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Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum April 14, 2017

Posted by flashbuzzer in History.
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I recently visited the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum in West Branch, Iowa. The library and museum commemorate the life of our nation’s 31st President, Herbert Hoover.

Here are six nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. Hoover was raised in a Quaker household and regularly attended lengthy Quaker meetings. He was orphaned at the age of 10, and so he moved to Oregon to live with his strict Quaker uncle and aunt.

2. As a newly minted graduate of Stanford, Hoover wore a tweed suit – and grew a mustache – for his first job interview; the minimum age for that position was 35. One of the highlights of his career in the mining industry occurred when he hit a gold mine jackpot in Australia; he eventually earned a yearly income of $30000.

3. As a public servant, Hoover played a critical role in several humanitarian endeavors. For example, he facilitated the evacuation of American tourists in Europe at the outset of World War I. He also organized a major wartime relief effort for Belgium; the rations of extra bread and soup that were prepared for those Belgian refugees were nicknamed “Hoover lunches.”

4. Hoover also served as the Commerce Secretary under Warren Harding. As Commerce Secretary, he strongly advocated the ratification of the Colorado River Compact. He also drafted a uniform highway safety code after his friend in Washington D.C. accumulated 24 driving violations while driving to New York.

5. Hoover warned Calvin Coolidge about rampant speculation in the financial sector. He was a strong advocate for price controls in the real estate market. Interestingly, he also supported various infrastructure projects – including several in the Tennessee Valley.

6. After his presidency, Hoover assisted with various European relief efforts in the aftermath of World War II. He also led two commissions that drafted proposals for reforming the executive branch of the federal government. In addition, he proposed the office of “administrative vice president” who would be tasked with managing the federal budget.

The museum is relatively small, and it took me slightly under two hours to browse all of the exhibits; since I usually attempt to absorb as much information as possible during my museum visits, more casual visitors would probably need about an hour to complete that task. I also appreciated the efforts of the exhibit designers in presenting a balanced view of the financial crisis that plagued Hoover’s time in the White House.

I do not have any quibbles with the museum at this time.

Overall I enjoyed my time at the museum, and I would recommend it to history buffs who happen to be in Iowa.

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Listening and Doing August 8, 2015

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on James 1:19-27.

Summary: James begins by exhorting his readers to:

  • have a teachable mind to wait on God’s Word
  • not rashly give their opinions about things concerning the faith
  • not be angry with those who differ from them.

This stems from the fact that the wrath of man does not attain the righteousness that God approves. Thus, they should:

  • put off sin and the abundance of evil in the human heart like an unclean garment
  • have teachable minds as they make room for God’s Word in their hearts, since His Word is accompanied with divine grace for their souls and bodies.

James then exhorts his readers to not only listen to God’s Word – as that would lead to a false discourse in their consciences; they must receive its work into their hearts and express the effect of it in their lives. Indeed, he who is content with superficial listening and knowledge about God’s Word is like a man who stares at his face – that nature gave him – in a mirror, and then forgets his facial blemishes. In contrast, those who meditate deeply on God’s Word – His counsel to His friends – and persevere in studying it and working hard to put it into practice – will prosper in whatever they do.

Now James warns his readers that if anyone seems religious to himself – yet does not abstain from the evils of the tongue – he flatters himself and his religion is a pretense. He concludes by stating that in God’s eyes, true religion entails performing all duties of love, including showing charity to orphans and widows who are being oppressed; in this way, they will remain holy – keeping themselves from the rule of worldly desires.

Thoughts: In verse 19, James exhorts his readers to wait on God’s Word – instead of rashly giving their opinion about it. Manton offers some insights on this point:

If we take these directions as being a specific reference to the matter in hand, the context is easy to understand. I agree that it is good to apply Scripture, and so this teaching extends to private conversations, when people are full of talk themselves and cannot bear to listen to others and seek private revenge in anger; these things are often found in Christian meetings and conventions. But the main aim of the apostle is to direct his readers to the solemn hearing of the Word.

Over the last few years, I have made a conscious effort to apply this passage during small group Bible studies – though perhaps Manton would disagree with my approach, as it seems that he focuses on sermons in that quote. In any event, it is difficult for me to remain silent during small group Bible studies, as I constantly battle the impulse to “display my knowledge” and share “deep theological insights.” I have discovered, though, that remaining silent allows my brain to process my thoughts, determine their relative utility, and suppress relatively useless thoughts. In this way, I can present any relatively useful thoughts after they have passed that filter. Indeed, I have found that my first thought after a difficult question has been posed to my small group is often relatively useless – or even incorrect; thus, waiting on God to reveal His truth more clearly to me can be very beneficial. I should also note that remaining silent allows me to benefit from hearing the insights of others, as God speaks to each believer in a unique way.

In verse 27, James exhorts his readers to display true religion by showing charity to widows and orphans. Manton offers some insights on this point:

A great fruit of piety is provision for the afflicted. In Matthew 25 you see acts of charity. Works of mercy become those who have received mercy from God. This is being like God. One of the chief glories in the Godhead is his tireless love and bounty. He looks after the orphans and widows; so should we…True generosity is when we give to those who are not able to reciprocate…

This passage is an important reminder that all believers should regularly show mercy to others. Along these lines, my previous church had a social concerns ministry that allowed members to serve food to the homeless, assist with neighborhood beautification projects, tutor at-risk inner-city students, etc. If a believer’s home church does not support this type of ministry, though, then regularly showing mercy to others can be more difficult. In that case, one must take the initiative to get involved with a parachurch organization that focuses on showing mercy to others – or even start their own effort to minister to those who are in need. I should also note that regularly showing mercy to others keeps believers from growing comfortable in this world. Indeed, when we regularly interact with those who are in need, we are reminded that this world is imperfect, and we long for the next life.

Warning Against Falling Away April 22, 2015

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Hebrews 5:11-6:12.

Summary: The author begins by telling his readers that he has a multitude of important things to tell them regarding Melchizedek; yet he reproves them for their slothfulness – which has given them a weak understanding of this topic. Indeed, they had enjoyed a time of instruction in the Gospel message that should have enabled them to instruct others – yet they still need someone to teach them the first principles of Christian religion which stem from the Old Testament; these principles – and not the great and deep mysteries of the Gospel – are appropriate to their present condition. On one hand, anyone whose present condition requires them to learn the first principles of Christian religion is unable to use the Gospel message wisely, as they have made little spiritual progress. On the other hand, those who have made spiritual progress can be taught the great and deep mysteries of the Gospel, as they have attained – through constant exercise – the ability to make an exact judgment between good and evil.

The author then exhorts his readers to not dwell on the learning of the first principles of Christian religion; instead, they should aim to learn the great and deep mysteries of the Gospel. Indeed, other people have already taught them the first principles of Christian religion, including:

  • repentance from the sins of unregenerate people
  • special faith in Christ
  • baptism
  • the giving of the supernatural spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit to those who have been baptized
  • the resurrection of the dead
  • a general judgment for all people.

If it is God’s will, then the author will help his readers learn the great and deep mysteries of the Gospel.

Now the author warns his readers that God’s image cannot be renovated in the nature of those who have:

  • been instructed in the teaching of the Gospel and understand it spiritually
  • experienced the power of the Holy Spirit in the dispensation of the Gospel
  • benefited from the spiritual work of the Holy Spirit
  • experienced the desirable nature of the Gospel
  • experienced the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the kingdom of Christ
  • totally renounced all of the principles and teachings of Christianity.

This stems from the fact that those people had never been inwardly renewed in the first place. The author illustrates this point with an agricultural analogy: land that receives abundant rain and brings forth green herbs at the correct season for those who cultivate it is blessed by God, while land that brings forth thorns and thistles is rejected and neglected – and eventually it will be totally destroyed.

The author then hastens to assure his readers – for whom he has complete affection – that he is confident that they have saving grace in them. He assures them that God is not unrighteous; indeed, He cherishes and preserves them as they continue to obey the Gospel. In particular, He will reward them for their ongoing ministry toward poor saints. He exhorts all of them to continue diligently in carrying out their duties so that they can have a fixed, constant assurance that they will receive the good things that God has promised them. The author concludes by stating that his readers should follow those who quietly waited on God – exercising faith in Christ as their Savior from sin – and inherited the good things that God had promised them.

Thoughts: In this passage, the author reproves the Hebrews, since they have not made much spiritual progress. Owen offers some insights on this point in his commentary on verse 12 of chapter 5:

Here is a yardstick by which Christians can measure their spiritual maturity. If the solid doctrines about the work of Christ, especially his priesthood and sacrifice, are in their minds and emotions, and if they find spiritual nourishment in them, this is a sign of the progress they are making in understanding Christ and the Gospel.

Owen seems to draw a distinction between “plain, basic truths” and “the great and deep mysteries of the Gospel” in his commentary on the distinction between “milk” and “solid food.” Now this passage can be linked to 1 Corinthians 3, where Paul reproves the Corinthians, since they have not made much spiritual progress. In Hodge’s commentary on 1 Corinthians 3, he noted:

The important truth is that there are not two sets of doctrine, a higher and a lower form of faith, one for the learned and the other for the unlearned; there is no part of the Gospel that we are authorized to keep back from the people.

Now I may be mistaken on this point, but it certainly appears that Owen and Hodge have different conceptions of the distinction between “milk” and “solid food” as they relate to the Gospel message. Thus, I hope to be able to meet Owen, Hodge, Paul and the author of Hebrews in the next life; if it is God’s will, then perhaps we can discuss the distinction – if it exists – between “milk” and “solid food” at that time. Returning to the current passage, if Owen is correct in his interpretation of “solid food,” then one must wonder if there are other “great and deep mysteries of the Gospel” that God did not include in the Bible; perhaps Hebrews serves as a preview of the sublime truths that we will learn in the next life.

In this passage, while the author reproves the Hebrews for their lack of spiritual progress, he does commend them for their obedience to the Gospel. Owen offers some insights on this point in his commentary on verse 10 of chapter 6:

The Hebrews show their work and love by constantly engaging in it…They exercise their love toward the saints.

How did God view the Hebrews at that time? On one hand, they were rather slothful in terms of understanding the basic Gospel message, which prevented the author from immediately proceeding to his teaching regarding Jesus’ priesthood and sacrifice. On the other hand, they had taken concrete steps toward meeting the material needs of other poor believers. Did the Hebrews actually have saving grace in them, or was the author merely expressing his desire for their ultimate salvation? If the Hebrews actually had saving grace in them, were they able to hold fast to their faith when they died, or did they fall away before that time? I certainly hope to meet all of the Hebrews in the next life and see how they responded to this letter – including the harsh words that were employed by the author in this section. Now I should note that this passage has also spurred me to improve my understanding of the Gospel so that I can convey its basic principles to others; indeed, this blog is a means to that end.