Vitus

Vitus is a delightful (subtitled) story about a gifted boy who wants to live a normal life. No spoilers here. I give the movie 8 or 9 stars out of 10.

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Bit Literacy (a brief review)

Mark Hurst offers practical suggestions on how to maintain our sanity in a digital world that threatens to overwhelm us.

Bits are tiny electrical impulses that make up every kind of digital file we use (e-mails, web pages, photos, music, text documents). And though they are physically weightless, the stress that accumulated, unmanaged bits add to our lives often makes them feel weighty to us. That is why we need to become “bit literate.”

Consider the following advice…

E-mail:

  • Don’t use the inbox as a storage area.
  • Instead, get your inbox to zero at least once a day.
    (A tool he created, gootodo.com, provides a way to turn requests into date-specific to-dos.)

Media diet:

  • Only subscribe to the very best e-mail newsletters, blogs, podcasts, etc. Don’t feel that you need to (or that you even can) keep up to date with all the news that is available.
  • Learn how to read a URL so that you can avoid certain online scams.

Photos:

  • Take several shots of each scene.
  • Delete all but the best.
  • Store with a two-level system (year | month-event)

Text formats:

  • If document doesn’t need to be printed: use ASCII
  • If document needs to be printed and edited: use Word, Google Docs, InDesign (then share the document in PDF)

Naming files and folders:

  • Most files: initials-date-topic.extension
  • Space name (or underscore) files (example: “_contact” or “_schedule”)
    These are special folders or files that you want to appear at the top of an alphabetical list.
  • Ongoing files: canvases and log files
    These use a slightly different naming convention (putting the date in the name wouldn’t make sense since you are continually adding to the file).

There are a lot of other tips in the book, some of which may need to be adapted to your specific situation. But I appreciate both the breadth and the level of detail that Bit Literacy provides.

God’s Big Picture (a brief review)

God's Big PictureWhat ties the various (and seemingly disparate) writings of Scripture together into a cohesive whole called the Bible? A couple of things:

  1. Christians see God as the ultimate author. The scriptures are “God-breathed.”
  2. Despite the wide range of material that the Bible covers, it has one supreme subject: Jesus Christ.

Beyond these observations, though, is there any particular theme that unifies the various parts of the Bible?

Some scholars have concluded that there are many separate strands running through the pages of the Bible, but warn against trying to force everything into one specific mold.

Vaughan Roberts, following Graeme Goldsworthy, argues instead that there is such a unifying concept: the kingdom of God. If we define the kingdom of God broadly as “God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule and blessing,” we can spot this concept without much difficulty throughout the Bible.

Roberts explains what the kingdom of God has looked like throughout the years of biblically recorded history. He begins with the Garden of Eden, and ends with the new heavens and new earth. By the end of the book, he has covered every major stage in between:

God’s people God’s place God’s rule and blessing
The pattern of the kingdom Adam and Eve The garden God’s word; perfect relationships
The perished kingdom No-one Banished Disobedience and curse
The promised kingdom Abraham’s descendants Canaan Blessing to Israel and the nations
The partial kingdom The Israelites Canaan (and Jerusalem and temple) The law and the king
The prophesied kingdom Remnant of Israel; inclusion of nations New temple; new creation New covenant; new king; great blessing
The present kingdom Jesus Christ: new Adam; new Israel Jesus Christ: true tabernacle; true temple Jesus Christ: new covenant; rest
The proclaimed kingdom The new Israel: Jew and Gentile believers in Christ The individual believer; the church New covenant; Holy Spirit
The perfected kingdom Multi-national family of God New creation, new Jerusalem, new temple Throne of God and the Lamb; perfect blessing

I’ll admit that I was a bit skeptical at first of Roberts’ unifying theme. Forcing onto Scripture a structure that isn’t there struck me as unhelpful and unnecessary. But as I read his book, I realized that Roberts wasn’t really forcing his structure onto the Bible. The divisions do really seem to be there.

What we call the divisions is another matter. There are a couple of instances where I think Roberts sacrifices a bit of preciseness for memorability. That is, instead of using the most descriptive word for a heading, he opts for more memorable (i.e., alliterated) word.

I have no problem recommending this book. It seems to be well researched. It’s easy to follow. And it provides a good mental map of how the Scriptures tie together.

Tactics (a brief review)

tacticsIn his book Tactics, Gregory Koukl unpacks several conversational guidelines designed to help his readers become diplomatic ambassadors.

The “modest goal” that Koukl aims for in his own conversations is this:

All I want to do is put a stone in someone’s shoe. I want to give him something worth thinking about, something he can’t ignore because it continues to poke at him in a good way.

One effective, low-risk way of “putting a stone in someone’s shoe” is by asking questions rather than making statements. When you ask questions, you don’t need to defend a position (you haven’t presented one). Further, your questions may cause the other person to examine his own position more thoroughly.

A couple of great questions you can use are:

  • “What do you mean by that?”
    Ask this when you are trying to better understand what another person believes.
  • “How did you come to that conclusion?”
    Ask this in order to find out why a person believes something.

Koukl spends about half of the book identifying and explaining various types of faulty reasoning. He gives these flaws names such as:

  • Formal suicide — views that are internally contradictory and that self-destruct.
    Example: “There are no absolutes.” (Is this an absolute?)
  • Practical suicide  — you can hold a view, but you can’t promote it.
    Example: “It’s wrong to say people are wrong.”
  • Sibling rivalry and infanticide

Friendly, intelligent, respectful, and engaging throughout, Tactics offers something that few other apologetic books do: maneuvers that are specific enough to help you navigate purposefully through conversations, yet flexible enough to keep you from sounding like a parrot.

One minor criticism…

I can only guess why this may have happened, but the cover of the book clearly depicts elements from the game of chess — a chessboard, and in place of the letter “i” in the title, the silhouette of a pawn. Yet on pp. 26-27, Koukl explains the tactical method this way:

The tactical approach requires as much careful listening as thoughtful response. You have to be alert and pay attention so you can adapt to new information. This method resembles one-on-one basketball more than a game of chess. There are plans being played out, but there is constant motion and adjustment.

Manhunt (a brief review)

manhuntInspired by Justin Taylor’s positive review of the book, I decided to give it a go.

What I learned was that you don’t need to be a Civil War buff (or even a history buff) to enjoy Manhunt. James Swanson’s ability to tell a riveting story will pull you through this 496-page historical account of President Lincoln’s assassination and the ensuing hunt for Lincoln’s killer. All you need to do is hang on.


Caution
: minor spoilers ahead

I had not realized that the plot to kill Lincoln was part of a larger scheme to eliminate two other high-ranking government officials. Nor had I realized how close the plan came to succeeding.

Further, I was surprised by John Wilkes Booth’s ability to evade the authorities for nearly two weeks. If he had not made a few crucial missteps, who knows how long the manhunt may have lasted.

5 things I like about playing basketball

  1. Trying to shoot the ball consistently and accurately is an enjoyable discipline.
  2. Feeling the size, shape, and texture of a good quality basketball just makes me want to play!
  3. Being the lone defender on a 2 on 1 breakaway is a no-lose situation: they should really score, so if I stop them, I’ve made a good play.
  4. Playing with other competitive guys who value fun and exercise over winning makes the games even more enjoyable.
  5. Watching 3-point shooters when they are on their game is a thing of beauty.