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Set Us Free

Paradise,
polluted and poisoned.

Our resounding plea:
“Set us free.”

We are writhing and reeling from the Fall.

Our affections wander and wane,
our struggles remain.

O’ Lord set us free.

We fettered our shackles,
we tossed the key.

But O’ Messiah, set us free.

 

 

The Psalms and Our Songs

The Psalms are important for a number of reasons. For one, they take up a fairly large portion of Scripture and they have been a comfort for many. Spurgeon, known as the “prince of preachers,” struggled with depression and he found comfort and solace in the Psalms. He spent some twenty years writing his three-volume commentary on the Psalms.

The Psalms are also important because we are exhorted to sing Psalms. The Psalms are important because they give powerful truths poetic expression. This is helpful because it not only helps us remember the truths but helps us feel the truth. The Psalms are beautiful and will have a very practical impact on us when we soak in them.

Interestingly, Scripture has laments in it and so does our surrounding culture. Most Christian circles, however, do not have laments. Why is this? Is it because Christians are always happy? And always live victoriously? I don’t think so.

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Tools for Effectiveness

Below I list out resources that I have sought to leverage for optimal efficiency and effectiveness. We have amazing resources and also unprecedented distractions. Here are some things I have used to try to make the most of my time:

evernote Evernote

I have found Evernote very helpful. It allows you to create shelves, notebooks, and pages so that you can keep various lists and thoughts on any number of topics. It also allows you to tag everything. It has helped me be more organized and it has been very helpful because it is always with me and accessible. Actually, the first draft of this post was written on Evernote over the course of a few days. [free]

Advice: Use Evernote. And take the time to learn from the tutorials. It will be worth it to organize your notes and be able to find and track your thoughts. 

unnamed Pocket

I have found this app very helpful. You can save articles in Pocket, tag them for quick recall, and even share on social media. My favorite thing about this app is that it will read to me! I can now drive and “read” articles. [free]

Advice: Don’t spend all your time pocketing things, actually read stuff. Second, there’s no way to underline or make notes so screenshot the parts you want to capture and add them Evernote. 

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Thirty Thoughts Before Your Thirties

[[This is written to be especially applicable for high school graduates but the points apply to us all.]]

  1. Don’t forget about God and your personal convictions. You could gain the world, popularity and an inconceivably high GPA, but if you forfeit your soul it profits you nothing. In Jesus alone is there abundant life.
  2. Be in Christian community. Go to church. Read your Bible. Pray. Sing songs of praise to God.
  3. Talk to your pastor or spiritual mentor. Let them know when you have questions or are struggling with something.
  4. Have a personal development plan and record your goals and how you’re going to get there. And then do those things.
  5. Exercise. Just do it.
  6. Work ahead when possible.
  7. Do fun stuff but don’t be stupid. Always consider the possible consequences of your actions.
  8. Have fun but make the most of your time. For instance, maybe turn off Candy Crush and don’t binge-watch as much Sponge Bob, or whatever. Maybe even turn the Internet off every once and awhile. It’s won’t be gone forever, I promise.
  9. Have fun. Although it feels difficult these are probably the funniest and easiest years of your life.
  10. Build relationships. Build relationships with your peers but also with professors, advisors, and bosses. Network (but not just for the purpose of networking. Actually care about people). And meet new people, different people. Say hi to people that you normally wouldn’t say hi to.
  11. Explore your interests and abilities. As you consider the future, keep an open mind.
  12. Ask questions and ask for help (in all sorts of settings).
  13. Learn about finances. Make a budget. Learn about investing. Don’t take out a loan unless you really have to.
  14. Get there ten minutes early and leave ten after. Talk to your professor or boss and listen to the questions that your peers have. 
  15. Stop your horrible habits now, don’t wait.
  16. Write things down (your schedule, thoughts, wishes, dreams, and the occasional poem). Your brain dumps its memory every night, your phone or notebook doesn’t.
  17. Ask questions. Interact with the content you’re being taught. Share your opinions (though, not in an obnoxious know-it-all way)
  18. Read the syllabus. Love the syllabus. Live and die by the syllabus.
  19. Call your parents and siblings (if you have them).  
  20. Prioritize! Don’t procrastinate! If you prioritize well you have more room to procrastinate.
  21. Love learning for the sake of learning, not just for the grade. A love for learning will serve you better than your GPA.
  22. Chose your friends wisely.
  23. Chose your “special someone” wisely.
  24. Enjoy the work you do even if you don’t enjoy it.
  25. Remember one side sounds right until you hear the other. This is a proverb that holds true in all areas
  26. “I read it on the internet” doesn’t equal truth (even if you see the same thing in a few places).
  27. Relativism is actually harmful. Unless there is objective truth, the exhortation for people to be kind (e.g. planet care, respecting others, and not harming others) is subjective and relative to the whim of individuals (and thus doesn’t really need to be heeded).*
  28. Read books. Read blogs, read news articles, but let the biggest part of your diet be books, especially old books that have stood the test of time.
  29. Do your work. Your professor should know what they’re doing. So, do the work that they assign.
  30. Keep your own list. Remember what you have learned and pass it on.

__________________

*”To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis on which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights” (Timothy Snyder, *On Tyranny*).

Jesus and Jihad (part one)

Introduction

Islam has many expressions. It is not monolithic. We are wrong if we think we understand Muslims because we have met one or read the Qur’an. That is a simplistic and false understanding. “Islam is a dynamic and varied religious tradition.”[1] In the same way, if you have met a Christian and read the New Testament, for example, that does not mean that you understand Christianity. “The range of contemporary Muslim religiosity varies tremendously. One of the reasons for this is that people understand and ‘use’ religion in a variety of ways; that is true whether we are dealing with Islam or Christianity or any other religion.”[2]

As Christians have different beliefs regarding certain doctrines, Muslims have different beliefs as well. Christianity has many expressions, liberal and fundamental and various particular denominations. In this post (and in part two), we will explore the Islamic understanding of jihad and contrast it with Christianity. Our first observation is to realize the multifaceted nature of our exploration.

Many Expressions of Islam

As we have briefly seen, not all Muslims are the same and not all Muslims understand jihad in the same way. So, some Muslims emphasize the more peaceful passages (e.g. surah 5:32; 2:256; Allah is also repeatedly said to be “most gracious, most merciful”) and that the Qur’an seems to teach to not begin the fight (2:190; 22:39). However, others believe that those who have not confessed Allah and his prophet have already essentially made war with Muslims and should be subjugated.[3] Some Muslims are strict adherents to Islam and some are secular. Muslims are not homogeneous. (For example, we see two very different narrative accounts in Nabeel Qureshi’s, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus and Mosab Hassan Yousef’s, Son of Hamas). In fact, “not all Muslims believe that the Qurʾān is the literal and inerrant word of God, nor do all of them believe that Islam requires strict conformity to all the religious and moral precepts in the Qurʾān.”[4] We could group Muslims into three broad groups: secular Muslims, traditional Muslims, and fundamentalist Muslims.

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Beauty (a few thoughts & more questions)

Beauty. What is it? Dictionary.com says beauty is “the quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind, whether arising from sensory manifestations (as shape, color, sound, etc.), a meaningful design or pattern, or something else.”

Roger Scruton asks, “Why do we call things beautiful? What point are we making, and what state of mind does our judgment express?”[1]

“The nature of beauty is one of the most enduring and controversial themes in Western philosophy, and is—with the nature of art—one of the two fundamental issues in philosophical aesthetics. Beauty has traditionally been counted among the ultimate values, with goodness, truth, and justice.”[2]

Objective or Subjective?
At the head of the conversation over beauty is whether beauty is subjective or objective. The subjective view holds that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder;” beauty is determined by the subject.[3] The objective view holds that beauty is in the object. That is, there are some things that are objectively beautiful. However, it seems to me that there are actually problems with both of these views.

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Not all “facts” are created equal (and other proverbs for today)

A few important and relevant things I’ve found to be true through my short tenure on earth:

1. Statistics can be skewed (in all sorts of ways).

2. Money talks, and sometimes money makes people talk about facts that don’t actually exist.

3. “Sound bits” don’t equal sound knowledge.

4. Video doesn’t always equal validation.

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