Russell and Duenes

Archive for March 2014

“I Am Sending You To Open Their Eyes”

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That’s the title of the final chapter in John Piper’s excellent little book, Finally Alive. I read the book several months ago with a friend of mine, and found it to be a useful exposition of what it means to be “born again.” Piper makes a winsome case for a closer look at this crucial teaching, one that has often been maligned or caricatured. Thus, by way of commendation, I wanted to remark on Piper’s final chapter, which in my view, is the best chapter in the book. In it he gives “ten encouragements for gospel-telling,” by means of which people may be “born again.

Though all ten encouragements are outstanding, I mention only two, as they seem to be two that could make a huge impact and are not “scary” to apply. Piper encourages his readers to become “lavish givers.” One should seek to “[b]e known as a generous person, not a stingy person.” (p.184). This may mean freely buying books for those who like to read, giving away Bibles or missionary biographies. (Id.). I would add that inviting people over for meals is another huge way to be a lavish giver. Piper says we should develop the habit of thinking: “How can I commend Christ today?” (Id.).

Another encouragement is: “Find People Interesting.” He writes: “Evangelism gets a bad reputation when we are not really interested in people and don’t seem to care about them.” (p.185). It really is a beautiful thing when you see one human being take a genuine interest in another. And as Piper notes, such interest is uncommon today. Yet, “[i]f you really find their story interesting, and care about them, they may open up to you and want to hear your story – Christ’s story.”

I used to live in Berkeley, next door to a gentleman who seemed far away from Christ. He was a kind of religious eclectic, but really took a dim view of Christian fundamentalists and evangelicals. I had asked him if I could do a recorded interview with him, just to get his thoughts on religion and life in general. I asked questions and he shared for about an hour, as I recall. When he was done, he remarked: “I’ve talked this whole time, and haven’t heard your story.” At which point, I got to share God’s good news with him. When I finished, he said, “I couldn’t disagree more with what you’ve said,” but he wasn’t angry or offended. He listened to me. It was great. How God might use it, I don’t know. But it happened because I listened to him. Oh, that I would listen with interest more often by finding people interesting.

Get Piper’s book, and enjoy.

-D

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Written by Michael Duenes

March 25, 2014 at 12:40 pm

Posted in Duenes, Literature

A Little Coat Hanger as a Necklace

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Kevin Williamson has reported that a pro-abortion group, the DC Abortion Fund, has taken to giving out coathanger pendants. His story is well-worth reading as it exposes the lie that so-called “back alley” coathanger abortions were prevalent in the days before abortion was legal.

But my thought as I read his piece was this: I wonder if people wearing little coathangers as necklaces might not be a good thing. In other words, having a little coathanger hanging around one’s neck is odd, to say the least, and could really only beg an observer’s question: “Why do you have a coathanger on your necklace?” I assume that anyone who wears such a thing would be more than happy to answer, and this presents a great opportunity to then discuss abortion. It practically calls for it. Now, it may not be much of a “discussion,” but I would at least want to respond to any wearer this way: “Interesting. I’m curious: In your opinion, what is the unborn?” Then see where it goes from there.

Wearing a coathanger around one’s neck gives me and others like me who care about precious, unborn human persons, the chance to direct the abortion issue, perhaps, to the relevant questions. Now I doubt that I’ll run into someone wearing one of these coathangers, but it’s interesting to think about the possibilities if I, or you, just happen to. “Always be ready to give an answer,” as St. Peter might say.

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

March 23, 2014 at 4:59 pm

Would You Vote for a Presidential Candidate With Racist Views Who Couldn’t Get His Racist Policies Enacted Upon Election?

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Try a thought experiment.

Imagine there’s a candidate for U.S. President, and further suppose that he’s a racist. Let’s say that he believes that people of Latin origin are inherently inferior to every other race. Let’s say he believes this to the point that, if elected, he would attempt to implement policies that would affirmatively discriminate against Latinos and put them in an inferior position to other races when it comes to education and jobs. He runs on this platform, and takes to the airwaves, vowing to enact laws denigrating and debasing Latinos if he gets elected.

Now, let’s also suppose that, even if he gets elected, it does not seem at all likely that he could get any of his anti-Latino legislation passed into law. In other words, he couldn’t really bring Latinos down at all. He would go on advocating for discriminatory laws against Latinos, but it looks to you, the voter, like this presidential candidate can’t get his racist agenda through if elected. And let’s say that you absolutely LOVE every other political and social idea and policy position this candidate holds, thinking these other policies would be good for the nation.

Do you vote for him?

Now ask yourself: Why would it be any different when it comes to abortion? If someone wouldn’t vote for an otherwise “good” candidate who held staunchly and openly racist views, but who likely couldn’t get those policies enacted, why would he or she – if pro-life, vote for a candidate who was vociferously pro-abortion, but who he or she thought couldn’t really increase the number of abortions with his pro-abortion policies?

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

March 21, 2014 at 2:54 pm

So I Don’t Get “Left Behind”

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I confess, I don’t ponder the “end times” all that much. And why should I? Should I ponder them so I don’t get “left behind” at the rapture? So that I can discern what in the world is happening in the Middle East, or so I can read certain “signs?” (e.g., the formation of the modern state of Israel). Or so I can mock the date-predicting preachers?

This came to my attention as I was ponder 1 John 2:23-3:3 with a group of buddies. St. John says that Christian must stick close to Christ “so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him at His coming.” (v.28). Yet John goes further, telling his listeners that they are – right now – children of God, but that “what we shall be has not yet been made manifest.” (v. 3:2). However, “when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.” (v. 2). Excellent. But John is not done. He tops it off with this: “And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as [Christ] is pure.” (v.2). In other words, there’s a purifying power upon the believer’s life by stoking our hope in Christ’s appearance.

Hebrews 10:35-39 contains a similar line of thought. The author tells his readers to hold tenaciously to their confidence in Christ. (v.35). Why? Because “yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay.” One of the grounds of our endurance in Christ is found in our remembrance of His future coming. (v.37).

Finally, in 1 Cor. 15, St. Paul discusses the glories of the Christian’s future resurrection in Christ. He says that, at some point in the future, “we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” (vs.51-52). We should contemplate this future event, so that we might be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” (v.58).

I generally subscribe to C.S. Lewis’ dictum that the Christian should “dance until the music stops.” This does not mean I think the “end times” or God’s future plans are imponderable or not worth considering and understanding. Yet perhaps they are worth considering for a different reason that we often might think. The reality of Christ’s second coming, and our confidence in it, will have a purifying and strengthening effect upon our life in Christ. In that we ought to rejoice.

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

March 21, 2014 at 1:48 pm

Posted in Duenes, Theology

“Pick Something that You Wouldn’t Mind Investing Years in Mastering”

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So saith Cal Newport. My wife turned me on to Newport awhile back, and his advice has been quite helpful to me. He dispenses with the “follow your passion” or “do what you’re good at” advice, and instead encourages young people (and, I imagine, older people too) to think of a skill that can be developed, and really it can be any skill, and then pursue that skill to a point of mastery. People can spend years considering their “passions” or casting about for what they’re “good at,” and never get anywhere. Yet when it comes to one’s vocational life, Newport says: “[C]areer satisfaction almost always follows: (a) building up a rare and valuable skill; then (b) using this skill as leverage to take control of your working life.”

I am finding this to be true as I stand on the cusp of becoming a work-a-day attorney. When I came to law school, I thought perhaps that I wanted to be a bioethics or constitutional lawyer of some type. As I’ve said before, those areas still highly interest me, and I do have some knowledge in them that could be turned into a kind of mastery. Yet I have also found that I want to gain mastery in the skill of being a lawyer, and there are various arenas in which I might do so.

One arena, which had not occurred to me before law school, is the arena of energy. We have a phenomenal oil and gas law program here at Washburn Law, and I thought I would avail myself of it. I had no background in oil and gas and never really gave it a thought. And after my performance on my first oil and gas law final exam (my lowest grade in law school, by far), it might have been the better part of wisdom for me to call it “one and done.” But no, I doubled-down on pain, and took the advanced class, and did better. I also took a Water Law course, and have attended several environmental law conferences. More recently I took at job with Kansas’ state public utilities commission and have found it quite stimulating. Further, one cannot help but see that the energy sector pervades every nation on earth, for every nation needs energy and will continue to do so as long as humans are there.

So I have found that I “wouldn’t mind investing years in mastering” some segment of energy law, to the glory of God. Whether this will happen, only God knows. Yet I have found this to be fruitful, both professionally and in my soul. Thus, Newport has a big fan in me. I commend him to you as well.

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

March 11, 2014 at 12:41 pm

Posted in Duenes, Work