enjoy the writing, gameplay, and felt the whole thing was incomprehensible.
  • Drunken Robot Pornography - difficulty spikes
  • Lichdom: Battlemage - not fun
  • TRI: Of Friendship and Madness - dizzying
  • Alien Isolation - way, way WAY too hard
  • In Verbis Virtus - cool voice mechanic to use spells but got annoying quickly

February 02, 2016 08:00 AM

Table Titans

Tales: One Hero Point Apiece

A few years ago I was DMing a very homebrewed AD&D game. I had one rule in place just to keep combat interesting; a 20 was always a kill. It kept my players on their toes, made them go to great lengths to seek diplomacy, and overall made the game more interesting. However it did end up with a lot…

Read more

February 02, 2016 07:02 AM


2015 Year in Graphics Links


A bit late, but here are links to a few round-ups of graphical journalism work from last year. These are always worth a look, no matter what time of year.

And as a little palate cleanser, don’t miss Quartz’s most misleading charts of 2015, fixed and Fivethirtyeight’s 47 Weirdest Charts From 2015.

by Robert Kosara at February 02, 2016 06:47 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Must Every Church Be Multi-Ethnic?

Article by: Ryan Troglin

Revelation 7:9 depicts an innumerable multitude from every nation, tribe, people and language, gathered around the Lamb’s throne in unending praise. Such a verse casts a vision of the congregation all Christians are headed for. But what bearing does this future picture have on our present situation? Should multiethnicity be a characteristic local churches aspire to and actively pursue now? Must every congregation resemble the United Nations? 

In a new 10-minute roundtable, John Piper (former pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis), Trip Lee (hip-hop artist and pastor of Cornerstone Church in Atlanta), and Stephen Um (pastor of Citylife Presbyterian Church in Boston) tackle this question in an effort to help churches consider their own cultural composition. Watch as these leaders consider ways of building ethnic diversity in the church, what this conveys to the outside world, what it means to faithfully represent your community in your congregation, and more. The cited Piper article, “How and Why Bethlehem Pursues Ethnic Diversity,” unpacks these issues in greater detail.


Ryan Troglin serves as an editorial assistant in the office of the president at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also teaches English at Providence Classical Christian School in Northwest Arkansas. He and his wife, Stacey, are members at University Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

by Ryan Troglin at February 02, 2016 06:05 AM

Don’t Waste Your Awkwardness

Article by: Sammy Rhodes

If we had to make our relationship with awkwardness Facebook official, we would probably have to choose the “It’s complicated” option. On the one hand, we’re drawn to awkwardness. It’s in the shows we love: The Office, Arrested Development, Parks and Rec, Modern Family, and New Girl. We can’t seem to get enough of awkwardness.

And yet we’re terrified of it, especially of being marked with what my friend Les Newsom calls the new scarlet letter: “A” for awkwardness. One of our greatest fears is leaving a party only to have friends lock eyes with each other and complain about how awkward we were.

Maybe we haven’t yet realized we’re both drawn to awkwardness and afraid of it because deep down we’re all awkward people. Just think about the last time you were in an elevator. Everyone’s awkwardness shines a little brighter in an elevator.

Revealing Our Cracks 

I probably should define awkwardness. What I mean is there’s a gap between what you are and what you should be, a disconnect between the real you and the ideal you. What awkward moments (and people) do is simply to shine the spotlight on that gap, revealing the cracks in our humanity, no matter how shiny and cool we may seem on the outside. 

A few years ago I met with a student who had lived most of his life with a porn addiction. Over coffee he told me that sex, much less pornography, was simply not something that ever got talked about in church. The sad thing is he grew up in one of those gospel-centered, published-author, preachers-whose-podcasts-you-download kind of churches. His family felt the same way. 

What he said nearly broke my heart: “Because no one ever talked about porn I felt like it must be the worst sin in the world, and so I was so scared and ashamed to tell anyone about it.” What my student was describing was shame. 

One of the saddest realities of life is the things we need to talk about the most we tend to talk about the least. Shame is often the culprit. Author and speaker Brené Brown likes to say that shame only needs three things to survive: silence, secrecy, and judgment. If you look behind your awkward moments, you will almost always find shame. And instead of uncovering the sources of our shame to each other, we hide. 

Longing to Be Found 

When my youngest daughter was three, she was the worst hide-and-seek player of all time. She would find her hiding spot, typically a closet upstairs, close herself in with the doors not quite shut, and then loudly begin to say “In here! I’m in here!” until someone found her. She loved to hide, but she wanted to be found. 

So do we. We love to hide from each other. We hide our flaws, our defects, and anything we feel will make us look like we don’t have it all together. We hide how we’re really doing, even from our closest friends and family. We’re afraid the person who finds us will meet us with condemnation and judgment. So we lock ourselves away, resolving to never share the things in our lives that are killing us: broken relationships with parents, lust that’s blossoming into addiction, depression that’s overwhelming us to the point of wanting to end it all, a relationship with food that makes us hate and do harmful things to our bodies. 

But we still long to be found. It’s why websites like PostSecret and Tumblr exist. They’re places where we can talk freely about our struggles without running the risk of being judged by our family, friends, or potential employers. The problem with doing vulnerability online with people who barely know us versus doing vulnerability in real life with friends and family is it never quenches the thirst we have to be both known and loved. Being found involves both: being really known and truly loved. As Tim Keller has observed:

To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.

Awkwardness is an invitation to be found. It’s an invitation to vulnerability, and vulnerability is where intimacy and connection are born. It’s also an invitation to throw yourself on the grace that makes vulnerability possible at all. At the end of the day, awkward people are the only kind of people God loves; because awkward people are the only kind of people there are.

Resign Yourself to the Awkwardness of Life

One of my favorite lines in movie history comes from a fortune teller in Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise. Jesse (played by Ethan Hawke) and Celine (played by Julie Delpy) have met by chance on a train, and after an incredibly engaging conversation, spend the night walking the streets of Vienna, where they run into a fortune teller. They jokingly decide it would be fun to have her tell their fortune. What she says is this: “Resign yourself to the awkwardness of life.” 

Resign yourself to the awkwardness of talking about where you are, not where you’ve been pretending to be. Resign yourself to the awkwardness of being vulnerable about your struggles with close friends and family. Resign yourself to the awkwardness of God’s work of grace in you to begin to close that gap while simultaneously making you able to talk about it. Resign yourself to the awkwardness of life. 

Don’t waste your awkwardness. It may be the very place you learn to be vulnerable and thus experience the grace of God. 

Editors’ note: This is an except from Sammy Rhodes’s new book This Is Awkward: How Life's Uncomfortable Moments Open the Door to Intimacy and Connection (Thomas Nelson, 2016). 

Sammy Rhodes is a campus minister with Reformed University Fellowship at the University of South Carolina. He blogs at Embracing Awkward. And you can follow him on Twitter.

by Sammy Rhodes at February 02, 2016 06:02 AM

4 Ways to Battle Bitterness

Article by: Jen Wilkin

A young woman asked me to meet with her recently to help her learn how to deal with bitterness. She had suffered harm at the hands of a fellow believer in the form of hurtful accusations and outright hypocrisy. Though months had gone by she found that bitterness toward this person kept creeping back into her thinking.

I could relate. Several years back I found myself in a similar situation when my integrity was called into question unjustly by a fellow believer. I had always thought the enemies Jesus commanded me to love were persons I labeled as such, either because they were unbelievers or because they drove me crazy. I believed an enemy was someone I chose. Most days I didn’t have anyone on that list. Yet suddenly I was confronted with the truth that my enemy could choose me, out of the blue, as I went about my life—that despite my best efforts to live at peace with all men, someone could still choose to walk in enmity toward me. And that someone could even be a believer. This was a new kind of hurt for me, the kind that tempted me to drink deeply of bitterness.

Here is what I wanted during that time: I wanted my adversary to be brought to justice. I wanted my side of the story to be heard and my hurt to be acknowledged. I wanted vindication in front of those who’d heard my integrity questioned—not tomorrow or next year—today.

That’s not what happened. Because God is better to me than I deserve, no opportunity came for any of my wants to be met. And in that season of “wormwood and gall” (Lam. 3:19) he taught me truths I would’ve otherwise never sought.

Here are a few bitterness-blocking realizations I learned to cling to:

1. God knows the real story.

Every justification I wanted to raise was already known to God. I had no need to correct him. He knew both sides of the story perfectly, and more importantly he knew the truth that lay somewhere between.

My sense of urgency to clear my name was, in my case at least, misplaced and self-reliant. So instead of fighting to make my side of the story known, I learned to let my words be few. And I asked God to show me where I had shaded the truth to mollify my hurt or downplay my own sin.

2. God sees the heart of my adversary—and my own.

As my hurt blossomed I began to take comfort in the knowledge that, if God’s Word can be trusted, one day my adversary’s sin would be called to light. I found peace in knowing justice would eventually be served, even if not in this lifetime.

It took a while for me to realize that on that day my own sin would also be fully revealed. We can all rely on the just Judge to do his job. One day my adversary’s sin will be known, and so will mine. On that day I will cling to the mercy of my Savior. I will beg for it, though I don’t deserve it. If I do less than this for my adversary, I am a hypocrite of the highest order. So in addition to taking comfort that justice would be served, I began praying for my enemy to receive mercy instead.

3. I have caused hurt as well. 

I may have done nothing to deserve this particular hurt, but I’ve certainly caused similar hurt (known and unknown) for others. So instead of feeling superior to my adversary, I began to develop empathy for them. And I began asking God to show me my own sins against others.

There is only one person who has ever suffered unjustly in the purest sense, and that is Christ. The rest of us may indeed be wronged by another, but never without the guilt of having caused harm ourselves at some point in our lives. So when we suffer unjustly, we can be instructed by the way in which Christ endured. When falsely accused and convicted by his own people, he remained silent. He “continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Pet. 2:23). When at last he did speak (after the unjust verdict had been passed) it was to cry out not against but on behalf of his oppressors.

Think about this: At no time are we more like Christ than when we suffer unjustly at the hands of those who should’ve loved us best. We claim we want to be conformed to the image of the Son. What if it takes this kind of suffering to accomplish just that? So instead of asking why God would let this injustice happen, I began asking him to use every bit of the hurt to mold me into the likeness of the Savior.

4. I must refuse the bitter cup. 

The Bible speaks of our times of hard trial as seasons of wormwood and gall, of bitter herb and bile, times that leave us with the lingering taste of resentment in our mouths if we drink deeply of their vintage. Perhaps the greatest temptation in a bitter season is to drink in the gall that besets us, to take it into our very souls and harbor it there, crying for justice to be done. Bitter trial may surround us, but we need not internalize its acid sting. We can choose to refuse the bitter cup when it’s brought to our lips.

We see a picture of this truth at Golgotha. As the death sentence (passed on him by those who should’ve loved him best) was carried out, Jesus cried out in thirst and was offered gall to quench it. He turned his face away. Scholars are divided on why. Either the cup was offered to mercifully shorten his life by poisoning him, or it was offered as an analgesic to lessen his physical anguish. But Jesus was unwilling to shorten or diminish his appointed suffering by the smallest amount. He had come single-mindedly to do the will of the Father. In the bitterest trial of his incarnation, Christ refused the cup of bitterness raised to his lips.

You and I mistakenly believe that drinking deeply of bitterness will satisfy our hurt, but Christ has shown us the better way. In all suffering the cup of gall will be offered to our lips. We who have drunk from the cup of life must seek no comfort in that caustic drink. Like Christ, we must refuse it. The bitter thirst of injustice is only quenched with the living water of the gospel. In our seasons of wormwood and gall may we drink deeply and often from its streams, exchanging bitterness for the hope and portion of steadfast love, of mercies that never come to an end—for us and for our offenders.

Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall!

My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” (Lam. 3:19–24)

Jen Wilkin is a wife, mom to four great kids, and an advocate for women to love God with their minds through the faithful study of his Word. She writes, speaks, and teaches women the Bible. She lives in Flower Mound, Texas, and her family calls The Village Church home. Jen is the author of Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds (Crossway, 2014). You can find her at and follow her on Twitter.

by Jen Wilkin at February 02, 2016 06:02 AM

Must Every Church Be Multi-Ethnic?

Article by: Ryan Troglin

Revelation 7:9 depicts an innumerable multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language gathered around the Lamb’s throne in unending praise. Such a verse casts a vision of the future congregation all Christians are headed for. But what bearing does this future picture have on our present situation? Should multiethnicity be a characteristic local churches aspire to and actively pursue now? Must congregations resemble the United Nations? 

In a new 10-minute roundtable, John Piper (former pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis), Trip Lee (hip-hop artist and pastor of Cornerstone Church in Atlanta), and Stephen Um (pastor of Citylife Presbyterian Church in Boston) tackle this question in an effort to help churches consider their own cultural composition. Watch as these leaders consider ways of building ethnic diversity in the church, what this conveys to the outside world, how to faithfully represent your community in your congregation, and more.

Ryan Troglin serves as an editorial assistant in the office of the president at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also teaches English at Providence Classical Christian School in Northwest Arkansas. He and his wife, Stacey, are members at University Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

by Ryan Troglin at February 02, 2016 06:00 AM

SMBlog -- Steve Bellovin's Blog

Caveats About "Computer Science For All"

As someone who learned to program at age 14 and who benefited immensely from the opporunities my high school's computer provided, I think that it's a great idea to give more children a similar chance. Programming was more fun than just about anything else I'd ever done, and it quickly displaced math, physics, and law as possible career paths for me. (No, I probably would never have become a lawyer, since math and science were too much fun, but I was interested in law and policy even then.) And yes, quite obviously my career path was shaped by that early opportunity.

Given all that, I'm delighted by the White House's "Computer Science For All" initiative. Even people who don't become programmers---probably the large majority of students who will take these classes---will benefit from that sort of thinking. That said, I do have a few concerns.

Teaching the teachers
The White House recognizes that we need far more people qualified to teach computer science. It's a crucial need, but I wonder if $4 billion is nearly enough money. I wonder if we need another level: teaching the teachers who will teach the children's teachers.

The teachers have to really understand programming. I had another spot of luck when I was young: I had a relative who know how to program and who could answer my questions. My career almost died aborning; there were two or three crucial ideas that I just didn't get at first. I don't know if I'd have been able to work past them on my own.

Reteaching the teachers
Computer science is incredibly dynamic, even at the introductory levels. Let's put it like this: the iPhone is less than 10 years old, but it's completely changed the industry. Teaching children to program but ignoring smart phones would be a bad idea, if only because they'll be less interested in the subject matter. But progress isn't stopping with smart phones; not very many years from now, school kids will want---need---to learn about programming the next big thing, whatever it will be. Internet of Things? Wearables? Programmable drones? I have no idea, but I'm sure it will happen.

In other words, the teachers are going to need frequent refreshers. The curriculum will also need frequent updates. There is in-service training today, but I suspect there will need to be more. In most subjects, the content of the course doesn't change drastically every five years; in computer science, it does. (Yes, programming is programing. But the details of what you program will change.)

In other words, the the training budget has to be an ongoing commitment. Even if $4 billion is the right number now, more will be needed not very many years in the future.

Buying Equipment
Teaching programming requires computers and software. Computers age and they don't age gracefully; software is even worse. The hardware will need to be replaced every 4-5 years; the software will need to be upgraded every year or two. This, of course, also requires money.

I suspect that there also should be a subsidy for equipment and Internet connectivity for poorer households. You learn programming only be doing, and it takes hours of non-class time for every hour of instruction. Students who don't have easy access to current-enough computers and software won't learn.

In other words, teaching programming to all children will require a notable amount of extra money, on top of today's budgets, every single year. Furthermore, if extra funds are not allocated to poorer districts, much of the money spent there will be wasted and we'll worsen the digital divide.

I am not saying that the White House initiative is a bad idea---quite the contrary, in fact. I am saying it's just the down payment on a long-term effort. The challenge now is to identify where the continuing funding will come from. It might be reasonable to give priority on the initial outlays to districts and states that have identified and committed to a sustainable funding model---but again, this has to be done in a way that won't worsen poverty.

February 02, 2016 03:46 AM

Shot on iPhone 6s →

I was thrilled to see my friend Erin Brooks in this list of photographers. They say the best camera you have is the one with you, and Erin and these other artists really prove it.


by Stephen Hackett at February 02, 2016 02:15 AM

Workout: Feb. 2, 2016

Open Workout 15.5 27-21-15-9 of: Row for calories Thrusters (95/65 lb.)

by Crystal at February 02, 2016 12:00 AM

February 01, 2016

Workout: Feb. 5, 2016

Monster Mash 12.4 as many reps as possible in 12 minutes of: 150 wall-ball shots (20/14 lb., 9/10 ft.) 90 double-unders 30 muscle-ups  Rest 5 minutes 10 rounds of: 5 chest-to-bar pull-ups 5 burpees Rest 5 minutes Every minute on the minute for 6 sets: Even minute: max 25-ft. shuttle sprints Odd minute: max lateral box […]

by Crystal at February 01, 2016 11:59 PM

Workout: Feb. 4, 2016

Diane 21-15-9 reps of: Deadlifts (225/155 lb.) Handstand push-ups

by Crystal at February 01, 2016 11:57 PM

Workout: Feb. 3, 2016

Front squats 3-3-3-3 @ 85% of 1RM Power snatch + overhead squat 2-2-2 Power clean + push jerk 2-2-2

by Crystal at February 01, 2016 11:55 PM

Daniel Lemire's blog

Default random-number generators are slow

Most languages like Java and Go, come with standard pseudo-random-number generators. Java uses a simple linear congruential generator. Starting with a seed value, it generates a new value with the reccurence formula:

seed = (seed * 0x5DEECE66DL + 0xBL) & ((1L << 48) - 1);

The seed variable thus modified time and time again can be considered “random”. For many practical purposes, it is good enough.

It should also be quite fast. A multiplication has a latency of only 3 cycles cycles on recent Intel processors, and that’s the most expensive operation. Java should be able to generate a new 32-bit random number integer every 10 cycles or so on a recent PC.

And that is the kind of speed you get with a straight-forwad implementation:

int next(int bits) {
    seed = (seed * 0x5DEECE66DL + 0xBL) & ((1L << 48) - 1);
    return (int) (seed >>> (48 - bits));

Sadly, you should not trust this analysis. Java’s Random.nextInt is several times slower at generating random numbers than you would expect as the next table shows.

Function Timing (ns) on Skylake processor
Random.nextInt 10.4
my next function above 2.7

That’s a four-fold difference in performance between my implementation and the standard Java one!

Languages like Go do not fare any better. Even the venerable rand function from the C standard library is several times slower than you would expect.

Why? Because the standard Java API provides you with a concurrent random number generator. In effect, if you use the Java random number generator in a multithreaded context, it is safe: you will get “good” random number generator. Go and other languages do the same thing.

It is unclear to me why it is needed. You can easily get concurrency in a multithreaded context by using one seed per thread.

Evidently, language designers feel that random-number generators should be particularly idiot-proof. Why have the random-number generators received this particular type of attention?

For users who want less overhead, the Java API provides a class in the concurrent package called ThreadLocalRandom that is nearly as far as my naive function, as the next table shows.

Function Timing (ns) on Skylake processor
ThreadLocalRandom 3.2

In any case, if you need to write fast software that depends on random numbers (such as a simulation), you probably want to pick your own random-number generator.

Reference: As usual, my benchmarking software is available online.

Credit: I am grateful to Viktor Szathmary for pointing out the ThreadLocalRandom class.

by Daniel Lemire at February 01, 2016 10:31 PM

Zippy Catholic

Trump for President!

As a notorious and outspoken non-voter, I definitely plan to not vote for Donald Trump. I have to say that I really, really appreciate what he is doing for American politics.

Once we grant the premise of American politics – that government should represent the people of the United States, should be the political incarnation of the current American zeitgeist – well, I am hard pressed to think of a viable candidate who comes even close to representing the American people in 2016 as well as the Trump.  Who could possibly be more appropriate than a crass billionaire reality TV star, a hotel and gambling magnate with a new blonde on his arm every time we see him? His defining political position, his unprincipled exception designed for mass appeal, is just that he will keep America from getting dissolved by the dilutive power of mass immigration, making sure that America stays American by rejecting the ideology of white people. All hail the Donald, archetypical representative of our greatest aspirations!

Folks who think he can’t win are, I think, stuck in the past and do not understand the society in which we live. I don’t predict a win, mind you, but the notion that the Trump cannot win is just ridiculous. Modern effeminate Americans love to look up to a bad boy showman. Even if he slaps them around a bit and cheats on them we know they’ll still end up back with him. He’ll smile at them and say something that makes them all hot and bothered, and then they are his.

Establishment Republicans are so cute, the way they take the political process seriously (for values of ‘seriously’) — unlike the vast majority of voters, who do not have the intellectual resources or the inclination to take it seriously in the same way. For the great majority of people voting is just a signal of allegiance, a doffing of the cap, an expression of emotion, an outlet for frustration. The stereotype of the thoughtful voter on either the left or the right is one of those quaint things that certain people believe despite their lying eyes.

Another thing I appreciate about Trump is that he has introduced us to a new phase in the Hegelian Mambo. All the usual suspects will perceive this new step as the arrival — finally! – of the revolution we’ve really been waiting for! Pay no attention to what gets dropped on the floor as the dance proceeds.

The last few decades of American politics have involved a dialectic between nominally Christian liberals and anti-Christian liberals. In this new phase we can leave Christianity behind entirely, even that pesky nominal Christianity. This new phase ushered in by the Great Salesman with Fantastic Hair and Lots of Money will be one of nationalist liberalism versus globalist liberalism. Just watch that dowdy old religion disappear without a whimper!

And this could be a good thing for at least some, perhaps some small number, of even modestly serious Christians who have been stuck up until now, lured by the siren song of supposed personal relevance into lighting a pinch of incense. Though I suppose if decades of abortion rope-a-dope with the Republican party hasn’t cut the cord yet it must be a pretty thick cord.

by Zippy at February 01, 2016 09:56 PM

command center

Regular expressions in lexing and parsing

Comments extracted from a code review. I've been asked to disseminate them more widely.

I should say something about regular expressions in lexing andparsing. Regular expressions are hard to write, hard to write well,and can be expensive relative to other technologies. (Even when theyare implemented correctly in N*M time, they have significantoverheads, especially if they must capture the output.)Lexers, on the other hand, are fairly easy to write correctly (if notas compactly), and very easy to test. Consider finding alphanumericidentifiers. It's not too hard to write the regexp (something like"[a-ZA-Z_][a-ZA-Z_0-9]*"), but really not much harder to write as asimple loop. The performance of the loop, though, will be much higherand will involve much less code under the covers. A regular expressionlibrary is a big thing. Using one to parse identifiers is like using aMack truck to go to the store for milk. And when we want to adjust our lexer to admit other character types,such as Unicode identifiers, and handle normalization, and so on, thehand-written loop can cope easily but the regexp approach will breakdown.

A similar argument applies to parsing. Using regular expressions toexplore the parse state to find the way forward is expensive,overkill, and error-prone. Standard lexing and parsing techniques areso easy to write, so general, and so adaptable there's no reason touse regular expressions. They also result in much faster, safer, andcompact implementations.

Another way to look at it is that lexers and parsing are matchingstatically-defined patterns, but regular expressions' strength is thatthey provide a way to express patterns dynamically. They're great intext editors and search tools, but when you know at compile time whatall the things are you're looking for, regular expressions bring farmore generality and flexibility than you need.

Finally, on the point about writing well. Regular expressions are, inmy experience, widely misunderstood and abused. When I do code reviewsinvolving regular expressions, I fix up a far higher fraction of theregular expressions in the code than I do regular statements. This isa sign of misuse: most programmers (no finger pointing here, justobserving a generality) simply don't know what they are or how to usethem correctly.Encouraging regular expressions as a panacea for all text processingproblems is not only lazy and poor engineering, it also reinforcestheir use by people who shouldn't be using them at all.

So don't write lexers and parsers with regular expressions as thestarting point. Your code will be faster, cleaner, and much easier tounderstand and to maintain.

by rob ( at February 01, 2016 08:26 PM

John C. Wright's Journal

George RR Martin remembers David Hartwell

George RR Martin remembers David Hartwell:

My comment: Mr. Martin’s words were moving to me, and I wrote him the note below.

Mr. Hartwell launched and sustained my career with the same unselfishness and goodheartedness you here describe. Under very trying circumstances, for example, his work allowed me to write NULL-A CONTINUUM, which, like your ‘Bitterblooms’ is to you, is a favorite of mine.

It grieves me that you and I should be at odds over unimportant political matters when science fiction as a genre, and the people in our lives, and much else besides are things we both have in common and outweigh any differences.

The shadow of our mutual loss of a friend sharply reminds me of what is important in life, and mutual ire is not one of those things.

You wrote not long ago of a desire for peace in the science fiction community; I second that sentiment and voice it also. Let there be peace between us.

John C. Wright

His reply:

I agree, death has a way of putting life’s other trials and triumphs in perspective.

My own political and social views are very much at odds with yours, Mr. Wright, and our views on literary matters, especially as regards science fiction and fantasy, are far apart as well. But I have always believed that science fiction has room for all, and I am pretty sure that David Hartwell believed that as well.

If we want to heal the wounds our community suffered last year, all of us need to stop arguing about the things that divide us, and talk instead about the things that unite us… as writers, as fans, as human beings. Our grief in David’s passing is one of those things. Everyone who ever knew him or worked with him will miss him, I do not doubt.

So thank you for your note, and your heartfelt and compassionate words about David.

Well said, Mr. Martin. Spoken like a gentleman.

by John C Wright at February 01, 2016 07:35 PM

Liftoff #13: It's Important to Have a Dryer Sheet →

This week on Liftoff, Jason and I catch up on Space X and Blue Origin news, wish Opportunity a happy 12th birthday and reflect on the 30th anniversary of the Challenger disaster.

My thanks to these sponosors:

  • Luminos: A fantastic astronomy app, 10 years in the making! Now with an Apple Watch app for skygazing!
  • Squarespace: Build it beautiful. Use code ‘LIFTOFF’ for 10% off.


by Stephen Hackett at February 01, 2016 07:15 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

2016-02-01 Emacs News

Update 2016-02-02: Added Hacker News links.

Links from, /r/orgmode, Hacker News,, Youtube, the Emacs commit log, the changes to the Emacs NEWS file, and emacs-devel.

Past Emacs News round-ups

The post 2016-02-01 Emacs News appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at February 01, 2016 06:01 PM

Crossway Blog

The Most Important Part of Youth Ministry

This post by Cameron Cole is adapted from Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry: A Practical Guide, edited by Cameron Cole and Jon Nielson.

The Heart of Youth Ministry

What attracts people to ministry to youth? Why are they in this field? Is it the massive salaries? Probably not. Is it the promise of feeling impressive when they tell people at family gatherings or high school reunions about their career path? Unlikely. Is it easy hours and strict boundaries between work time and personal life? Not a chance.

Youth ministry can be a frustrating field of employment and a challenging volunteer calling. According to various studies, the normal tenure of a youth minister at a local church lasts approximately eighteen months. Ministry to youth attracts a diverse collection of people, in terms of personalities and backgrounds, but the motivation behind a person’s entry into youth ministry is relatively universal. Certainly, it is not for the money, the status, or the ease. Youth ministers generally work countless hours for third-world pay while often being regarded as adult teenagers. They rarely sleep at night without at least one late-night text from a troubled or overly social teen. Then, after working to the brink of exhaustion much of the time, they field questions from parishioners like, “When you grow up, what do you think you want to do with your life?”

Given the lack of glory associated with ministry to youth and the personal emotional and physical cost of serving youth, a person who stays in the field—either as a volunteer or paid staff member— must see something extraordinarily precious that outweighs every difficulty. Two themes drive our mission and passion for ministry to youth:

We long to see God heal, redeem, and free young people as they trust Jesus personally, and we long to see God birth something beautiful and redemptive in this broken world through their lives as they bear witness to their Savior.

Any person living in relationship with teenagers aches at the commonplace sufferings and intermittent traumas these young people endure. Witnessing the awkward, insecure, acne phases of middle school and the failed fashion experiments of high school makes me cringe. Seeing kids screaming for attention through provocative tweets and Facebook messages breaks my heart. Knowing the loneliness and alienation that comes in these years of self-doubt, religious questioning, and parental conflict causes me to lament. Yet these are the common experiences of almost every teen.

When I consider their exposure to divorce, pornography, drugs, alcohol, death, suicide, and violence, I long for the second coming of Jesus Christ. When I see the world in which these kids live, I begin to say to myself, They’re only children; this is just too much. When I witness the suffering of teenagers, my passion for youth ministry explodes because I want their hearts healed. I want them to have hope. My commitment to youth ministry ignites because I know that news of what Jesus has done through his life, death, and resurrection contains the power to set them free. I know that God can bring them alive through faith in his Son.

An All-Consuming Passion

While my passion for sharing the gospel began at a Disciple Now weekend at First Baptist Church of Birmingham in January 1993, it climaxed in a children’s hospital resuscitation room on November 11, 2013.

On that morning, my wife called me in utter panic to share the horror that our three-year-old son, Cam, had stopped breathing and had no pulse when she checked on him in his bed that morning. I raced from a youth campout to a children’s hospital in time for the doctors to tell us they had exhausted all efforts: our baby boy was dead.

As we went to the resuscitation room to see our son for the last time, my wife, Lauren, and I recalled our conversation with Cam the previous afternoon. Cam told us that he wanted to go “visit” Jesus, and he suggested that we hop in the car. We explained to Cam that Jesus was with us now in the Holy Spirit and that we would see Jesus face-to-face when God called us to heaven. He, with a supernatural focus in his eyes, then asked, “Will I see Adam and Eve in heaven?” (Pretty impressive for a three-year-old.) Lauren and I discussed and told Cam that, indeed, God appeared to forgive Adam and Eve’s sin in Genesis 3. Cam replied, “I’m not going to eat that apple. I not eat from that tree.” I told Cam that everyone “eats from the tree” and disobeys God; that’s why Jesus came. Cam ended this conversation by saying, “Jesus died on cross, Jesus died my sins.” The next morning, Cam passed into God’s kingdom.

While the pain of losing a child is inconceivable, what an incredible comfort my wife and I have in knowing that our son professed faith in Jesus and his work on the cross—the day before his death. My wife and I can live with the certain hope of our reunion with Cam in heaven. While I have had a passion for proclamation of the gospel of salvation since the seventh grade, never has its beauty and power been so real or palpable as the day we said good-bye to Cam.

Never Forget the Foundation

The gospel of salvation points to the historic, complete, atoning work of Jesus and the mandate to spread this word of good news. The proclamation of the gospel of salvation constitutes one of the most pivotal functions of youth ministry. So often in youth ministry, we can become enchanted with good, but not ultimate, matters. Missional living, social justice, and Christian community all represent wonderful things that I desire students in my ministry to embrace. At the same time, we never should neglect the essential duty and blessed opportunity of making students aware of their need for salvation and offering Jesus as the certain comfort and solution to the only A-list problem life presents: What will happen to people when they die?

When we approach ministry to youth with this biblical clarity, the stakes are raised and our vocation takes on substantial meaning. Our work involves the eternal condition of the souls of the precious students whom God has shared with us. Regardless of the impression society may have of a youth minister, we know that we engage in serious business each day. We may visit amusement parks, play lots of Frisbee, and send thousands of texts per month, but do not be mistaken: when a youth worker or volunteer focuses on the gospel of salvation, his or her time addresses the single most critical matter in any person’s life.

Ministry to youth with the gospel at the center means we frequently take the opportunity to proclaim the good news of salvation through Christ. We pray fervently that the Holy Spirit will work in the hearts of our students. We equip volunteer leaders and students to share the gospel in their world. We go out into the world—including our cities and foreign lands—and proclaim Christ by word and deed.

Cameron Cole (MA, Wake Forest University) serves as director of youth ministries at the Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham, Alabama, and is the chairman of Rooted, a ministry dedicated to fostering gospel-centered student ministry. He is the co-editor (with Jon Nielson) of Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry: A Practical Guide.

by Crossway at February 01, 2016 04:04 PM

RSS Sponsorships for sale

The best way to advertise on 512 Pixels is via RSS sponsorship. Exclusive for one week, sponsored posts come with a whole pile of benefits:

  • A sponsored link post on 512 Pixels that is seen by 12,500 RSS subscribers and 2,500 Twitter followers. These posts are published on Monday.
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  • A text link in the sidebar for the entirety of the week of your sponsorship.

Spots are $120 per week; availability is outlined below.

To book a sponsorship or ask any questions, please email me at

by Stephen Hackett at February 01, 2016 03:00 PM

Greg Mankiw's Blog