Martin W. Bender
Serial Season two completed this week. Like the previous season, it lacked a satisfying conclusion. Just as there remain touches of doubt about Adnan, there are also mixed feelings about Bowe Bergdahl. In fact, Bergdahl’s case is far more polarizing.
Bowe’s actions are not as unique as they seem. There are many reported cases of soldiers leaving their posts. Bowe was unique in what happened to him after he left. There are several deserters, but only one long term POW in the Global War on Terrorism. It is the uniqueness of Bowe’s circumstances that have caused his case to capture the attention of the American people. This is no small feat as the US has lost interest in this, its longest war.
Trading five GTMO prisoners for one soldier placed the Afghanistan war back in the forefront of national conversation. Americans are asking why the conflict continues as they revisit the fifteen-year war in Asia. It’s a fair question, one political leaders seem hesitant to answer. This may be why there is such vitriol over the Bergdahl case. In many ways, it is a microcosm of the Afghanistan war.
If one accepts Bowe’s reported motivation for his actions, he was taking drastic action to solve a serious problem. In his mind, it seemed reasonable. Generally, the war began the same way: drastic solutions. And just as Bowe did not expect where his actions would take him, so too the war did not proceed as planned. As situations changed perceptions shifted to the point where the original plan and desired outcomes seem ridiculous. Bowe wanted his unit to be safer, after he left they were in far more danger searching for him. The US wanted reduced support of terrorist operations, the results here are definitely mixed.
When Bowe disappeared he became an unknown. Thousands of people were searching for him, millions of dollars spent, and he was never found. Kind of makes movies like Eagle Eye and Enemy of the State seem like nonsense. For five years, no one knew if Bowe would come home. Fifteen years into the war in Afghanistan no one knows if America will achieve its objectives will. There remains a cloud of uncertainty over the entire operation. As the mission continues to drift, it seems unlikely the US will succeed in its original objectives.
With Bowe's return home, the process of sorting out his actions is taking place across the world. It is unlikely there will be a unified consensus on his situation. Some will listen to the news reports and podcasts, read the books, and watch the movies and see Bowe as a hero, while others who engage the same material will identify him as a villain. There isn’t likely to be a satisfying conclusion to the story. When the war concludes and the military returns home the same thing will happen. To some, the US will be heroes and to others, villains. There’s not likely to be a unified understanding of this war. There rarely is.
The sad truth is war is brutal. When people witness and engage in this brutality they are pushed to extremes where drastic solutions seem reasonable. This seems to be what happened in Bowe’s case and at the start of America’s war in Afghanistan. With any luck, both experiences will enable all to consider the ramifications of their actions.
I enjoyed Serial Season Two and recommend it to anyone interested in the war in Afghanistan or the Bowe Bergdahl case.
In this episode Justin and Martin watch a documentary called Four Blood Moons. Neither are very impressed by the historic revisionism by the film’s creators. Author and preacher, John Hagee, bears the brunt of most of their criticism comparing the film to a longer, more boring version of Ancient Aliens. Justin gets irritated about the hype up section of the show, saying he isn’t doing it anymore while Martin shows concern about the amount of time being dedicated to the show. They talk about their podcast listening habits and cut the episode short saving the listener from a discussion on atonement theories.
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In this episode of Dad Fail the Two Bearded Preachers reach new levels of failure as they mock their children's injuries and illnesses. Justin uses his child's pain as a means of getting his point across and Martin is completely oblivious to the needs of his precious little girl. If you don't feel like a good parent after listening to this one you probably aren't paying attention. Be sure to share with all your fellow parents so they can feel better about themselves too.
The Two Bearded Preachers celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in the best way possible: drinking shamrock shakes and talking movies. Justin shares about his Irish heritage, articulating the finer points of his ancestor’s fighting style. Martin revels in the glories of manipulating college freshmen when sharing the story of one of the greatest pranks in Florida Christian College history. Both of these fellers talk about how much they love Kung Fury and explain why it is a cinematic masterpiece. They explain what an arcade is to a generation that only games on five-inch phone screens and pose the question of which Thor is better. This is an action packed episode to be sure.
Always remember, when you have a beard your hairstyle is business on the top and party on the bottom. Stay bearded.
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Are you having trouble raising your kids? Do you doubt your abilities as a parent? You're not alone. Every week the Two Bearded Preachers try to share some wisdom gained through their experience as fathers. The best lessons are often learned from failure rather than success, as is demonstrated in this latest episode of Dad Fail Friday! Hear how Justin tries his hardest to give his sons a great afternoon, but drops the ball on a parenting basic. Martin tells of how he missed the chance to help his son deal with anger like an adult. If you don't learn anything, at the very least you will feel better about your own parenting skills after listening to these two blunders.
Be sure to rate and review us on iTunes if you like the episode. Thanks for listening.
It's a full body beard right here in episode 24. Justin and Martin talk about street performers, the greatest horror movie ever made about a tire, and their sermon planning processes. The question you will be left with is "Is there an underlying theme in this episode, or is it simply a stream of consciousness exercise?" The answer can only be found after having listened to the entire conversation. You've been warned.
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Warning: Do not search mogurt. This isn't a joke.
How can two men of God so consistently fail their children? In this short conversation Justin and Martin tell stories of spelling words and stubbed fingers where all the children in question end up in tears. You don't want to miss these tales of failure so be sure to listen and share with your friends.
Episode 23 is almost all pre show. Before Justin and Martin solve all the world's problems in their talking they first discuss what they are going to talk about. This is that discussion. In this episode you will hear how they both love Disney cartoons, talk to each other way too much on the phone, and listen to an excessive number of podcasts. Did we say excessive? We mean a perfectly reasonable number of podcasts. You should definitely listen to more beginning with this one.
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Martin W. Bender
Tell it Slant is a discussion of the language used by Jesus to talk to the people around him and to his Father in heaven. He used everyday language, common language, the language of bedtime stories and business meetings, the language of the classroom and the playground. Jesus spoke like a regular guy, because in some ways, many ways, that’s exactly who he was. It would be a mistake, though, to think of Jesus as just a regular guy, because he was so much more than some spiritual feller with a beard reshaping the Hebrew religion.
In Emily Dickinson’s poem Tell all the truth but tell it slant speaking cryptically is the way to tell the truth. She likens the truth to lightning which is fast, bright, and powerful, but is seldom gathered in. People are startled by it, caught off guard, and occasionally crushed by its fury. This is why we soften the blow of the truth. We teach children the glories of ethics and morality in fairy tales and fables because they make the truth more palatable, they slow and dim the lightning so everyone can take a good long look at the truth. “The truth must dazzle gradually, or every man be blind.” This is precisely how Jesus spoke.
Peterson’s Tell it Slant explains how Jesus’ speech was so wonderfully different from what one might expect. His ability to teach meant he was welcome in the synagogues and the temple, but he didn’t talk like the other teachers of his day. While his colleagues constantly sourced their material in a flood of verbal citations to establish authority, Jesus spoke authoritatively. Like those first papers written freshman year, full of fire but lacking footnotes, Jesus spoke the truth and the people listened.
Stories are a language all their own. It was in this language Jesus did much of his teaching. So often parable favored lecture even when the people asked for a graduate course. At one point Jesus shares his motivation for teaching in this way. He does it so people can be ever hearing, but never understanding. What kind of teacher teaches that way? Jesus does.
Jesus’ style forces participation or frustration. The listener either dwells in the story with the shepherd, woman, and father seeking what is lost or they become lost themselves. Jesus invites those around him to join in celebration, but too often they are seeking something more familiar than the rejoicing of angels. They desire the esoteric and high over the common and lowly. Think about how ridiculous that would be to Jesus, who left the highest position in favor of the lowliest. Ever hearing, never understanding sums it up pretty well.
Tell it Slant is a walk through the parables of Luke and the prayers of Jesus. The walk isn’t rushed though. Like Jesus and his story telling style, Peterson slows the pace down, inviting the reader to look around and explore like when hiking. There is a destination, but it’s ancillary, the point is the journey. Out and back, out and back. Rehashing the same stories over and over, but they never become stale. They are always fresh because they are always true and we enjoy them over and over.
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On the shelf
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J. K. Rowling
On Christian Doctrine, Augustine
Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller
11 books down
Martin and Justin attempt to navigate the perilous world of politics and conclude it would be easier to survive on Fury Road. They both lament the options Republicans have these days and compare one candidate to Immortan Joe, the antagonist from Two Bearded Preachers’ favorite Oscar winning car chase movie, Mad Max: Fury Road! How ought a Christian behave in this complex political season? Listen and find out from follically fantastic duo.
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You wanted it, you've got it! A special Dad Fail segment just for you. Here Justin has an in store disciplinarian meltdown while Martin burns up all the hard work his children did throughout the week. You have ten minutes to feel better about your own parenting techniques don't you?
Remember to go all social media on the episode. Thanks!
The Two Bearded Preachers discuss their musical preferences, sing a few songs, and argue about the consistency of Meghan Trainor. In a very special section they both admit to loving the music of Taylor Swift and humbly request she return to Spotify. Be sure to check out some of this links below to familiarize yourself with the pertinent artists.
Music videos by Train
Steve N Seagulls Thunderstruck
The BadPiper Thunderstruck
Music videos by Postmodern Jukebox
Songs by Pop Goes Punk
Songs by Pickin' On Series
C&C Music Factory Things that Make You Go Hmmm
Blues Traveler Hook
Taylor Swift Love Story
Fall Out Boy Sugar We're Going Down
Meghan Trainor All About that Bass
Queen (featuring David Bowie) Under Pressure
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If you are anything like Justin and Martin you may be interested in a special box set from Taylor Swift. If you order through the Two Bearded Preachers affiliate link you'll be supporting your favorite country singer/songwriter as well as your favorite podcasters. Thanks for listening and supporting the show!
Martin W. Bender
If you’re into podcasts you’ve probably heard of Serial. Serial is a show that in its first season explored the issues surrounding a murder trial and exploded into a phenome of low budget journalism. It draws the listener into the story of Hae and Adnan and makes them feel like fellow researchers in case. It’s excellent storytelling and very gripping.
Because the first season was so very prolific the second season had to be even more impressive. Enter Bowe Bergdahl.
This isn’t going to be a review of Serial Season 2, nor is it going to be a rant about the mysterious actions of a misguided E-5. Instead, these are the thoughts of a fellow veteran who identifies, in part, with the reported idealism of this generation’s most infamous sergeant.
I met Pix (an abbreviation of his last name) while working at UPS. Pix was a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Global War on Terrorism. I identified with him immediately as soldiers do in civilian environments. He had been medically discharged from the Army and was not happy about it. I remember him telling the story of how he and a few other soldiers daydreamed of taking over their FOB and running it the way they saw fit. This, it turns out, is not an unusual fantasy among enlisted men and Bergdahl’s story sounds strangely familiar to those of us who drank in those Army Values and made them our own.
The difference between Bergdahl and Pix, myself, and every other soldier I’ve spent time talking to is that he actually acted on his fantasy. His plan was to leave his post, cause an uproar, and show up at the main camp in order to gain an audience with a general. He hoped to explain the leadership problems within his unit and accept the punishment for leaving his post. The plan is absolute lunacy.
This type of lunacy, though, is not uncommon. When pushed to an extreme position only extreme actions seem reasonable. Bergdahl likely thought his position was extreme, but there is a fundamental flaw in his planning: It violated the most basic standards of military behavior.
“I will guard everything within the limits of my post and quit my post only when properly relieved.”
If there are equivalents to the greatest commandment of Jesus in the Army, they are the general orders. Privates in basic training say them like prayers before meals. They are recited, sung, repeated and for good reason; a soldier must be reliable. For all Bergdahl’s claims to have the best interest of his unit in mind he missed this fundamental truth.
Heinlein writes in Starship Troopers that it is the right of the soldier to complain. It is their job to do things they do not understand for the accomplishment of greater missions they will never hear of. This is why they maintain that right. They can complain all they want. What they cannot do is violate those greatest commandments. The general orders must be held higher than all perceived injustice and complaint because the general orders save lives.
Bergdahl claims he acted to save lives, but the reality is his actions cost the lives of fellow service members tasked to find him. This must never be overlooked.
During my deployment to Kuwait and Iraq our unit had leadership issues. Don’t think it is an exact correlation to Bergdahl’s situation, it wasn’t. We were running redeployment missions not patrols and while there was danger from occasional IED’s and coordinated attacks the bulk of what we did was drive. Thankfully, our entire company made it through the deployment with zero combat related injuries. That’s a success.
The leadership issues we had caused numerous complaints, but to my knowledge, there were no drastic plans to draw attention to our problems. Sure, there were IG complaints and a few people got into trouble, but for the most part, we put our heads down and continued with the mission till it was time to rotate back to reality. The best way to deal with the leadership conflicts was to stay on the road, keep on mission, turn and burn. That is precisely what we did.
Having trusted leaders is the greatest gift a soldier can receive. On our clip (or squad) we were blessed to have an experienced SSGT who took great care of us. Despite issues that may have occurred at the battalion, company, or even platoon level, our clip, led by Irish, knew we were the main priority with her.
Perhaps this is why feelings of pity arise when thinking of Bergdahl. He obviously didn’t feel like he was a priority to his leadership. No soldier should feel that way. In the service, one expects to have to do difficult things, but at the same time there is a rightful expectation that those difficult things must be done. Risk is mitigated as much as it can be. Personal differences don’t affect assignments. It seems like Bergdahl’s perception of his situation was at best flawed and at worst self-created.
It would be great if every squad could have a leader like Irish. It would be wonderful if all commanders could adequately communicate their concern for the well-being of their troops, but the real world is different from our ideals.
Idealism in the military is dangerous. Everyone has a hard time. Everyone has an image of their ideal leader. Everyone faces challenges. The question each soldier must ask is are they willing to forgo their ideals and work within the situation they find themselves? Bergdahl decided to bow out. He chose to act outside of the structure in which he placed himself. When he did that, when he violated his first general order, he abandoned that which makes soldiers different from civilians. He chose his own ideals over the ideals of the Army. That is why he must face court martial.
Like Bergdahl, I’m an idealist. Based on what I’ve heard about him from the second season of Serial my guess is that we would get along well on a personal level. I imagine if one of his leaders better fit his idealized image of military leadership his entire ordeal would not have happened, but perhaps all of the drama surrounding his experience will prompt this and the next generation of leaders to take seriously the concerns of all those under their care.
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Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein – Just so you know, this is as much a book about political theory as it is about giant space bugs. It has been required reading at a number of military academies and officer training courses. If you are interested in purchasing this book, please consider doing so through the Two Bearded Preachers affiliate link. It will help us defer the cost of hosting. Thanks.
How about a big fat fail on a family day, or choosing to get yelled at instead of putting your kids to bed? That's what happened when both of the bearded preachers failed as fathers this week! Listen for a few minutes and you'll feel a whole lot better about your ability to parent compared to us.
Martin W. Bender
So after a few weeks of being distracted by the Next Level Leadership Conference and Valentine’s Day I’m getting back on track with my goal of reading 100 books and writing 100 blogs to go with them. Most of the books I’ve read so far have dealt with theological issues or wizards, but this post is dedicated to an entirely practical book for my work at church: George Barna’s The Power of Vision.
At Glennville First Christian Church we are in the process of developing long term plans for the future of the congregation. In order to be effective in this goal, I’ve decided to do a little reading on the importance of vision within organizations. Since it’s a church, the majority of the goals are already set in place. Ideas like preach the gospel, serve others, and worship together are in place and being practiced, but in order to have a greater impact on the community we need to become more focused on what we hope to accomplish through our efforts. Thus, a clear vision of the future is necessary.
Barna’s book on vision helps to articulate just what a vision statement is, what it should do, and how it benefits the congregation. Much of the argument for the use of vision statements in the religious world is based upon the success of similar ideas in business, but the concepts are easily applied to congregations as well. The general idea is that without a clear focus on specific outcomes it is highly unlikely such results will be achieved. Since congregations desire a particular set of outcomes having a well-conceived vision statement is both wise and helpful.
As the elders of GFCC work to establish a clear vision for the congregation I realize we are violating Barna’s advice. He clearly indicates that creating a vision for a congregation can only be done by the pastor over that congregation. He minimizes the effectiveness of consensus and directs the pastoral professional to take this task upon themselves. I respectfully disagree. If vision is in fact produced by God, as Barna repeats throughout the book, then the vision established by a plurality of elders is just as possible. The Holy Spirit can certainly work through a collection of leaders just as effectively as through one individual. At the same time, I agree with much of what the author shares in the book.
Having a clear vision allows the congregation to embrace some ministry opportunities while allowing others to pass by. One of the greater challenges my congregation faces is choosing an area in which to focus attention. As our vision statement is developed, it will become increasingly clear which areas we need to focus on and which opportunities are met by other groups.
A clear vision promotes forward thinking. As a congregation that has existed for nearly ninety years, we do a lot out of organizational muscle memory rather than from the perceived benefits that could result. This means time, energy, and money are being spent on ministries and programs that are ineffective or unnecessary. By focusing on a specific vision a congregation like mine can break out of its ruts and move in a new direction.
It is obvious from the style of this post that I’m thinking of the implications of creating a vision for GFCC rather than talking about the book itself. That is probably greater praise than I could articulate. If you a leader and would like a well thought out examination of the value of clearly communicated vision The Power of Vision: Discover and Apply God’s Plan for Your Life and Ministry by George Barna is a great place to start.
If you’d like to purchase a copy of The Power of Vision consider doing so through the Two Bearded Preachers affiliate link. It won’t make a difference in the price you pay, but it will help to support our podcasting endeavors. Thank you so much.
On the Shelf
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by J. K. Rowling
Tell it Slant, by Eugene H. Peterson
On Christian Doctrine, by Augustine
Justin has one of those days where one bad experience ruins his day. Martin describes a terrible experience he had at the barber shop. The two discuss the ways in which God speaks to people in biblical times and today. Surprisingly, they have a high level of agreement on the primary way the Lord communicates with believers. On top of this, the facially impressive friends discuss the beneficial effects of punching others in the face. Pacifism is right out in this episode. Check it out!
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Martin W. Bender
This is Martin, half of the Two Bearded Preachers, taking this opportunity to move my reading blog to the podcast site. If you’ve been reading my posts on Medium you can expect more of the same except now all the posts will be hosted here. It’s an elaborate plan to get more people exposed to the show. If you haven’t heard an episode of the Two Bearded Preachers yet take a quick minute to start one while you’re reading this response to the ninth book I’ve finished this year: King’s Cross by Timothy Keller.
I have a confession to make, I’m a huge Tim Keller fanboy. I’ve listened to hours upon hours of his sermons, interviews, and lessons and even made it a point to go to The Gospel Coalition conference in 2015 just to hear him speak (I also benefitted from the other lecturers, but my motivation was mainly to see Tim). With that in mind, you’ll not be surprised that I absolutely loved this brief treatment of the Gospel of Mark.
Tim walks through Mark’s gospel sharing observation on the humanity, divinity, and wonder of the person of Jesus. He takes time to point out the differences between the ancient culture Jesus participated in and our own while showing Jesus’ presence on earth was a profound act of love on the part of our Heavenly Father. The content of the book is similar to much that is available on the life of Jesus, but presented with Tim’s pastoral and accessible writing style making the book ideal for the seeker and seasoned believer alike.
Of particular note in the book is the treatment of Jesus’ time on the cross. As Jesus is dying he cries out some of the lines from Psalm 22. He may have even recited the entire poem. It is here that the reader of Mark’s gospel, and Keller’s recounting of it, comes into contact with how Jesus viewed himself. Jesus is despised by men, seemingly abandoned by God, yet speaks of a time when the Lord is glorified. It is here, right at this moment, the moment of his death, that Jesus is most in tune with the will of God and is crushed under the burden of our sin. Tim brings this idea to the forefront and shows how great a savior we have found in Christ Jesus.
King’s Cross is a devotional on the book of Mark. It is neither heavy intellectually nor academic, but at the same time remains profound in the simple truths it communicates about the greatness of Christ. If you are looking for something pastoral in nature I highly recommend the book.
If you are interested in purchasing King's Cross please consider using our Amazon Affiliate link below. Your price stays the same, but it's a huge help to Justin and I as we use the revenue to promote the podcast. Thanks so much.
King's Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus by Timothy Keller (also published as Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God)
In this episode Martin and Justin talk about the pervasive nature of pornography in the modern world and how it impacts Christians. Several outside sources were referenced, some of which can linked to below. The raw conversation was 1:32:00. If you are interested in hearing more about the problems associated with pornography feel free to contact us as we would love to discuss it further.
Covenant Eyes, Pornography Statistics: 250+ facts, quotes, and statistics about pornography use