Russell and Duenes

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I Wouldn’t Give Yale University One Red Cent

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Nor Princeton, Harvard, Dartmouth, Stanford and a whole host of other “big name” colleges either. At least not as presently constituted and governed. If any of my children want to go there, that will be up to them when the time comes, but you can bet I will employ all of my persuasive powers in urging them not to attend such schools. And so far as it depends on me, they will most certainly have to pay for it on their own dime, not because I don’t want to give them financial assistance for their higher educational task, but simply because I cannot countenance giving money to such institutions as Yale, et al.

They are intellectually, culturally, morally and spiritually bankrupt, and that’s true despite the presence of any superb and courageous faculty they may have. There are not nearly enough of such faculty to offset the problem. These places have ceased to have an overall legitimate reason to exist. That they exist to foment lies, ignorance, tyranny, arrogance, and even violence, has become self-evident.

Jonathan Edwards once attended Yale College and was president of Princeton. Oh, to think how these universities have fallen into the abyss since then! I have thought this about certain of America’s “universities” for awhile, but this piece by Rod Dreher, entitled Yale Rewards Student Thugs, Bullies, clinched it.

When students who engage in physically-threatening, mob-like activity are not disciplined, regularly expelled, and told in the most explicit terms that their behavior will not be tolerated, but instead, are celebrated by the administration of the university, then that place has ceased to be one to which I would give a single one of my hard-earned nickels.

It has rather become a place of anti-intellectual cowardice where no true learning is taking place. It deserves condemnation and disdain, not continued support and admiration.

-D

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Written by Michael Duenes

May 28, 2017 at 1:21 pm

Mother’s Day, 2017

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I’ve paid tribute to my own mother on numerous occasions, and of course, I still marvel at all the diapers changed, baths given, meals cooked, laundry washed, items sewn, beds made, floors vacuumed, kitchens cleaned, carpools driven, homework assisted with, financial assistance rendered and ten thousand other things my mother has done for me throughout the course of my life. I simply cannot imagine a greater mother than my own, and I don’t know how, humanly speaking, she has done it.

I also recognize that her becoming a great mother was no accident, for her mother, who is still with us at almost 101 years old, is similarly the kind of mother who needs too many superlative adjectives to describe.

And my mother’s grandmother, who I had the privilege of knowing until I was 17 years old, was also a woman of virtue and excellence in every way. So it runs in the family, and not by accident.

My mother will never have fame. She never ran a corporation or served in political office. She has not thrown herself into some “cause” for which she will be recognized. She has no PhD or advanced educational degrees of any sort. She never tried to “have it all.” She is simply a highly intelligent, diligent, patient, glad-hearted, constant, compassionate, giving woman who knows what it means to be a woman and whose legacy will be children well-loved in every sense of the term. I will also remember the many mornings she got up looking rather bushed as she prepared to go to school as a long-term kindergarden substitute teacher.

My mother has also loved my wife as a daughter from before we even got married. My wife is truly a third daughter in our family and my mother could not love her more had she given birth to her.

At 48 years of age, I find that I speak to my mother now more than ever. It’s not so much that I need advice with my 4 kids, though I do need it. Rather, I simply realize how valuable and special my mom is, and I want to enjoy her life as much as possible in the time she has left on this earth.

Our lives are all short, a “vapor,” God says. And in her short life, my mother has given herself to that which is most important: Trusting God, loving her husband, and raising her children faithfully with love, grace, care and truth. For this, may she receive “the fruit of her hands” and may “her works praise her in the gates.” (Prov. 31:31).

Happy Mothers Day, Madre!

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

May 14, 2017 at 5:07 am

Be Glad in the Lord

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Psalm 32:11 says, “Be glad in the Lord.” It’s a command, just like, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice,” (Phil. 4:4) is a command. Yet I think it’s a command we don’t think of obeying, for how does one “be glad” in something? We moderns feel like Woody Allen, “the heart wants what it wants,” and if it does not seem to “want” the Lord, then how will we “be glad” in Him? It seems as though a state of gladness is not up to us.

Yet there it is. We are to get our hearts happy in God. We should therefore consider how it’s done. Psalm 32 itself may give us a couple of clues. First, “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity.” (v. 5). Confessing our sins may lead us to rejoice in God, for we will receive forgiveness and have our guilt lifted. Second, “let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found.” (v. 6). Praying to God can also lead our hearts to happiness in Him, for we will be having communion with Him.

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

April 25, 2017 at 4:16 am

Posted in Reflections, Theology

Being Explicitly Motivated by Spiritual Rewards is Obedience to the Great Commandment

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Every other command in the Bible is subsumed under the “greatest commandment.” The whole law and prophets is summed up in the command to love God and love neighbor. This means that all those other commands, and more specifically, the commands to explicitly seek rewards, fall under the command to “love the Lord your God.” Here’s an example. Jesus tells us to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” (Matt. 6:20). This is not optional, it’s a command. But it’s also a command to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind,” because all commands fall under that command. Thus, there is no reason Jesus should have put an explicit reward on the end of his stating of the “greatest commandment.” All of the rewards are assumed. Just like when Jesus says, “Love you neighbor as yourself,” Jesus assumes that you already love yourself. He does not have to tell you at the end of that command to “love yourself.” As Paul says in another context, “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it.” (Eph. 5:29). This is a truism. We all already seek our own personal gain and pleasure. The question is never whether we will seek it; the question is “in what” or “in whom” will we seek it?

Making “rewards” the primary motivating factor in your life is right because it’s never error to obey God, and God commands us to make it the primary motivating factor. Again, God says, “without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Heb. 11:6). What is this “faith” without which we cannot please God? The author tells us that the faith which pleases God is the belief “that God exists and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” This means I must come to Jesus expecting reward, or else I cannot please Him.

This, of course, raises the question: What is the reward(s) I am to expect as I serve God in faith? The list is long, but at a high level, it includes every possible reward God offers. I should pursue every possible reward, just as God commands, “Do you not know that the runners in a race all run, but only one gets the prize. Run in such a way so as to get the prize.” (1 Cor. 9:24). The ultimate prize is seeing and savoring the glory of God, as John Piper says. Knowing Jesus, serving Him and honoring Him, that is the ultimate reward or prize we are to seek above all. The greatest reward we can possible experience is to see and exult in the glory of God. Jesus prays for us: “Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, may be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me.” (John 17:24).

Being motivated explicitly by the rewards God promises does not mean that I would be failing to recognize my own weakness and fallen nature. Nor does it mean I would be failing to see the incredible act of love and sacrifice Christ has made for me while I do not deserve the gift and have done nothing for the gift. When one comes to Jesus motivated by the rewards He promises, that person is magnifying his or her own weakness and fallen nature. He is saying to God something like this,

God, I recognize, like Adam and Eve, I have been, like all sinful human beings, trying to find life, joy, pleasure, reward, honor, etc in anything and everything other than You. As a sinful rebel, I have been committing two errors, namely, forsaking You, O God, the fountain of living waters, and I have been digging for myself broken cisterns that can hold no water. (Jer. 2:13). This is a grievous sin and error, Lord, for me to think that I can find ultimate and satisfying life and pleasure and treasures elsewhere other than You.

I have been disobedient to your truth which tells me that in Your presence there is fullness of joy, in Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Ps. 16:11). I will repent of pursuing my joy and future gain in other things or in myself or in my family. Though I deserve nothing but condemnation from you for believing other things are better, more glorious and more satisfying than you, I will come to you as the overflowing fountain of blessing and reward, because you tell me that men may drink their fill of the abundance of Your house; and You give them to drink of the river of Your delights. (Ps. 36:8-9).

I will now seek reward, life and pleasure in You because it magnifies You as the generous, overflowing, infinitely resourceful Giver of all things, which glorifies You more than anything else. That’s why you tell me: ‘Call on me in the day of trouble; I will rescue you and you will glorify Me.’ (Ps. 50:15). Thank you, Jesus, for dying for me so that I would no longer be your enemy, but instead an undeserved recipient of all your many promised blessings and rewards, and chiefly, of fellowship with You, the Father and the Holy Spirit. Thank you that your blessings and rewards are freely given, and not based on my merit or earning, for You are an overflowing fountain, and I want my life to show you as such.

When we come to God in this way, we glorify Him most, because we are seeking Him as our ultimate reward, and we are confessing our sins and our unworthiness by acknowledging that we are cut off from Him by our sins, and that in our rebellion and weakness and fallenness, we have thought of Him as lesser than He is. We have pushed Him aside for baubles; we have ignored Him and despised Him as an interrupter of our own plans and purposes. This is folly, and so we repent.

Moreover, I hardly think that a godly man like Jonathan Edwards, when he resolved to “endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness, in the other world, as I possibly can, with all the power; might, vigor, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of” was making a grievous error. Edwards also made this resolution: “Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriad’s of ages hence.”

In other words, Jonathan Edwards accurately saw that there is no distinction between pursuing God’s glory and pursuing my own personal good, profit and pleasure. My desire for personal gain and God’s glory are not at odds, unless my desire is to find ultimate pleasure in something other than God. Indeed, Edwards (and I might add, St. Augustine) would say that a person cannot glorify God rightly without that person pursuing his own good, profit and pleasure. That’s why Edwards had those resolutions. He meant them. Of course, he and Augustine would say that “my own good, profit and pleasure” can only be found in God Himself, the ultimate reward, and in the pleasure obtained from seeing and experiencing God reflected in the gifts God gives.

More to come.

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

October 22, 2016 at 5:57 am

Mike Pence: A Suggested Statement for Withdrawing as Republican Vice-Presidential Candidate

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I don’t know a whole lot about Mike Pence, Donald Trump’s current running mate, but best I can tell, he considers himself a genuine follower of Jesus. I’ll assume he is.

In that case, he should never have agreed to joining the Republican ticket in the first place. In my view he has tarnished his name in doing so, and must be experiencing a good deal of cognitive and moral dissonance in trying to defend an indefensible man. This means that, should the Republican party somehow (can’t imagine how) get Trump removed as the Republican candidate, Pence is not worthy to be Trump’s replacement. He has already disqualified himself by running alongside Trump.

In that light, I believe Pence has only one proper course of action, which he should take this very day. He should get himself a press conference and announce his withdrawal as the Republican vice-presidential candidate. And he might say something along these lines:

I come before you to announce that I am withdrawing as Donald Trump’s running mate. Unfortunately, I am just now coming to my senses, and it is clear, to use biblical terms, that I need to repent in dust and ashes, as it were. I intend to do so now, sincerely and wholeheartedly. The truth is, I should never have agreed to join the Trump ticket in the first place. I was wrong to do so, and in my heart of hearts, I knew it was wrong. I knew Donald Trump’s character, and I knew that defending him was a spiritual compromise on my part. I cannot go on denigrating my Lord and Savior by standing beside Mr. Trump, politically or otherwise. I understand that in withdrawing, I have probably brought my political career to an end, but that is not half so disheartening as to think of how I would make a continual hash of my soul by continuing to stay on the Republican ticket. Jesus has taken care of me with great generosity all of my life, and He will continue to do so, whatever the future holds for me and my family. I will go on trusting Jesus, humbly and in repentance and gratitude. And for that reason, I am no longer the Republic vice-presidential candidate. Thank you. 

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

October 9, 2016 at 5:58 am