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My favorite podcasts

I listen to a lot of podcasts. In fact, since I’ve turned 30, the only time I listen to music these days is if I’m studying or praying. Most of the time in the car, or when I’m doing semi-mindless tasks, it’s either an audiobook or podcast that I’m listening to, and I go through a good deal of them. I’ve subscribed and unsubscribed to many over the years, and here are the ones that remain. So I’ll give my take on each, and if you think you know of any I really should be listening to, let me know!

  1. Line of Fire Radio. (Theology + Politics) This is Michael Brown’s podcast, and there really isn’t a theologian in the world that I align more closely with than him. I think Brown is one of the most credible, balanced, knowledgable, and passionate Christian thinkers out there. He has an incredible handle on Scripture and how it applies to both Christian life and politics, and I’ve learned a lot from his books and youtube debates as well. His podcast format, though, sucks. It’s basically a recording of his national radio show, and the constant commercial interruptions make it a chore to listen to. His formatting and music also seem like they’re stuck in 1980. So, A+ content in a C- format. I’ll go with B. Time to hire a modern producer please!
  2. Equip the Saints. (Church Ministry) This is one I just started listening to. It’s hosted by Chris Cruz, who’s the Young Adult Pastor at Bethel, and basically seems like conversations about a host of ministry topics. It’s too early to give a real opinion on this, but so far it’s been pretty awesome. N/A
  3. Bethel Church Sermon of the Week. (Weekly Sermons) To be honest, I’ve been listening to this one less and less over the years. I still greatly love and appreciate Bill Johnson and Kris Valloton, but I think my preference in listening has changed. In the past couple years of my life I prefer more hard teaching/theology to weekly inspirational sermons. They have great insights on a lot of topics, I just want more hard facts than catchy revelations lately. For most people, I think this is a pretty great podcast to listen to regularly. B+
  4. The Ben Shapiro Show. (Politics) If you care about politics at all, I highly recommend this one. Shapiro is a fount of knowledge; he has like a conservative encyclopedia in his head, and there’s just no one that I’ve found that marries incredible eloquence with fact-backed logic like he does. Just check out some of his youtube videos if you’ve never heard of him. He does tend to stray a bit too much to mockery for my comfort, but unfortunately so do most political commentators. A.
  5. Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History. (History) This is an amazing history podcast. It’s well researched and entertaining, which is pretty important when trying to learn history. He does a good job trying to be historically objective, and just really has a knack for creating a narrative out of the historical data. The only real objective I have is that he’s really slow at adding more episodes. A-
  6. Freakonomics Radio. (Pop economics/culture/politics). What we’re seeing everywhere right now is the infusion of statistical analysis into all walks of life, which is a good thing. I love how data-driven analysis is combatting conventional wisdom in sports, politics, and, who knows, maybe even religion (one day). Freakonomics is probably the poster-child of this movement, and they occasionally find great insights, like how no one can taste the price of wine, or how abortion is primarily responsible for the drop in crime rates in the 90s (though this one has been academically challenged). It’s insightful; it’s fun; it’s well produced; it just has a lot of topics I don’t care about often. B
  7. The Tim Ferriss Show. (Leadership). Ok, I have to confess, I’ve been subscribed to this one for several months and have yet to listen to an episode. His guest line-up is just amazing, and the topics look fascinating; I just haven’t really taken the plunge to really test it out. Blame it on the thousands of other great things I could be listening to. I read 4 Hour Workweek several years ago and loved it, so I do plan to eventually listen to this. N/A
  8. The Lowe Post. (NBA). This is the best basketball podcast out there IMO, as I think Zach Lowe gives the best consistent basketball analysis. He knows his stuff, articulates it well, and has on knowledgable guests. I like that he appreciates and incorporates saber-metrics, but isn’t overly reliant on them, and isn’t afraid to challenge his guests when he disagrees. I miss his interaction with Bill Simmons, as Simmons has the best narrative eye (he creates compelling stories out of what he sees) and then Lowe would anchor the discussion back in reality. A-
  9. The Grey Nato. (Horology). I’m a closet watch nerd, like, those things that people used to wear on their wrists that tick. James Stacey, who does some of the best reviews for Watch Report and a Blog to Watch, talks about watches and I nerdily listen along. Most people would not enjoy this one at all, but if you know the difference between a Speedmaster Pro and Reduced, check it out. A-

That’s it! I keep hoping that Mike Bickle would put out a decent podcast (come on Mike!) as his online teaching library is just clunky to use on a phone, or that Rick Joyner would do one (though I’d have to use the 2x speed feature for him). Let me know if you know of any great ones!

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In the Wake of Orlando

America has just suffered its worst terrorist attack since 9/11 and, like everyone else, I’ve been digesting the event and the various responses for the past couple days. Many things about this attack are notable, including the fact that the target was a gay club, that the shooter was American and ISIS-inspired, that the weapons were obtained legally, and that the responses of American leaders differ significantly. Events like these often serve as catalysts for societal change and both political sides have attempted to use the event to fuel their message, which is understandable. So here’s how I see it:

  1. Christians must be vocally compassionate in this hour. I’ve been encouraged by the outpouring of Christian sympathy, prayers, and support for the gay community. Events like these have the potential to fuel fires of antagonism and misunderstanding, which is why Christians should be the first to offer support, and do so vocally. Though many Christians leaders have done this, I’m especially encouraged by Chick-fil-A, whose support is being picked up by major news publications across the country. It’s notable that the reason they have such a powerful voice now is because they held fast to biblical values before and came under heavy criticism. Because of their former courage, they are now uniquely positioned to demonstrate how Christians are to be both truthful and compassionate. In this hour, it is vital that Christians refuse to give in to the temptation to compromise biblical morality or biblical compassion. We must speak the truth in love. Right now we do that by mourning with those who mourn, and refusing to delight in evil.
  2. Shame on those who promote extremist views as though they speak for the majority. I’ve seen a couple articles that have published tweets from the Westboro Baptist ilk as though they represent Christian sentiment. I’ve even seen some Christians do this as a means of shaming those who oppose gay marriage, as though their “hate” is responsible for this attack. This is despicable and divisive. All groups have their extremists, and we all must refuse to judge one another by each groups most radical elements. Likewise, it is necessary to reaffirm the truth that the vast majority of Muslims are not radicals. The left’s concern on this point is valid, though I also think it’s also important to appreciate that despite these latest terrorist attacks, there have been almost no hate crimes against Muslims reported.
  3. Gun control is not the answer. The Democrats have begun another strong push for gun reform, and it is understandable why. From their perspective, the abundance of guns in America is to blame for gun violence, and many are genuinely heartbroken and pushing for what they see as the most likely solution to the problem. I sympathize with them, but I want to strongly warn against jumping to gun control as the answer, especially when most advocates that I know don’t really understand the conservative argument for gun rights. There are hundreds of articles detailing the pros and cons of gun rights, so I’ll just link this one that describes some of the reasons why more gun control would probably not help decrease the murder rate. I’ll also say that we can look at the UK, where guns were made illegal in 1997 (even most police there have tasers now) and the murder rate actually rose. But my real argument is not even about traditional murder. Gun control might actually save some lives in the short term (though I’m fairly skeptical that it would), but it will absolutely expose us to the two greatest dangers in the world today: terrorism and government tyranny.
  4. This is just the start of the global terrorism threat. There are no current signs that radical Islamic ideology is decreasing, but in fact just the opposite. ISIS is extremely important, not because of its size, but because of what it represents in the evolution of the Middle East.  The current borders of Middle Eastern nations were largely created by the British and French after WWI when they controlled the region, and were designed to keep the region internally divided. Iraq, for example, was drawn to include large populations of Shiites and Kurds to check the Sunni population. Moreover, secular leadership assumed power and have mostly remained in power until the present time. Iran was the first of the Middle Eastern nations to have an Islamic Revolution that overthrew the Western-supported secular dictator in favor of a religious government. The U.S. did everything it could to stop this, but the mitigating factor is that Iran is dominated by Shiite Muslims, which make up only 10% of all Muslims internationally.

    The truly great threat is the consolidation of Sunni Muslims (which make up the other 90%) under a radical theocracy. This is the dream that is ISIS, a new Islamic Caliphate that will unite all Muslims under a theocratic regime to launch global jihad. The reason why Republican leaders fought so hard to keep troops in Iraq was to prevent this at all costs. Without a strong local dictator, they knew that the radical Islamic leaders would likely fill the power vacuum and begin to consolidate their power. The point: ISIS was not unforeseen. The big problem is that this version of the Caliphate-dream has some truly smart leadership that is exploiting social media and modern communications technology to try to radicalize Westerners via the internet. And it’s working. San Bernadino and Orlando are significant because they are among the first successful terrorist attacks by home-grown Americans on U.S. soil in response to ISIS propaganda efforts. Again, the terrorist threat is not diminishing; it is increasing. To now suggest that the answer is for law-abiding Americans to voluntarily surrender their arms is madness at this point. We’ve had only a handful of terrorist attacks here in the U.S., but globally there have been almost 30,000 of such attacks since 9/11.

  5. The greatest reason for the 2nd Amendment is because of the threat of oppressive governments. America was founded on a dream that a free people could rule themselves. It was such a crazy dream at the time that it was called the “American experiment” because the prevailing sentiment in Europe was that common people needed nobility to rule them or they would destroy themselves. The American experiment proved a great success, however, and has essentially been copied throughout the world with varying degrees of success. This is why American culture is obsessed with liberty and freedom. This is our contribution to the world and at the center of our way of life. But freedom has a key. At the center of what made American freedom possible was Christian morality. Alexis de Tocqueville famously said that American is great because America is good. A strong moral culture has always been the key to American greatness because it is what enables American freedom.

    So what does this have to do with gun control? The right to bear arms is, in many ways, the guarantor of every other right, because it protects all the others. Without firepower Americans are one bad government away from losing all their rights because they would have no way to defend them against a government that decided they didn’t need them any more. What if Trump was actually the kind of mini-Hitler that some fear he is? His chance of winning the White House is not insignificant. Or what if increasing terrorism unleashes a political candidate that makes Trump look like a teddy bear? The fact is that no one can tell the future with any certainty, but this constitutional right in particular was designed to protect American liberty against all these threats. Should we surrender it so willingly when the benefits are dubious at best? Of course not.

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Blog Reboot

Now that I’m (mostly) out of school, I find I have enough to time to write again, so I’m rebooting my blog. This time around my heart is a bit different, as I want to write about various things I’m interested in, and not just theology and politics (though those two topics will no doubt be oft-visited). I enjoy lots of different subjects, from books I’m reading to various hobbies, and even some family life. In short, I’m planning for this page to be a bit more personal.

I took this picture outside of Creamistry in Cerritos. Eden, my daughter, apparently realized that there were hundreds of twinkling stars in the sky that night, and took some three or four minutes to admire and contemplate them. The moment seemed quite deep for a two year old. As I look back on the picture, I find myself appreciating this entire season of my life. My family is not wealthy or famous or special in any momentous way, but we’re happy, and I can’t help but think that it is some kind of unheralded special-ness to be genuinely thankful in life for whatever blessings one has, though they may not seem like much to anyone else. So Father, thank you for your faithful love and guidance!