Derek Johnson Muses

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Monthly Archives: March 2012

Isaiah’s Vineyard Prepares the Way

Personally, I’m not enamored with sermon illustrations.  If they go on too long, my mind wander. To me, a good sermon analogy is short, to the point, and leaves you thinking about the significant point of the passage.

But Jesus used parables a lot, and so did the prophets. Isaiah 5:1-7 contains one such parable, that of a vineyard. It bears a stark resemblance to two of Jesus’ parables in the new Testament., and in it, we see how Jesus’ interpretation of the Law and the Prophets set him apart from the Sadduccees and their clinging to the Torah over the prophets.

First, Isaiah’s words. He set up the scene: Israel is God’s vineyard, and the vineyard has produced “wild grapes” (meaning sour). God planted and fertilized his vineyard (the book of the law and the prophets), and there is no excuse for Israel’s lack of production. Therefore, here is God’s judgment on the vineyard: “It shall be devoured.” (v. 5), and not just devoured, but driven off the map. “I will command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.” (v. 6) This language is mirrored in the end of the chapter, where Isaiah describes the coming

Compare this statement of judgment on the unfaithful to Luke 13:6-9, where Jesus tell the parable of the barren fig tree. The planter of a fig tree comes to the servant and tells him to cut down the unproductive vine, but the servant asks his master to wait another year. The difference from Isaiah is clear.: in Isaiah, God has had enough of Israel’s sin, and he is sending this generation to judgment. In Luke, the servant intercedes for the tree, and there is another chance, although judgment is not off the horizon. The servant represents Christ, who intercedes for us now,  and in some sense, our pastors and other leaders who intercede for Christians.

The other similar parable is the one of the wicked tenants in Luke 20:9-18. In this parable, Jesus uses the same set up, although the owner in His parable doesn’t get the return on his investment in the vineyard just because there wasn’t a crop. The owner of vineyard (God) doesn’t get a return on his investment because of wicked tenants (the Jewish religious leaders) beat every messenger (prophet) that the owner sends, and then they kill the son of the owner, Jesus. But both stories have the same ending: judgment on the vineyard. It is no wonder that the Jews wanted to seize Jesus after he told this parable; Jesus could not have made their unfaithfulness so clear, and unfortunately, they continued to seek refuge in their own works.

What does this show us about the importance of parables? It shows us that God does not exist only in the regulations of the law, although we would be foolish to deny that God speaks there. But God’s word speaks to us as we go about our lives every day,  in the field, in the office, or on the road, and we would be foolish to think our actions are without consequences.

So, here is the meaning of this passage: God’s word is to produce fruit in us, and just reading it isn’t enough. Even unbelievers who deny the truth read the Scriptures with vigor to disprove its truth. We must purge our hearts of our unclean thoughts and works, so that God’s word may take its free course in us, because ultimately, we can be our own worst enemy when it comes to our own salvation.

(All Scripture quote from ESV)

(More Isaiah studies)

Polish Sausage Stir Fry: Typical Midweek Dinner

I love to stir fry vegetables, and chicken is usually my meat of choice to mix in with them. But I also have another favorite meat compound for my stir fry: polish sausage.

Base Ingredients

I cut the sausage up in order to heat and cook them quicker.

The cooking sausages

And any great stir fry requires rice.

Boiling Pot

Then I always have reservation on how long you’re supposed to cook polish sausage, given that it’s supposedly pre-cooked. But it’s pork, and my feeling is that pork can never be to well-done. When it’s burned a little, I add the vegetables to the polish sausage.

The Mix

The vegetables are frozen, so I let it steam together for a while. Then I add some stir fry sauce before it gets fully hot. Pretty soon, it’s all done and I put some on the rice.

The Finished Product

 

Sarah Palin’s problems are of attitude, not from the liberal media

Game Face

Last week, I watched Game Change clips on YouTube, which lead to a re-watching Steve Schmidt’s  60 Minutes interview about the McCain/Palin campaign. I’m mostly Republican in my views, but after reviewing all that the video, I have to admit-Sarah Palin is kind of train wreck who has invited a lot of scorn on the Republican party, in the same way that George W. Bush did by being an insular President.

Don’t get me wrong: I still think Palin is a great Republican spokesperson and I’ve heard a lot of women say how much they admire her as a symbol of the conservative, Republican women who doesn’t support abortion and automatically take the feminist position. I respect that about her, and if she wants to be on Fox News and host a radio show for the rest of her life, that’s great. What I don’t respect about Palin is her lack of personal responsibility when she has to deal with criticism, like the Katie Couric interview.

After the Couric interview-disaster, Schmidt told Palin that the reason it didn’t go well was that she had spent the time she should have been preparing for that interview answering written questions from a local newspaper in Alaska. That reveals two flaws-Palin has no time management skills and cares too much about insignificant details. Palin’s response that CBS edited the interview to make her look bad shows is a key lack of a leadership attribute: humility and personal responsibility. If Palin were to come out and say, “I really did underprepare for that interview. I made a mistake, and I’m sorry for hurting Senator McCain and my supporters”, it would effectively end the story. It wouldn’t make Palin a better national candidate, but the “lamestream” media would no longer have a real reason to criticize her.

Confession: I get a lot of my political analysis from Saturday Night Live, but it’s undeniable, even based on their skits, that the Palin fallout has involved a lot of mediocre candidates jumping at the race for president. Maybe it’s just a down election cycle, but perhaps Palin’s tough talk, whining at her smarter opponents have emboldened the Rick Perrys and Mitt Romney to run like they actually know something.

As a conservative, I see how CNN and the other national publications slant liberal and trash conservatives (see the coverage of religious leaders testifying before congress for the right to have a conscious), but Palin’s stratagy of offering up vague condemnations isn’t going to work. She needs to have the humility to admit she wouldn’t be a great national leader

For Palin, I truly hope that she does find a calling as a speaker. Ironically, she needs to hear the same that those who occupy Wall Street do: contentment. Sarah Palin doesn’t have the A-lister drive to be President, but her acceptance of her limitations will be the key to how much influence she can have.

Tim Miles: At Least He Looks the Part

Saturday I awoke to see one of my Facebook friends had already bemoaned another stint of Nebrasketball irrelevance because of the hiring of Tim Miles as Nebraska’s men’s basketball coach. While he’s not a wow-hire, Miles has  two qualities that give a chance to succeed at Nebraska: one, he has a recruiter/spokesman’s personality, and two, he’ll recruit and sign Nebraska high school players.

To the first point, Doc Sadler didn’t work as an AQ-conference coach was because he was from the Bobby Knight-John Thompson red-faced -yelling sschool. Great players didn’t want to play for him, and the players who did come to Nebraska didn’t stay here very long. Miles is a young, bright media face who tweets during halftime. While he might not be able to sign a bunch of McDonald’s All-Americans, Miles should give Nebraska a positive voice that isn’t hoarse from screaming and wears on players like John Gruden’s did.

Osborne with his new protege.

To the second point, the fact that Miles had four Nebraska natives on his current CSU team  must have been impressive to Osborne, maybe more so than it should have been. Miles is a South Dakota native who spent most of his career coaching in the Dakotas and Minnesota. While Nebraska doesn’t produce a lot of D-I players, keeping the few will do go a long in endearing Miles to the Nebraska fans. Look at this way: if you sign the T.J. Pughs and Wes Eikmeier of rural Nebraska instead of letting them go to Iowa State or Kansas, then at least Nebraska fans will come and support them. Barry Collier had worse record at Nebraska than Doc Sadler did, but was kept after his sixth year while Sadler was fired. The reason: Collier recruited a bunch of local players his first year at Nebraska, endearing him to the locals. If you’re going to serve a bad basketball product, at least buy it locally.

But Nebraska’s inability to hire a great basketball coach stems from the fact that there’s no urgency to win in college basketball, even at major programs. Look at Maryland and Missouri, the two best jobs that opened last year. Missouri hired a coach had been to the NCAA Tournament once and hadn’t won sixty percent of his games at Miami (Frank Haith). Maryland, in a basketball-first league, hired a coach who had been to the Sweet Sixteen once at a mid-major (Mark Turgeon). Given Nebraska’s lack of interest in basketball for the last twelve years, Miles may be the best hire they can get. Even coaching at the school where a long-time Osborne aid is the football coach, Ohio coach John Groce may have his sights set on a bigger job, like Illinois.

In the video below, Miles talks a lot about something that many Nebraska beat writers have been pointing out about Nebraska basketball: raising the standards of a program. Colorado State had finished no better than sixth in the Mountain West the previous seven year before Miles arrived at CSU. Miles had just two scholarship players on his first team but improved every year. At North Dakota State, Miles upset both Wisconsin and Marquette after the school jumped to Division I, and Miles’ players continued to win after their coach left. Maybe Nebraska has found a coach who’s peaking; either way, it’s a better resume than Sadler had when he came to Nebraska (two years, one NCAA bid, one NIT bid, with Billy Gillispie’s players), and everyone supposedly loved him.

I’m not going to say that I’m uber-thrilled with Miles’ hiring at Nebraska, but I am going to watch his introduction today with some optimism. As long as he can recruit local players and there aren’t too many empty seats at Pinnacle Bank areana(or worse, Creighton fans), it will justify a six year tenure, which is what Osborne is going to give a coach if he makes the postseason by year three. When Sadler was named the Nebraska men’s basketball coach, he brought a combative bravado that wore thin over time. Miles looks like a long-term, positive builder, which is exactly what Nebraska needs.

(More Husker Posts)

Update: In his introductory presser, I thought Miles came across very well as the fresh-faced CEO that Nebraska basketball needs. He talked very postively about creating buzz within the fanbase, exactly what Nebrasketball needs to succeed (and fill the new arena.) I had forgotten the North Dakota State connection with Craig Bohl that undoubtedly helped him land the job.

Unfortunately, he didn’t seem very eager to talk about recruiting Nebraska when he was asked about recruiting, instead speaking of the Big 10 and old Big 12 north footprint. Hopefully, he will maintain his old connections and sign local prospects, but I wish someone would have asked him about the Nebraskans he had at CSU.

One last carp: why in the world did we have to hear so much about Doc Sadler? Clearly, everyone cares about him more now that he is gone than when his teams took the court.

Will Tebow’s Circus be a Total Jet-Wreck? Plus a Bonus Point on Manning and Elway, and Why Manning Didn’t Consider One Team

Yesterday as The Herd on ESPN Radio was ending, an event occurred that I would subsequently hashtag as a #2bletwitternuke. News of the New Orleans Saints suspensions and the Tim Tebow trade from the Broncos to the Jets broke within seconds of each other, and I was just thankful it happened to be on a day when I was reading 37 corn samples and could just listen to the radio. The Tebow-to-the-Jets trade came completely out of nowhere; ESPN had only begun to discuss it as a possibility that morning.

Peyton Manning, in essence, bailed John Elway out of the second year he had to give Tebow. Denver certainly would have done poorly with their new, first-place schedule, and Tebow would have made them look even more pathetic in defeat. With Manning, Elway could jettison Tebow and declare the first-rounder that was burned on him a semi-bust. Thus end

The price that the Jets paid for Tim Tebow and a seventh round draft choice (a throw-in) was reasonable. The only way the Broncos could have done better would be if the Jets had agreed to a sixth-round choice this year and a conditional choice next year (which probably could have been as high as second rounder, if Tebow had started half the season). Ultimately, Elway can’t get back the three picks that Josh McDaniels traded for Tebow (ironically, Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta, two of the three players the Ravens got in the trade are viable NFL players. The other, Sergio Kindle, has had more legal troubles than anything else and seems to be the anti-Tebow.)

The Jets seem to be the most abnormal fit for Tebow. Other than running the wildcat for Tony Sparano (which is barely an effective NFL offense anymore), it seems like the Jets are the opposite culture for Tebow. Granted, the one aspect that Tebow and the Jets have in common is that both are outspoken, but unfortunately, they are outspoken for different purposes. The Jets like to make lofty promises of winning the Super Bowl, Tebow likes to make proclamations of Christ to the hilt. And New York isn’t exactly known for religious conservatism. (Tebow’s religion)

Colin Cowherd raised an interesting point on his show that I, as a Lutheran and a theologian of the cross, found interesting. An NFL source told him that, inside the Broncos’ locker room, Tebow was being perceived as an attention-lover, and that part of the reason he wanted to go to New York over Jacksonville was that Tebow wants exposure in a new market. While Tebow often does speak about being humble, one has to question if he is choosing worldly glory over God’s calling. I don’t know the answer to this, but if Tebow’s teammates perceive that he likes the attention, there might be something to that. (My issues with evangelicals) (The Social Church)

Best Buds?

And what about Mark Sanchez? As I listened to the radio chatter, I began to wonder if Tebow-on-the-Jets would lead to Sanchez demanding a trade. Does Sanchez have enough Jay Cutler in him to stand up, walk out of the Jets facilities, and say, “I’m not dealing with this crap. Trade me.” Sanchez has always put forth a team-first image, in spite of any differences he has had with Rex Ryan, a run-first coach. Two thing are for sure-if Sanchez does demand a trade, some quarterback-hungry team (Cleveland, San Francisco) will be more than read to throw a package including a first rounder at the Jets. And second, if Sanchez does leave the Jets due to Tebow, it’s proof that Tebow is self-absorbed on some level. (My Tebow posts)

 

Bonus Point: Peter King wondered why Manning wasn’t considering the Kansas City Chiefs, which I had thought of myself. The Chiefs have a good young nucleus, with a number of players coming back from injuries, and most importantly, the schedule of a team that finished fourth in their division. With a good draft and the addition of a good pass rusher, Kansas City could win the AFC west with Manning, or at least make the playoffs.

My Recycled Omelets Adventure

I have to make a confession: I love to eat eggs for lunch, often with bacon. Odd, probably, but when you can cook your own lunch at home most days, you develop certain tastes, and bacon and eggs cook really easy and give you great energy for the rest of the day. I also love to cook omelets, and recently, I decided that I would take use some odd leftovers to try something new.

The day before I had tried a new recipe for a pork sirloin roast in the crocke pot (apple cider vinegar and brown sugar base) and roasted potatoes in the oven using a combination of olive and Roast Rub spice from Holen One Farms. It was delicious, and I decided to use the leftovers for an omelet.

My ingredients: the pork loin, potatoes, and brown eggs (natural, of course.)

I just break the eggs, shred the pork, and dump it all together, mixing with a spatula. After a few minutes, I shovel out the results and break out the ketchup.

My omelet, with accompanying toast.

And that’s how I get through my day. (More Cooking Posts).

Walking Dead: How to Film a Terrifying Herd, Season 2 Finale, and Where to go from Here

Last Sunday night I turned off my cellphone and settled in to watch The Walking Dead‘s season finale. Just judging by the promos, I knew the show would be great. It was the classic zombie situation: a small group of strangers are stranded in a house, facing an endless sea of predators. While I do wish the zombie herd would have spotted the herd in episode 10 or 11 so there could have been more build-up, this zombie sequence did something right that I think many of the zombie sequences on the show haven’t done as well.

The Walking Dead‘s fans have spent ample time complaining about the shows slow episodes, and while I’m not thrilled with those episodes, I think that criticism is misdirected. What I think is a real problem is that, the some of the larger zombie sequences this season have been poorly directed. This has happened in two ways: one, a smaller number of extras is shot in a way that only makes them look large, such as the herd in the season premiere that pinned the survivors down on the interstate, plus the herd that was chasing Shane and Otis at the end of episode three.  Also, the motion of the zombies in both scenes is a problem: the run straight too much. In the zombie scene at the ed of episode four in season one, the actual number of zombies is quite small. What makes it terrifying is that they seem to be coming from everywhere randomly.

The second major problem is with the zombie scene in episode ten, when Rick and Shane are at the school. When the zombies break out of the building and start chasing Shane around (and it’s a small number of zombies to begin with), there’s too much open space for the scene to be really terrifying. The bus is out in the open, and it’s too easy for Rick to get to it with car. But all this said, the worst zombie scene in The Walking Dead is roughly about as bad as the worst ice cream cone.

There are ways that the show does a job of building terror with only a few zombies. Take the scene in episode nine where Rick, Hershel, and Glenn are finding Randall with his leg stuck on the fence (literally). You didn’t to have a whole herd of walkers rushing them as they decided what to do with Randall; just the sight of a few zombies approaching was enough.

But this herd was done right: it came from seemingly nowhere, and it looked endless. I was surprised they didn’t just barricade everyone in the house but, there were some great kills (T-Dogg hitting the zombie with the truck got a huge buzz on twitter). (MAJOR SPOILER🙂 The deaths of Jimmy and Patricia, secondary characters who didn’t do a lot the second half of the season, were not that surprising. When I saw Patricia and Beth running in the promos, I thought strongly one of them would die. The Walking Dead is a show that demands not only a high body count, but you need those scenes where someone gets pulled into a herd of walkers, the fate husband and wife Otis and Patricia shared. As far as death-management goes, it is somewhat disappointing that either Dale and/or Shane’s deaths, as well as they were done, were not saved for this sequence. Dale dying in his RV instead of Jimmy while saving Rick and Carl would have meant more. They still could have killed off Jimmy with the walker Carl set free and kept that storyline for Carl. (Side note: the RV is another “character” I’ll really miss.)

Ironically, the group of ten that began season two is ten again. Three of that group were lost (Sophia, Dale, Shane) and have been replaced by Hershel, Maggie, and Beth. Beth is a characters I’d want to see more of (she was great in episode ten) and the show needs more female characters. Like many of the other fans, I’d like to see more of T-Dogg, but it’s also easy to forget that T-Dogg played a huge role in episodes two through four in season one. With the news that Merle is returning, it will be interesting to see if T-Dogg factors into his story. And if Merle is part of the Governor’s Woodbury, it will be especially great for Daryl, who ended the season at some odds with Rick.

That leads me to my disappointment with the final scene. Let me be clear: The Walking Dead takes place in a harsh world. That said, I thought ending with Rick’s speech about he’s the new dictator in town was the wrong tone to end the season. I don’t have a problem with Lori being upset with Rick for killing Shane. But it might have been better for the show end with the survivors actually looking on the prison rather than having the camera pan to it. Michael Ausellio noted in his Spoiler Alert video podcast after episode ten that the show is getting almost too conflict heavy, and does need more moments of the characters bonding and working together. It is possible for the show to get too depressing and the characters too dark to root for, as 24 did during its sixth season.

As for the other major revel, I’m as excited as the comic fans to see Michonne, mainly for a reason that Kirkman shared on Talking Dead post-finale: while most of the characters we know are stupefied by the world of zombie, Michonne has figured out how to survive. Michonne was already trending on twitter before the character appeared on screen, and perhaps the sighting of a warrior-character will keep the show from being too depressing.

So here’s what I expect for season three: generally, the overall theme is going to be, band together. The season will encompass the prison storyline, from Rick and the survivors clearing out the zombies that remain in it, dealing with the inmates that are still alive, and finally, facing the destruction of the walls by the Governor and his Woodbury army. Hershel will die by the end of the season, along with several of the original survivors. I think there’s a good chance there’s a jump forward in time and Lori will have the baby by the end of the season. I’d love to see more back story for Glenn and T-Dogg. The Governor is one of the biggest questions I have for the season, mainly because he’s clearly going to come in a lot earlier than he does in the comics. My guess is, Andrea and Michonne run into Woodbury and are part of his

That leads me to the question I’ve been debating for a while and that is Lori’s death in the comics, which happens at the end of the prison storyline. Part of me hopes that Lori survives and can be a part of the post-prison story. Kirkman and Glen Mazzara have stated that the comics aren’t the definitive blueprint for the series, and that the show characters may outlive their comic book counterparts (Shane) or die before them (Dale, Otis). I hope that Lori does live on in the show, but if she does die, that’s what happens. I do know one thing: if Lori does outlive the destruction of the prison, it could be hard to get rid of her after that.

In closing, my favorite moment from the finale was the preppy walker that Carl, Rick, and Hershel encountered at the interstate pile-up. The preppy walker is to me, the mark of a great show. Too often, all of the walkers are dressed in the same dull, drab attire, and it was great to see one that stood out. It was just a little touch, but it was that’s what great shows do: pay attention to detail.

(My post from earlier this year: Walking Dead as analogy).

Husker Invasion of Minnesota: 2011

Early that Saturday morning, my dad and I stopped at the McDonald’s off at Clear Lake, Iowa for a mid-morning snack/restroom stop. There were about five vehicles with Iowa State decor on them, another car or two with Hawkeye markings. Waiting on our order, I scanned the Iowa State game capsule in the local paper, while the cardinal and gold-dressed patrons enjoyed their breakfast. My dad and I got back in our red truck with Husker license plate frames and continued on our way north, away from Ames.

Earlier in that week, I heard that Minnesota fans were dumped their tickets to the Nebraska game, so I called my dad who lives in Ames now and said to him we should go up to the game. He agreed, and I drove over to their apartment on Friday afternoon from our house in Seward. On Interstate 80, I passed numerous Nebraska and Iowa fans headed to their teams respective games that weekend, a true college football exodus.

We travel to Minnesota a lot for work, but it was nice to go for fun. I arranged to get our tickets from a guy on craiglist, and we met him at a gas station on University Avenue, east of the stadium. He was one of those guys who was friendly in the Midwestern way way, and gave us directions and advice on where to park. I left thinking of great it was to be in the Big 10.

We found a place to park in the lot next to the Leaning Tower of Pizza, a bar offering a great deal: parking for twenty dollar, plus a voucher for twenty dollars worth of food. It was a basic bar, cheap food, but a clean environment, and big screens for every game that was on. And it was packed with Husker fans. We spent two hours there, and four or five times, some raised up a cry of “Go Big Red!”

With an hour to go, my dad and I left the Leaning Tower and headed up University. We’ve been to two bowl games together (’07 Cotton Bowl and ’09 Holiday Bowl) and the Husker fan representation here was no different. Afterward, some reporters Nebraska had as much as seventy percent of the fans in attendance, although I thought it was closer to a 50-50 split. I always thought Minnesota football got a shaft when it had to play a third team every year (after Wisconsin and Iowa) that could come in and fill their stadium for them, and here was the proof.

After wandering around the alumni center and vendors outside the stadium, we took our seats in the upper bowl. Friends who had seen TCF Bank Stadium before told me how great it looked from the outside, and from the inside, it looked even more impressive. The sun was bright that day, and it made the field shine like a Minnesota lake. The band was merry, and Minnesota fans showed their pride as their team ran out on the field, even if the Nebraska fans rivaled them in the stands.

The view from our seats on the east goal line.

I always feel a little awkward in a rival teams stadium (namely, Iowa State and the Cyclone Crazies), and the Minnesota fans made some noise in the early going, but after Nebraska took a 10-0 lead, they were considerably quieter. After Austin Cassidy scooped and scored on a fumble to give Nebraska a 27-0 lead, the three twenty-something Minnesota fans who were sitting next to us left. One of them actually wore a brown and yellow button-down shirt he’d bought at Old Navy to the game.

At halftime, I walked around the bowl of the stadium and was impressed by the job Minnesotans had done in recreating an old-feel college stadium in a new building. The university made a huge mistake when they moved permanently into the Metrodome (under the leadership of Lou Holtz, ironically), and now they had this great stadium. I almost feel sorry for Golden Gopher Nation, having to play six schools every year that our as equally committed to football as they are. But that is what it is.

But as I sat in the stands and watched the fans file out of the stadium (until you could “Minnesota” in the north stands), I was grateful to see one thing was still true about college football: Nebraska still had a good regional series. Granted, Nebraska has only two regional rivals it plays every year (Minnesota and Iowa) as opposed to the five it had in the old Big 12 (Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, and Colorado). But still, as we drove back that night, and I finished driving back to Nebraska on Sunday, I felt pride in every Nebraska vehicle I passed.

Rebels and an Old Saint

Why do we have to be rebels? Can we not just be grateful for those in authority over us? The term rebel has an odd position in our culture: it is a thought rebel is a good thing. For some reason, we are not grateful when those in authority over provide us with peace, security, and provisions. They have to give us emotional affection as well.

Presently, I’m studying the book of Isaiah for a Bible study, and the word “rebel” comes up a lot, but not a positive context or even in a cool context. It is the term that God calls His disobedient children. It is a term for those who know the law that God has given them, but they still do evil anyway, considering the evil they do to be good.

I have odd experience with this. My father is the head of a mid-sized seed company. He has to make decisions that affect the well fare of his growers, his seed dealers, and his employees, myself included. If the margin between success and failure can be thin, and I know why he has trouble sleeping He’s worried about the livelihood of others.

Earlier this year, I wrote about Occupy Wall Street. Michael Moore spoke as if the poorer classes were entitled to jobs from wealth Americans. But does he realize the responsibility that wealthy people have to use their wealth responsibly? People who run companies have responsibilities that I can’t even fathom and don’t want.

But this is a problem that has religious roots as well. Given that the most important god in our culture is the personal one, our personal gods really have no greater authority than what our minds choose to give them.No wonder everyone in our culture wants to rebel; we consider ourselves to be the ultimate givers of authority.

But St. Anselm once said God is “that than which nothing greater can be conceived”. That is, He is essential beyond what we can make or ascribe him to be. The Psalms praise our Father in heaven, and my theology text book in college gave a long list of His attributes, but those things cannot contain God.

God is our authority whether we want Him to be or not; we should fear His judgment, rather than try and put him into a box. We should eagerly study his Word and the means by which He comes to us, for there He comes to us.

Nebraska vs. Texas-the Closing Thoughts

(The following is an e-mail I wrote to Brian Christopherson of the Lincoln Journal-Star in 2010, before the final Big 12 Nebraska-Texas. The paper had requested that fans send in their recollections of the series with Texas, so I answered, and, while my thoughts were never published, here I decided I might as well share them with you.)

In response to your question of what this game means to me, the fan, I can’t begin to put into words what this game means to me. I’m twenty-seven and the first games that I can remember where in 1994 and 1995. This game against Texas might be the most significance game I’ve seen since either 1995 Orange Bowl or the 1996 Fiesta Bowl , due to both the on-field and off-field frustration against the Longhorns.

The two most memorable games I’ve been to at Memorial Stadium have both been against Texas. The first time, on an icky, sub-40 degree day in 1998, I, the eager fifteen year-old, wanted to go to the Texas game because of how they humiliated us two years prior. At the time, all I had known was Nebraska dominance, and I couldn’t remember a Nebraska home loss .The lose, shuttling out of the stadium with other fans while Texas ran out the clock, all of it shocked me. As watched young players make mistakes (the offensive line, the turnover after Ralph Brown’s interception, Tracey Wistrom’s drop that could have given Nebraska a 20-13 lead), the Huskers looked  vulnerable to me for the first time.

In 2006, I went to the Nebraska-Texas game, and once again the weather was cold and icy (sidebar-how odd is that Nebraska has gotten inclement weather for two of three October games with Teas). The game was a game of rhythms. The first half was Texas-slanting, and at half-time, I thought that Nebraska, down nine points, was lucky to even be in the game with Texas’ missed field goals.

But in the second half, the game gradually became to tilt Nebraska’s way, as if it were actually being played on a flat plane that was slowly shifting toward the Huskers. Gradually, Nebraska became to rise, starting with Brandon Jackson touchdown. (Dane Todd’s helicopter block might be the best Husker block I’ve ever seen live.) When we got the ball back, I’ll never forgot those three plays. First, there was the double reverse for a first down, the 21-yard pass to Maurice Purify. Like magic, we were finally moving the ball. Then Callahan called for the halfback pass that he used the previous year against Oklahoma. When I saw that Marlon Lucky was going to throw the ball, I thought, oh great. They’ll remember the play and have it covered. I think I saw Nate Swift catch the ball, but I didn’t believe he’d actually caught it until I heard the stadium go wild.

The stadium’s roar felt silent. I could feel that little piece of beating Texas, a piece I would feel later on when I would see Colt McCoy sacked and Texas forced to punt, then Brandon Jackson gain seven yards on two carries, then again for a split second when Terrence Nunn caught Zac Taylor’s pass. I it was a piece that said, “We’re better than those arrogant, evenly tanned, Orange-faced losers.” It felt so good, it almost couldn’t last

Nunn's fumble

As we all know, a lot can happen in four year. One disastrous season, a new (old) AD and coach, to rebuilding year, another chapter of Nebraska-Texas in the Big 12 title game, and an off-field fight that led Nebraska down the path to a new conference.

So, after all that, what does this game mean to me? Beyond the on-field frustrations, save the 1999 Big 12 Title game, this game is about putting down a titan with too much power. Since the Big 12’s inception, Texas has pursued its own agenda ahead of good of the league. Texas’ greed ultimately forced Nebraska have to look elsewhere. But wouldn’t fate have it that, on its way out the door, Nebraska has the team give Texas one reminder of what they will be missing: a top-notch football program, the kind that could help keep their league get a huge paycheck for years to come.

(Of course, the game didn’t turn out the way I was hoping for.)

Blackberry Rhubarb Crisp with a Latte Twist

Sunday, I had to make a dessert for my young adult Bible study, so I hauled some rhubarb and blackberries out of the freezer. But when I went to make the topping, I decided to spice things up with the coffee spices my parents gave me for Christmas. I took a tablespoon of cinnamon hazelnut syrup and mixed it with seven tablespoons butter. Then I sprinkled in some cinnamon and chocolate flavoring, and added the requisite flour, brown sugar, oats, and almonds to make the topping.

The result was a rich, flavorful dessert, when topped with ice cream, hit the spot. Praise the Lord I was pressed for time to make this dessert, otherwise I might not have been so creative.

Isaiah 2-4: God’s Mercy Throughout (Part 3)

(All scripture quotes from ESV)

I had an odd experience in preparing my study for Isaiah 2-4. I read the text, the notes, and the commentary, but the most I learned about it when was I listened to Isaiah 2-4 online. As I heard Isaiah’s sermon flow together, I realized how little I’d learned about reading everyone else’s thoughts on it.

After Isaiah’s firey first chapter, the prophet then continues to deal with his main theme: Israel has transgressed against her maker and is deserving of condemnation. There is a perfect kingdom to come, so this transgressed one must be judged. God wants all men to be saved, but that requires judgment.

The structure of the three chapters is very straightforward: God’s perfect kingdom (2:1-5), the judgment at the end of times (2:6-22), the present judgment on Judah (3:1-4:1), and again, the glorified branch of the Lord (4:2-6). As I wrote in an earlier post, I struggle greatly with the structure that Isaiah uses: visions of God’s perfect kingdom, followed by decries of judgment. But God always gives us hope in the midst of sufferings, for we are never completely free of sufferings, even if it appears this way.

Isaiah 2:2 begins with a familiar phrase: “in the latter days”. Joel will use this latter on, in the passage Peter quotes in his sermon to the Jews on Pentecost in Acts 2. This is definitely a phrase that means “after the end of this world, when God has established his kingdom on earth. In 2:5, Isaiah calls Judah to “walk in the light of the Lord”. This concludes His calling the church from all nations to come to mount Zion, but it also serves as a transition to the section on judgment. When the Judah Isaiah was calling comes into the light, their sin is exposed.

Isaiah’s proclamation of the final judgment juxtapositions two things: God’s glory in judgment, and man’s helplessness before God in the face of that judgment. Israel has used its worldly standards for its society and has put its trust in material things, and above all its riches. But when God comes in his might, man will flee in fear and try to hide, just as Adam and Eve tried to hide in the garden and Israel hid before God’s face when he came down at Mount Sinai. The temptation Israel gave into was to think they were doing well. And that is one of the hallmarks of wealthy people: they see all their wealth, and to a certain degree, they are delusion because they had to break so many rules to get that wealth. But what does God say? “Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?” (v. 22)

Too often, we need to be reminded that God’s judgment also means wrath as well as salvation. Many of the modern praise songs say “Mighty, mighty, mighty”, but God has said he will judge the unbelievers. In the Te Deum, we sing with the cherubims, “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Sabbath” but those words can only be sung in joy after we recount Christ’s work for us in the later verses.

Then Isaiah moves to the present (chapter 3): just as Judah will be judged on the last day with all people, so they will be judged here and now for their sins. Because of their confidence in their possession,  poverty will grip the nation. This will come through one form: a lack of leadership (v. 4, 12), which will be passed down to the people as they will have no one who will be able for households.

As in Isaiah 1:9, the prophet once again compares Judah to the city Lot fled “they proclaim their sin like Sodom” (v. 9). This comparison is to show the depth of Judah’s falling: “they do not hide (their sin) Woe to them! For they have brought evil on themselves.” (v. 9b) This corruption lies in the mind, because Israel has believed that their living it up on the wealth of the land and burning incense in the high places is the right way of living.

But, after Isaiah speaks of “seven women shall take hold of one man” (4:1), he then again goes back “in that day” (v. 2) “The branch of the Lord” is indeed Christ, the branch of David. As in 1:18, Isaiah speaks of God washing us (v. 4), and God creating a pure Israel, and the language of verse 5 (“a cloud by day, and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night”) is reminiscent of God leading Israel in the dessert.

God has a blessed plan for people: even though we may sin in this life and run far from His mercy, God will discipline us when we do, so that we see the folly in trusting in the things of this life. And He will establish a Kingdom beyond this, which is what Jesus came to proclaim. Thanks be to him!

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