Monthly Archives: December 2009


Bowl predictions for the Big Five, anyone?


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The most watched bowl in the land.

The most watched bowl in the land.

While I keep up with college football for enjoyment, I don’t have a favorite team and generally pull for the underdog in any game with two exceptions: Both Notre Dame and Florida could lose every game that remains before the return of Christ and it would suit me just fine. Beat’em every time, I say. Since Notre Dame will not be playing and since Florida is not in the hunt for the national championship my 2010 is already off to a rip-roaring start.

In that spirit, here are my predictions for the Big Five:
Rose Bowl (presented by Gov Citi): Oregon-38 Ohio State-14 (I like any team with 200+ uniform combinations.)
Allstate Sugar Bowl: Cincinnati-150 Florida-0 (A guy can dream.)
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl: Boise State-44 TCU-40 (I’ll be happy for whoever wins this one.)
Fedex Orange Bowl: Georgia Tech-28 Iowa-21 (Staying with the home team.)
National Championship: Alabama-28 Texas-24 (This really hurts.)

Leave your predictions in the comments and feel free to pummel mine into the turf.


‘Sherlock Holmes,’ movie review


Categories: Movie Reviews, Tags: , , , , , ,

Robert Downey, Jr. as Sherlock Holmes  Image: Warner Bros.

Robert Downey, Jr. as Sherlock Holmes Image: Warner Bros.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous sleuth gets a more than elementary treatment in the new Guy Ritchie film, Sherlock Holmes, featuring Robert Downey, Jr. as Holmes, Jude Law as his longsuffering (in more ways than one) sidekick, Dr. John Watson, Rachel McAdams as Holmes’ love interest/nemesis Irene Adler and Chris Strong as the villain Lord Blackwood. Suffice it to say though Holmes still has a predilection toward disguises, making loads of complex deductions from thimblefuls of information and inhabiting 221 B Baker Street, also has ripped abs and seems to be a regular in the London Fight Club. Perhaps Brad Pitt and Edward Norton should have made an appearance.

The theme of the story is the apparent resurrection of a Lord Blackwood, a murderous cult member convicted in the ceremonial death of five women. After being pronounced dead by hanging (by Watson himself) Blackwood’s tomb is found empty and more deaths ensue, especially some who might stand in Blackwood’s way of becoming the not-so-rightful leader of both England and America. Everything that Blackwood does gives the appearance of the dark arts which, combined with his apparent resurrection, strike fear into the hearts of Londoners with the police depending on Holmes and Watson to bring things to a solution.

Chris Strong as Blackwood (l) and Robert Downey, Jr, as Holmes in <i>Sherlock Holmes</i>

Chris Strong as Blackwood (l) and Robert Downey, Jr, as Holmes in Sherlock Holmes

The movie features more action than I remember in The Hound of the Baskervilles with numerous fights, explosions and chases. It also has a significant amount of humor, much of it related to Watson’s impending engagement to Mary Morstan (Kelly Reilly) and Holmes repeated lampooning of the police captain.

Overall, Sherlock Holmes is a fun film, but not a completely satisfying film. Much dialogue was unintelligible due to accents, mumbling or comments made under the breath of the one speaking. Since Holmes always-always-finds a logical reason for everything that he investigates, the supernatural aspect of the story could be dismissed at once by the viewer, while the explanations offered by Holmes depended on so much arcane information (which is typical of Doyle’s creation) that I thought, “How in the world is anyone supposed to figure this out?” Realistically we are not supposed to figure it out; we are supposed to be in awe of Holmes. All in all the film is worth a single viewing, though I will not buy the DVD when it becomes available.

Sherlock Holmes, from Warner Brothers and Village Roadshow Pictures, is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some startling images and a scene of suggestive material. There are no swear words that I remember.


‘The End of Christianity,’ book review


Categories: Book Reviews, Non-fiction, Tags: , , , ,

Dr. William Dembski

Dr. William Dembski

Attempting to find “a good God in an evil world,” Dr. William Dembski, mathematician, philosopher, prolific author and leader in the Intelligent Design movement, presents this effort to reconcile the goodness of God in which we believe with a fallen world which we see. Though there be nothing novel in the attempt, the tack which he takes will be new to many: Dembski asserts that all evil in the world’s history traces back to the sin of Adam and Eve, even the violence, destruction and death that possibly proceeded their creation by billions of years.

Dembski, a theistic evolutionist, suggests a scenario that allows for the prior effects of humanity’s first sin much as the cross had efficacious prior effects for those who believed God before the crucifixion of Christ. Since God is not bound by time these things are not actually prior, but appear so to those of us who cannot see all things as present tense. “God can act retroactively, anticipating what from our vantage are present and future events,” he writes. From God’s view introducing natural evil into creation as a prior-result of sin is logical, even necessary, Dembski argues, for humanity to see the fullness of sin’s depravity. That is, that sin’s effects are so far reaching and so complete that all of creation was affected before sin was even introduced in actual history by the most prominent players.

He bases his view on two realities of time mentioned in scripture: kairos and chronos. Dembski introduces the concept citing Paul Tillich,

[Kairos describes] the feeling that the time [is] ripe, mature, prepared. It is a Greek word which, again, witness to the richness of the Greek language and the poverty of modern languages in comparison with it. We have only the one word “time.” The Greeks had two words: chronos (still used in “chronology,” “chronometer,” etc.): it is clock time, time which is measured. Then there is the word kairos, which is not the quantitative time of the watch, but is the qualitative time of the occasion: the “right” time.

Dembski himself then elaborates,

The distinction between chronos and kairos can be understood in light of the New Testament distinction between the visible realm (i.e., the physical world or kosmos and the invisible realm (i.e., the heavenly world or ouranos. Time operates differently in these two realms. According to the apostle Paul, “the things which are seen are temporal; but th ethings which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18). The visible realm thus operates according to chronos, the simple passage of time. But the invisible realm, in which God resides, operates according to kairos, the ordering of reality according the divine purposes.

Notable for many Christians will be Dembski’s treatment of “young-earth creationism” in Part Two. In a strong rebuke he writes (p. 61),

“Uniformitarianism” is always a dirty word for young-earth creationists in such discussions, signifying an unwillingness by the scientific community to question the constancy of nature and thus to make room for a young earth. When young-earth creationists challenge uniformitarianism, they seem less interested in understanding nature on its own terms than in devising loopholes to support an otherwise untenable position.

Dembski admits in his introduction that the context of the book is our current “mental environment…the surrounding climate of ideas by which we make sense of the world.” How this might differ from the more commonly used worldview, the declines to say. He does, however, note that our mental environment includes the issues of New Atheism and its proponents: Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris. In a telling corollary, Dembski quotes Richard Dawkins,

I think a case can be made that faith is one of the world’s great evils, comparable to the smallpox virus but harder to eradicate.

then proceeds to link a decades old, but chillingly similar statement

The reason why the ancient world was so pure, light, and serene was that it knew nothing of the two great scourges: the pox and Christianity.

which was made by none other than Adolf Hitler.

Dembski’s effort, if not wholly convincing, is certainly a thought provoking effort and worthy of a read of any Christian who desires to engage unbelievers in our current mental environment.
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Christopher Hitchens is right: There is no god


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hitchens Famed “new atheist” author, Christopher Hitchens, is among a handful of well educated, articulate and challenging authors who have recently seen fit to launch an all out attack on the philosophical concept of the existence of God. Whether they have been successful in that attempt depends on who you ask, but the cabal has certainly reignited the debate and has brought it into the mainstream giving impetus to movements like The Blasphemy Challenge of a few years back and the current anti-theistic bus billboards dotting major cities.

The title of Hitchens’ best selling, god is not Great, reveals almost all you need to know about his thinking, and the subtitle, How Religion Poisons Everything, reveals the rest. For instance, Hitchens lists his four objections to religion on page 4:

There still remain four irreducible objections to religious faith: that it wholly misrepresents the origins of man and the cosmos, that because of this original error it manages to combine the maximum of servility with the maximum of solipsism, that it is both the result and the cause of dangerous sexual repression, and that it is ultimately grounded in wish-thinking.

And that might be considered, by an objective reader, as his greatest compliment toward religion. Consider:

Religion spoke its last intelligible or noble or inspiring words a long time ago: either that or it mutated into an admirable but nebulous humanism, as did, say, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a brave Lutheran pastor hanged by the Nazis for his refusal to collude with them. We shall have no more prophets or sages from the ancient quarter, which is why the devotions of today are only the echoing repetitions of yesterday, sometimes ratcheted up to screaming point so as to ward off the terrible emptiness.

The book is replete with certainties that “god” is not needed to help people live ethical (not “moral”) lives and, indeed, the belief in the existence of a deity probably hinders from that effort rather than helping it.

It is his disdain for religion in general, Roman Catholicism in particular, and any omnipresent, omniscient, omnisupreme being (“Big Brother,” to his way of thinking) that causes him to not capitalize references to a supreme being. All references, unlike those of his compatriot, Richard Dawkins, begin with a lower-case “g” as in “god” rather than an upper-case “G” as in “God.”

So let me be clear: I agree with Hitchens. There is no god. I repeat it for absolute clarity: I do not believe in god. I do not believe in the “god of the Grammys” or the “god of the Oscars” who shows up during award shows to legitimize every kind of obscene and profane behavior. I do not believe in the god of the American civil religion in which a geopolitical entity has claimed for itself a designation reserved for the church, “a city set on a hill.” I do not believe in a god who tells people to blow themselves and others to smithereens to secure 72 virgins in the afterlife, but I also do not believe in a god who sent “crusaders” a thousand miles to secure Jerusalem at the cost of many lives. I do not believe in a god who is so passive that he will not engage people, so impotent that he cannot do so or so detached that he finds no reason. I do not believe in a god who cannot control that which he creates, nor do I believe in a god who laughs at injustice, mocks the cries of the abused, ignores blood screaming from some dung laden patch of ground in Darfur or a sterile operating room floor in Manhattan, overlooks the undisciplined earthly extravagance of the super wealthy or the unchanging earthly impecuniousness of the poorest poor.

Therefore, I cannot be compelled to believe in god. I may have at one time in my life, but I never will again. I am not a theist. I am not a deist.

I am a Christian. I believe, not in a god, but in the God and Father of my Lord Jesus Christ. I believe only in the God of the Bible. In other words, if Jesus Christ is not God who died for me, then I have no interest at all in any other god and would not convert to Islam or Judaism. I’m not afraid of atheism, but find it lacking and false.

The new atheists argue that all Christians are atheists to a point: we all disbelieve Zeus, Apollo, Poseidon and the other gods of mythology. The new atheists then assert that they merely take their disbelief one god further. Leaving off for a moment that they are actually taking it many gods further since the concept of “god” is so widely defined, this philosophy is fraught with a major glitch: if you are denying the existence of the true God, then you are not merely taking a lack of belief to another of the same pantheon of fictional deities, you are denying gravity while calling it spontaneous generation. It is for this reason that the psalmist said, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.'”

In a debate with Oxford professor John Lennox, atheist Michael Shermer was asked, “What would it take for you to believe in God?” He gave a Woody Allen reply, “Twenty million dollars deposited in Swiss bank account,” laughing at his own response. The problem with Shermer’s answer is that he was lying. He would not believe in God if twenty million dollars or any amount were deposited in a Swiss bank account, a Cayman Islands account or fell in bags of pennies from a passing 777. He’d simply say, “Well, that money obviously was deposited by someone who just chose to remain anonymous. There is no miracle or mystery.” Shermer, Hitchens, Dawkins, et al do not believe because they cannot find enough evidence for God or because they find too much evidence against Him. They do not believe because they will not believe, even if all the evidence in the universe stood on the other side. And it does.

John R. W. Stott once wrote, and I paraphrase, “I would find it hard to believe in God at all if not for the cross.” I myself would find it impossible to believe in God if not for the incarnation. Far from distancing Himself from the plight of humanity, He plunged headlong into it. Opposite being detached, He became firmly entrenched.

Welcome Christmas, but while you do, be sure to jettison belief in a vague, generic god. In fact, celebrate the fact that there is no god. Reserve yourself only and wholly for the God who revealed Himself in Jesus the Messiah, who invaded our space 2,000 plus or minus years ago and continues to do so today.


House of cards, ship of fools, and a crew of whores


Categories: Blog, News, Tags: , , ,

U.S. Capitol Building The duly elected representatives and senators of the United States of America are closer than ever to passing the most sweeping government reform in recent history if not the history of the Union. It happens to have to do with health care, or more specifically, exactly how much the federal government will have re-shaped and absorbed the medical profession in this country. According to Rueters:

The bill would significantly change the $2.5 trillion U.S. healthcare system that almost everyone agrees costs too much and leaves too many people without medical coverage. For the first time in U.S. history, citizens and legal residents will be required to purchase a health insurance policy.

Federal subsidies will be available to help them afford coverage. The subsidies will be available for people with incomes up to 400 percent of the poverty level, about $88,200 for a family of four. The poverty levels for 2009 is $22,050 a year for a family of four and $10,830 for an individual.

So, unlearned ones, in typical government fashion it requires more in premiums than taxpayers can afford and then taxes taxpayers more to subsidize the overpriced offering. Or perhaps we just borrow the money and tax future taxpayers, since they will be more healthy thanks to the miracle bill.

Now that each and every Democrat in the senate has agreed to support the proposed legislation before the body, and there being insufficient Republican and Independent opposition even to filibuster, all that remains is a compromise between the House and Senate versions for the American people to be on the hook for more money than Solomon enjoyed in all his splendor.

Now, personally, I expect that presidents will try to promote their own agenda and work very hard to get it passed. Our current president has made multiple impassioned speeches for a health care plan to be put into place, saying it is shameful for us not to have a nationalized health plan. Others seem to believe that it is a civil right to have affordable health care if not a birthright.

At last count the Senate version of the bill was over 2,000 pages long (it can be viewed in part at The next step, according to Georgia Senator Saxby Chamblis’ office, is final Senate approval of some version of the bill. As there are substantial differences between the House and Senate versions, a joint House/Senate committee would then be responsible to hammer out an agreement (which, if form holds, will combine all of the spending and program increases to make everyone happy, while excising nothing).

The last Democratic holdout, Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson, finally joined the rest of the compromisers this weekend thereby gaining big benefits for the cornhusker state, according to CNN,

As a part of the deal, the federal government will pay 100 percent of Nebraska’s tab indefinitely for expanding Medicaid for low-income Americans.

Must be nice work if you can get it.

While Nelson’s fellow Nebraskan, Republican Sen. Mike Johanns, was displeased with the general idea of “carve-outs” (also known as bribes), saying:

There should be no special deals, no carve-outs for anyone in this health care bill; not for states, not for insurance companies, not for individual senators.

All of the special deals should be removed. If the bill cannot pass without carve-outs, what further evidence is needed that it is bad policy.

Nevada clown senator, Harry Reid, thinks they are okay. After all, if everyone is taking bribes then it’s okay for everyone to take bribes, right? Said Reid,

If you will read the bill…you will find a number of states are treated differently than other states. That’s what legislation is all about: compromise. We worked on different things to get a number of people’s votes.

In other words, we did a lot of prostituting. By the way, Mr. Reid, I’d love to read the bill; unfortunately will not let me download it yet. My guess is that it will be voted on before the people even have an honest chance to know what is in it.

Even with all this hoo-lah, excessive spending and endless borrowing, the thing that bothers me the most is the senators and representatives no longer vote the desires of the the people in Districts 13, 5 and 62 or in the state of Georgia. The role of government is not to do what the gathered 500+ believe is best for the people, but to carry out the will of the people. In the biggest decisions of the last few months (the first bailout package under Bush and Paulson) and now the health care package, the majority of the population opposed the passages, while the politicians either did pass it (the former) or seem dead-set on doing so (the latter).

The one thing I am not advocating is the rule of the mob, since the republic is built on the rule of law. Absent the law, however, it is the responsibility of the elected ones to listen to their electors and act on their direction, which our senators and representatives seem incredibly unwilling to do. It is in this way that government is both of and by the people. As it is, our government is a ship of fools, sailing toward a house of cards, crewed by a bunch of whores.

Merry Christmas.


Looking to give this Christmas?

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AClogodesignStamp2 If you are looking for a gift that has lasting meaning this Christmas, you might want to check out Advent Conspiracy where we are being encouraged to “give presence.” The [AC] website explains:

People are dying from the lack of clean water. In fact, it’s the leading cause of death in under resourced countries. 1.8 million people die every year from water born illnesses. That includes 3,900 children a day. The solution to this problem is directly beneath our feet. Drilling a fresh water well is a relatively inexpensive, yet permanent solution to this epidemic. $10 will give a child clean water for life. That’s not an estimate. It’s a fact. And here’s another fact: Solving this water problem once and for all will cost about $10 billion. Not bad considering Americans spent $450 billion on Christmas last year. Our hope is that, by celebrating Christ in a new way at Christmas, the church can serve as the leading movement behind ending the water crisis once and for all.

Advent Conspiracy has partnered with Living Water International in the well drilling project. LWI has a great and unique gift card program; I encourage you to check it out.


‘Avatar,’ movie review


Categories: Movie Reviews, Tags: , , , , ,

Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) and Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) in Avatar  Image: 20th Century Fox

Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) and Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) in Avatar Image: 20th Century Fox

The long awaited James Cameron (Titanic) CGI fest, Avatar, has hit a screen near you. Boasting a new generation of effects, the film, 5 years in the making, cost a reported half-billion dollars to make and features live action along with the special effects extravaganza.

Moviegoers looking for deep meaning will likely be disappointed; this story has been told a thousand times in a hundred ways: underdogs win the day. Sam Worthington plays Jake Scully, a paraplegic, ex-Marine who, upon the death of his identical twin brother, finds himself on a five light-year mission from earth as part of a diplomatic effort. Diplomacy was needed on the distant planet of Pandora, where an abundance of “Unobtainium” (or that’s what it sounded like they were saying) is needed to power Earth which has been stripped of her own natural resources. A few humans had “avatars” developed which mixed their own DNA with that of the host race, the Na’vi, then, through a cerebral link, a la “The Matrix,” the human is able to control their avatar in the toxic atmosphere of Pandora.

Trained by Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver, Alien Series), for working with his avatar, Scully is simultaneously recruited by the corporate security chief, Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang, Public Enemies), to infiltrate the Na’vi and attempt to move them from their dwelling place, Hometree, underneath which lies the largest deposit of Unobtainium for “200 cliques.” Predictably, Scully falls in love with one of the natives, Neytiri (Zoe Saldana, Star Trek), and ends up rallying the troops to fight the invading bulldozers, tractors and other pillaging equipment.

Scully (Worthington) and Quaritch (Lang) takes a look at a schematic of the Na'vi Hometree  Image: 20th Century Fox

Scully (Worthington) and Quaritch (Lang) takes a look at a schematic of the Na'vi Hometree Image: 20th Century Fox

The Na’vi themselves are twelve or so feet tall with long tails, carbon fiber skin and feline agility. In fact, they look like the cross-bred offspring of a jamboree of jaguars with The Blue Man Group. Culturally, they are African complete with Shamans, communication with dead ancestors, bows and arrows, adulthood rituals and loin cloths. Similar to Tolkein’s Elvish language for LOTR, an entire language system was developed for the Na’vi and it sounds like an African dialect. At its core the Na’vi could be any people whose land has ever been taken by a stronger people and exploited for the availability of some natural resource, whether that be the land itself (the American Indians), oil (Nigeria) or diamonds (Sierra Leone).

Generally the movie is anti-imperialistic and pro-environment; be forewarned, when you see the ultra-lush, spectacularly rendered vistas of Pandora, you’ll be pro-environment, too. Otherwise the human acting is nothing outstanding (other than Lang, who is the best of the bunch) and the storyline was obviously a vehicle for the special effects, rather than the effects carrying the story.

Also, I think it important to note that there is a very heavy pantheistic bent and open promotion of goddess worship. This is not an undertone; it makes up the central spiritual thread of the movie. Though Cameron may not believe these things himself, their presence mitigates against any real biblically redemptive quality.

(Lang is a largely under appreciated actor having played Stonewall Jackson in Gods and Generals but is better known for a significant part in one of the most quoted movies of the 1990’s. See if you can figure it out by his voice and features. I’ll put it on the first comment, so don’t look if you don’t want to know.)

Avatar, from 20th Century Fox, is rated PG-13 for language, violence, and scant CGI clothing on some most Na’vi.


A couple of music videos for your enjoyment

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Categories: Music, Tags: , , , ,

I think I first heard this on a Jaguar commercial a few years back. This is History Repeating by Propellorhead w/Dame Shirley Bassey. Purchase History Repeating on Propellerheads & Shirley Bassey - Decksandrumsandrockandroll - History Repeating

This song was used on an L.L. Bean commercial a couple of years ago. This is a fan video but looks almost good enough to be the real thing–Fountains of Wayne’s Valley Winter Song. Warning: This song is habit forming. Purchase Valley Winter Song on Fountains of Wayne - Welcome Interstate Managers - Valley Winter Song


At the Acoustic House Show, concert review


Categories: Concert Reviews, Music, Tags: , , , , ,

Jordan Burk opens the Acoustic House Show.  All Photos: Donna Chapman

Jordan Burk opens the Acoustic House Show All Photos: Donna Chapman

Andy Zipf

Andy Zipf

In the great tradition of indie music small venues like coffee shops, bars and homes are the trade specialty. Last night I have the opportunity to enjoy an acoustic show at the home of Eric and CJ Burk of Buford, GA. Headlined by American Standard, Damion Suomi, Lauris Vidal and Andy Zipf with opener, Jordan Burk, those in attendance were treated to about three hours of music, food and fun. It was the second show in as many months at the Burk home, a warm establishment perfectly suited to such concerts and though the performers might have outnumbered the attendees, they did not lack for spirit, enthusiasm and talent.
Damion Suomi

Damion Suomi

Lauris Vital

Lauris Vidal

All the performers with the exception of Jordan have been traveling together in transportation currently provided by To Write Love On Her Arms a “non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide.” TWLOHA t-shirts and information was also available. While many songs were in the relationship genre, others were very reflective on issues of life including a few filled with biblical allusions like the eye of the needle and the vanity of life based on the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes.
The Samsonite drum kit of American Standard

The Samsonite drum kit of American Standard

Another aspect of indie music in full force was quality musicianship and the vocalizations typically different than pop radio–much more expressive than the million sellers that fill the air waves. It is this uniqueness of sound and experience related in the lyrics that make indie fans fiercely loyal; somebody you’ve never heard is somebody a fan thinks is the best musician penning tunes.

Lauris Vidal on MySpace and on Lauris Vidal.

Andy Zipf on MySpace and on Andy Zipf

Damion Soumi on MySpace and on Damion Suomi

Jordan Burk on Facebook and on You Tube

American Standard online and on on Facebook

You can keep up with Acoustic House Show now on Facebook and here beginning in February.


When faith strengthens faith


Categories: Blog, Devotional, Tags: , ,

faithA few thoughts on the subject of faith, an excerpt from my Keeping Company With God prayer journal.

It seems to me that faith is a long term deal more than a short term solution. Less “I’m praying for a good deal on a house,” and more “I’m confident that God is in control of the universe, regardless of what happens to me.”

It is obvious that there is a “day-to-day” faith that sees us through decision making, relationships and storms. This seems to be the kind of faith that pervades our prayer times-“Lord, make my child well.” Our longer term faith is less expressed in prayer than it is lived out over the course of years. It becomes a disposition of our existence-not fate-but trust in the all seeing, knowing and caring God of the Bible.

In this life, the long-term faith must always inform the short term faith and not vice-versa. When long term faith is experienced as contentment in the actions of the sovereign God, then short term faith is encouraged. When the struggle of short term faith becomes the foundation of long term faith, then both waver and may collapse. We cannot, nor are we expected to go day-to-day without the assurance that God is for us in the end. In the end we are helped when we view our short term trials and persecutions in the light of a yonder star, not the flashlight in hand.

Paul wrote, “I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8). God’s view is always the long term view and that should be ours as well.

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