Tuesday, November 1, 2022

My Favorite Podcasts

I love learning and understanding, so the podcast tsunami of recent years has given me a lot to drink from. I listen to podcasts while emptying the dishwasher, riding down the road, weeding the garden, or working out. I gravitate toward info about the Bible, farming, business, science, and culture. So here are some podcasts I enjoy. Let me know your favorites, too!

Radio Lab

I like science, and these hosts playfully engage with fun questions about science.

 

The History of Rome

Host Mike Duncan takes you through the story of Rome, from the myths and legends to the fall of Rome in the fifth century. This is an old podcast, with a whopping 179 episodes, but it was good. I was so ignorant about Rome, this filled in lots of gaps for me.

 

Freakonomics

As an econ major in college, I like economists’ objective analysis of data. Not all economists are boring.

 

Gospel in Life with Tim Keller

In his sermons, Pastor Tim Keller digs into the scripture, often sharing deep insights that I have never heard.

 

Word of Life Church with Pastor Brian Zahnd

In his sermons Brian gives deep insights with his study of history and early church fathers. He gives me more appreciation for the church calendar.

 

Stetzer Church Leader podcast

Ed Stetzer interviews guests, often authors of recent books, and finds ways to apply new ideas to church life.

 

Carey Nieuwhof Leadership podcast

Carey interviews guests and brings guiding insights for leaders, including church leaders.

 

Bear Grease

Clay Newcomb digs into fascinating history about hunting and pioneers. While his episodes about straight-up hunting don’t interest me, I loved his biographies of Daniel Boone and Holt Collier.

 

Another Name for Everything with Richard Rohr

Two of Rohr’s disciples pick Fr. Richard’s brain about his ideas of the Universal Christ. I don’t always agree with Fr. Richard, but I respect his sincere love for Jesus.

 

The Bible Project

Yeah, this is probably my favorite podcast. I found it early in 2022 and I have listened to hundreds of episodes. Dr. Tim Mackie, a Bible scholar, and Jon Collins, a curios Bible student dig into the Bible as literature. “We believe the Bible is a unified story that leads to Jesus.”

 

Exploring My Strange Bible with Tim Mackie

Mackie served as a teaching pastor for a number of years, and this is a catalog of his sermons.

 

Thriving Farmer podcast

Sometimes there is good stuff on this podcast, and I really need to learn more about farming. It often digs into topics that are not relevant to me, but I like their bias against using chemicals.

 

Revisionist History with Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm tells good stories and always includes some unexpected angles. I like his books, too.

 

Hidden Brain

Shankar Vedantam interviews authors of books about the mind. Seems like humanity is just beginning to understand how we tick.  I have learned a lot about how my own brain works.

 

Norsworthy

Luke Norsworthy playfully engages his guests about deep topics. Some weeks he gives his own “rants,” some weeks he talks to old friends, and he often interviews authors. He has a gift for putting his guests at ease and asking them challenging questions.

 

This American Life

I haven’t quite figured out the vibe of this podcast, but it is one of the most well-established shows available. Some weeks the stories are great, sometimes I skip them.

 

On Script

This is a very Bible-nerdy podcast, and sometimes it has great content. It doesn’t always have the energetic tone that grips the listener, but it has some good stuff.


Sunday, October 16, 2022

Ukrainian Victory

The war in Ukraine has surprised the world.  Russia is probably more surprised than anyone. Putin apparently expected to crush the Ukrainian resistance in short order. Even the U.S. offered to help Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelenskyy flee his country. He declined, vowing to fight the invaders and restore peace to his country. His bold defiance of Russian aggression has inspired his people.

Reports today indicate that Ukraine has retaken from Russia 100 towns and villages in just 10 days. The Ukrainian soldiers are fighting for their homeland, for their families, for what is right. The Russians are fighting for a dictator who sanctions torture and destruction.

So Ukraine has truth and justice on their side. This inspires their population to fight. 

But fighting changes us. If Ukraine has been a peaceful people, they have been forced to change. They have to think in terms of violence, deception, and brute strength. I wonder if the necessary Ukrainian resistance will permanently change Ukrainian culture. 

When a society leans into violence, the heart of their culture shifts. They learn to rely on guns and force as a means of survival. When this war is over, the Ukrainian people will not be the same. Of course fighting evil is better than surrendering to evil. But they must also resist the temptation to solve future problems with the use of force. Too often humans come to embody the very evil they fight. 

I cheer for the defiance of the Ukrainians, but I hope they can restore the peaceful soul of their nation.



  

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

A New Chapter

It has been a spectacular honor to minister in the name of Jesus in the community of Stokesdale. In 1999 my family and I moved here to begin a new church. Church planting was beginning to take off, and I was inspired to take this leap after reading The Purpose-Driven Church, by Rick Warren. New neighborhoods were sprouting up in northwest Guilford Co., and we wanted to reach them with the gospel.

We are now ready to pass the baton to the next generation of leaders at Crossroads. Our new pastor, Nick Rabah, is transitioning into the role of lead pastor of Crossroads. Over the next six months he will gradually take on more and more pastoral responsibility, bringing a wealth of ministry experience and energy.

I look forward to seeing God's work continue with Crossroads as we begin this new chapter.

Nick's first sermon as our pastor will be this Sunday, Oct. 2, and I hope you will worship with us!



Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Abortion and Abuse of Power

In recent years we have heard a lot about power in relationships. The #MeToo movement revealed accepted patterns of men abusing their power with women. Parents misuse their power when they abuse their children. Elected officials routinely abuse their power when influencing legislation or policy. In nursing homes helpless residents have been abused by staff who have physical power. 

Some have called for the strong to exercise "power with" others rather than "power over" others. This sounds like empowerment and helping the weak become strong. Jesus never used his power over other people, but often shared that power with his disciples and common people. He used his power to heal, to encourage, to confront evil, to challenge.

There are many ways in which one person can have power over others. Sometimes it is positional power, as a boss over his direct reports. It can be implicit power, such as a well-dressed person may have over a poorly-dressed person. It can be power of knowledge, when an informed person can take advantage over the ignorant. It can be power of maturity, when an experienced person can out-maneuver a rookie. It can be physical strength, allowing for the kind of abuse found in nursing homes. 

Power, of course, can be used helpfully, productively. CNAs can bring comfort to nursing home residents. Police can diffuse a crime in progress with a display of force. Bosses can empower their employees. 

But power can go wrong. When the strong use their strength to harm the powerless for their own advantage, that looks like abuse of power.

Abortion always involves people with power using that power to harm the powerless. That happens every time. There may be circumstances that would justify that use of power. But too often abortion is a raw, violent abuse of power, allowing the powerful to avoid undesired circumstances. How could that be transformed into "power with" instead of "power over"?



Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Get Ready for the Test

We study for tests. We want to be prepared. We want to do well. You cram for final exams. You memorize for the driver’s license test. When you know the test is coming, you can get ready.

But some tests are sneaky. You don’t even know you are being tested. Your boss may give you an impossible task, just to see how you will respond. Could you make the impossible deadline? Your parents let you stay home alone to see how you handle the responsibility. Did you trash the house with 50 of your closest friends? These sneaky tests reveal what’s really inside of you.

The Bible (and all literature) is full of people who were being tested. Would Cain resist anger’s demands, or would he kill his brother? Would Abraham and Sarah trust God to give them a son, even though they were so old? Would Abraham trust God and follow his order to sacrifice Isaac? Would David conquer his lust or commit adultery? Would Peter acknowledge his friendship with Jesus?

All the major Bible characters were tested. We read their stories and watch them struggle. How could they be so blind? How could they not see God’s loving protection? How could they be so short-sighted? These were God’s sneaky tests for them. If they had known it was a test, they could have prepared themselves. They could have faced the circumstances from the standpoint of faith. They could have chosen to seek God’s direction and to listen to his voice.

Recently I realized that my life is a series of tests of my faith. The same goes for you. These don't have to be sneaky tests, because now we know God is watching. Will I cave in to my fears or will I trust God to take care of me? It’s all a test—every misunderstanding, disappointment, unmet expectation, broken promise, harsh word, failed attempt, accident, sickness. How will I respond?

Then again, good things are tests—every opportunity, success, happy coincidence, friendship, resource, kind word, healthy report, smiling face, met goal. How will I respond?

When I read the tragic stories, I want to tell the characters, “Don’t do it! Can't you see what’s really happening?” Now I know that I am that character. These tests reveal what's really inside of me.

God grant me the grace to trust you through the test!



Monday, July 18, 2022

Feel the Love

I have been missing out. Maybe you have too. People love you. You don't always realize it. This love can't fulfill its full purpose unless you receive it. To receive love is more than merely acknowledging it. Someone waves at you and you wave back. That interchange, as important as it may be, is complete in mere seconds. But receiving love requires time, attention, and intention.

I so rarely receive love. It's the feeling you get when you hug a loved one and exhale and relax. It's not rushed. It's not distracted. Defenses are down. It is present in the moment.

Most often love comes to us without physical contact. It could be kind words, a timely text, a knowing smile. Love comes to us through thoughtful actions and efforts of others. Love never comes from perfect people, so receiving love implies forgiveness. 

Spend a few minutes quietly thinking of someone who loves you. Think of the many ways over the years that this person has shown love to you. Think of the positive message embodied in that person's actions. The message is for you. Receive it. Thank God for it. Let it soak into your soul.

What if we thought every day about a different person who loves us, and received that love? I think it would transform us from the inside out. It would change our attitudes. It would make our problems less threatening. 

Maybe receiving love will help us share it better. 



Monday, June 13, 2022

Who cares what old people think?

Do young people want advice from old people? 

When I was in my early 20s I don't recall seeking out much advice from my elders. Maybe I would ask about how get a car loan or stop a home invasion of ants. But I thought I had my life's direction in hand. OK, I did ask my parents for input before I proposed to Lisa. But that's all I can think of. Now I respected my elders, but times had changed, and they didn't "get" modern life. Or so I thought. (Mom, I'm just trying to make a point. I'm sure I listened to you and Dad more than that...)

We Baby Boomers felt pretty self-sufficient. So if young people today don't care what we elders think, that's nothing new. Well, it's kind of new. We have heard about old days when young people went to elders for advice. Just watch "Waltons" reruns. Back in the 1930s those kids would really listen to Grandma and Grandpa.

In other cultures around the world, all generations seek out the wisdom of the aged. How come we modern Americans don't care?

Here's one idea, from a Christian perspective.

The Bible is ancient meditation literature. It is designed to be pondered. We Americans just want the facts. Spell it out for me. Just say what you mean. The Bible doesn't do that. To get what the Bible says, you have to keep reading it, comparing passages with similar vocabulary and circumstances. It's like reading The Lord of the Rings; there are details and connections that go right over your head unless you reread, stop and think.

Have you ever thought that Jesus spoke in riddles? That's because he did. He wants you to ponder his words. When people faulted him for hanging around low-life people, he said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners"  (Mark 2:17). You've got to process that one. In fact, all of the Bible makes you think. Why did God accept Abel's offering, but not Cain's? We can only speculate. And we should speculate. God wants us to think about these things.

The Bible is such a vast, rich source of these riddles, we can spend a lifetime pondering them. Scripture is not intended just to pass along information. It is intended to lead us toward understanding through reflection. When someone has spent a lifetime meditating and pondering the scriptures, he or she gains great perspective and wisdom. A dedicated reader knows that life is full of nuance. There is so much to consider. Only after decades of living and struggling, failing and succeeding, reflecting on scripture, can someone have genuine wisdom. 

People who have soaked in truth for ages and spanned the range of human experience are worth listening to. 

Here's the point: We have not done enough truth soaking to get much wisdom. No wonder younger folks don't care what we think.

Yeah, I know I called myself an old person. I'll have to ponder the meaning of that.