Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Limitations of our intelligence and need for character

Here's an interesting quote: "The world of the future will be an evermore demanding struggle against the limitations of our intelligence, not a comfortable hammock in which we can lie down to be waited upon by our robot slaves."

It comes from Norbert Wiener, in the 1964 book titled God and Golem Inc.


It's still true.

Christian men need also to be thinking about limits of our character, individual and social. We live under a curse of superficiality (see Richard Foster's book, Celebration of Discipline) -- and the world needs us to be deep people. The great need is for us to lead God-besotted lives.

Monday, December 29, 2003

Terrific book for parents of adolescents

I recommend Like Dew Your Youth: Growing Up With Your Teenager, by Eugene Peterson. He creates a theology of parenting that resonates deeply. His central premise is that God provides adolescents as a means for building up our faith and character. A gem.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Michael Novak on the Ten Commandments Controversy

I highly recommend Michael Novak's analysis of the principle of religious liberty at stake in the Alabama case where Judge Roy Moore was ousted over the Ten Commandments monument.

I also recommend you sign up for the free Imprimis magazine from Hillsdale College -- they have thoughtful, meaty speeches.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Two fun quotes

"I have only one firm belief about the American political system, and that is this: God is a Republican and Santa Claus is a Democrat....[God] holds men strictly accountable for their actions....[Santa Claus] may know who's been naughty and who's been nice, but he never does anything about it....Santa Claus is preferable to God in every way but one: There is no such thing as Santa Claus." --P.J. O'Rourke

John Fund, a editorial-page deep thinker at the Wall Street Journal, sums up Cruz Bustamante, the Democrat who for a time led the polls in that strange California election:

"You could wade through his deepest thoughts and not get your ankles wet."
Debunking the "da Vinci Code"

Men, here's an opportunity to stand up for historical truth. You probably know people who have read The da Vinci Code.

I believe the Lord can and will use this blasphemous novel to turn people's attention to the Truth, as we prayerfully engage the readers.

You probably need some factual help -- check out this article from Christian History as a good starting point.

Best books project

I plan to create a best books list for my children, then see that they have a copy of each book on the list before they leave our home. I'm thinking about books that will be powerful, true, and meaningful in 30 or 50 years. Books that build minds and sharpen convictions. Books that I want to influence our descendents, until Christ comes again.

What books have been life-changing for you? Contact me at beboldgentle@yahoo.com if you want to make suggestions.

Yes, I will publish the list when its ready :-)

Hooray for Gimli!

For you LOTR fans, three cheers for John Rhys-Davies, the actor who plays the dwarf Gimli in the LOTR movies. He gets the right perpective from Tolkien's work. An excerpt from the World magazine article:

He related the Middle Earth myth to the rise of Islam in the modern world: "I think that Tolkien says that some generations will be challenged and if they do not rise to meet that challenge they will lose their civilization. That does have a real resonance with me.... What is unconscionable is that too many of your fellow journalists do not understand how precarious Western civilization is.... The abolition of slavery comes from Western democracy. True Democracy comes from our Greco-Judeo-Christian-Western experience. If we lose these things, then this is a catastrophe for the world.

"And if it just means replacement of one genetic stock with another genetic stock, I don't think that matters too much. But if it involves the replacement of Western civilization with different cultural values then it's something we really ought to discuss because ... I am for dead white male culture! If Tolkien's got a message, it's that sometimes you've got to stand up and fight for what you believe in."

Now if only Viggo Mortensen and Ian McKellen would see Truth and Light!

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Saddam Captured, and Consumerism Reigns

Strange contrasts in the news today. I'm delighted that Saddam was captured -- and shown for the defeated coward that he is -- and disheartened by the grip of consumerism on Americans.

Men, it's time to be bold, time to be gentle, time to honor Christ. Don't waste your life.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Judicial Activism

James Taranto has this fine bit on Dec 11:

Protecting Porn but Not Politics
In the case of McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, the U.S. Supreme court yesterday upheld key provisions of the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance "reform" law. National Review blogress Kathryn Lopez notes this passage from Justice Antonin Scalia's dissent, which sums matters up nicely:

Who could have imagined that the same Court which, within the past four years, has sternly disapproved of restrictions upon such inconsequential forms of expression as virtual child pornography, tobacco advertising, dissemination of illegally intercepted communications, and sexually explicit cable programming, would smile with favor upon a law that cut to the heart of what the First Amendment is meant to protect: the right to criticize the government.

This wonderfully encapsulates the perversity at the heart of contemporary American liberalism: "Free speech," in this view, protects everything except actual political speech. And of course we're all familiar with variants of this argument, such as: Criticizing anti-American speech is censorship, while censoring conservative speech is mere criticism. Or: It's un-American to criticize people who side with America's enemies; indeed, as "dissenters," they are the true patriots. It's mind-boggling that this sort of nonsense gets taken seriously.

And John Fund of the WSJ has a sensible analysis of why judges shift -- it's because of the praise they receive.

"Judge Laurence Silberman, recently retired from the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, made a landmark speech in 1992 that explained the kind of pressures that nudge someone like Justice O'Connor away from her conservative moorings. Judges, he noted, are often swayed by a desire for praise. Their judicial vanity is often flattered when reporters or professors at elite law schools write glowing descriptions of how they've "grown in office,"--that is, come to see a liberal point of view more favorably. Journalists "have a lot more impact than [they] think," he noted ruefully. He said the most prominent media practitioner of the effort to "put political heat" on judges to move them in a more activist direction was Linda Greenhouse, then and now the legal affairs reporter for the New York Times. Judge Silberman called this process of co-opting judges the "Greenhouse effect."

"The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold,
but man is tested by the praise he receives." (Prov 27:21)

What's infinite?

"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former." -- Albert Einstein

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Expectant Learning

Church is not something to be checked of your to-do list. I recently heard a man say that he wished our congregational prayers were shorter and we could just "get on with it." I wondered, Get on with what? Another man said happily as he left one Sunday, "OK, back to the real world." If Jesus Christ is the way, the reality, and the life (John 14:6) then what real world was my brother referring to?

Let us recognize the shallowness of our spiritual lives. Richard Foster's words for us are prophetic: "Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people."

The problems we face today in our families and our country can only be met by greater spiritual depth -- we must be larger and cleaner conduits for the love of God. I find myself too satisfied with little sprinkles of God's love when what is needed is a life-giving downpour. Let's ask the Lord of our hearts to pour out enough love so that every aquifer is replenished and the subsoil moisture is ideal for growing the harvest.

Americans are steeped in a powerful consumer-oriented culture. A consumer orientation in the church is not consistent with the mind of Christ. The purpose of our gatherings is not to make us feel good or comfortable, but to glorify the Lord of the Universe. We worship our holy God (Ex 20:3), we experience the fellowship of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 13:14), use our gifts and talents to help others (1 Pe 4:10), and receive instruction and training that we might serve effectively in the Lord's kingdom (Gal 5:13-14). You are here for service, friend. "It's not about you. It's not about me, either. It's about Jesus." These things are true for everyone, including children and youth in our fellowship, not just some of the adults who are “into” it.

Perhaps you have been nodding with agreement as you've read this. Very good. Now what will you do differently -- today, for it is the only day you have -- to be more satisfied in Christ and God-saturated?

Here is my challenge for you: Become an expectant learner. Come to every meeting with believers and to each time in the Word with an attitude that God will give you the precise nugget of truth you need to share with another—perhaps your children, or your neighbor, or a coworker. So pray beforehand, like this: “Lord, I am confident you will teach me. Help me get it.” Listen expectantly. When that nugget of truth comes, or insight into God’s glory, write it down! Then prayerfully watch for opportunities to use what the Lord has taught you. This is a grand adventure, friends!

May our gracious God saturate all our lives with His Word and His Presence, for the glory of Jesus Christ, our ever-living Lord, Savior, Master, Teacher, and Friend. Amen!

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

What's an Evangelical in America?

US News & World Report has a cover story titled Evangelicals in America. There are some interesting statements here:

* according to a Gallup survey, roughly 4 out of 10 Americans identify themselves as evangelical or born-again Christians

[This statement reminds me of John Stott's assessment of America years ago -- "What kind of salt is it? 0.4 pounds of salt cannot savor 1.0 pounds of meat?"]

* In the last presidential election, 40 percent of Bush's votes came from religious conservatives. But not all evangelicals have ended up at the conservative end of the political spectrum. Theologically conservative African-American evangelicals and a minority of white evangelicals combine to make the evangelical perspective a force to be reckoned with inside the Democratic Party.

* Evangelicalism is, in a way, a counterculture.

* Adaptable and improvisatory, emotionally engaging and sustaining, American evangelical religion has provided a most accessible spiritual home for a highly individualistic, egalitarian, and mobile people.

Men, there will always be a lot of discussion about labels. Take care. When we're called to account for our lives (see Heb 9:27) there won't be much conversation about the labels we so highly treasure.

As you go forward today, consider that God has already prepared good works for you, so that you may walk in them, and honor His Name by loving others. Purpose to live well today.
Is man a moral being, or not?

Check out this 1939 WSJ editorial by Thomas Woodlock. There are consequences -- from individual families right up through international affairs -- of your understanding of the nature of man.

"Now leaving open for the moment the question whether man is a moral being or not, we are confronted by the obvious fact that the Western civilization is founded on the assumption that he is, and by the equally obvious fact that our American social structure is in a very special sense formally created on the same base. On this base have rested all the traditions, the mores, and the conventions of both. That base is now attacked in principle and in practice. If it goes the traditions and the mores go with it. What kind of social order can we expect to arise upon its ruins?

One thing we can safely predict of any social order that is erected upon a theory of human amoralism. It must, if it is to be "order," take the ant heap or the hive as its model. It cannot stop short of that; the dichotomy is absolute. There can be no "liberty" for anyone in an amoral social order, any more than there is liberty for an ant or a bee. It would have to be an order much as that of Egypt under the Pyramid-builders but almost infinitely tighter, because more complex, and it would not have at its command the one thing that cemented the Egyptian structure and gave it such unique stability--religion. There is nothing in the history of man to support the possibility of such an order; all history gives it the lie.

To those who believe that man is a moral creature, Mrs. McCormick's conclusion is convincing. We shall see the world's crisis beginning to resolve, when we see the law of right and wrong entering into the dispute--not before. To those who do not so believe, the crisis should be no crisis at all, but rather a step toward the order which their philosophy foresees and demands. That is, of course, supposing them to be logical--which, equally of course, they are not. For it is characteristic of all pragmatists, from William James down, that in building their Utopias they surreptitiously slip in through the back door the "absolutes" that they have ostentatiously kicked down the front stoop!"

This one is for my friend, Aaron

"The U.S. military has had considerably more success in turning Iraq around than liberals have had in turning the ghettos around with their 40-year 'War on Poverty.' So far, fewer troops have been killed by hostile fire since the end of major combat in Iraq than civilians were murdered in Washington, DC, last year (239 deaths in Iraq compared to 262 murders in DC). How many years has it been since we declared the end of major U.S. combat operations against Marion Barry's regime? How long before we just give up and pull out of that hellish quagmire known as Washington, DC?" --Ann Coulter

Monday, December 08, 2003

Your family tree

It's interesting to see that tracing family roots has become the No. 2 hobby in the United States, after gardening, according to the National Genealogical Society.

The Bible records many geneologies, and family history is important. But no matter what your past, all of us can be adopted as children of God, co-heirs with Christ.

More about your Bible

I've written before to encourage you to mark up your Bible and make it a great tool for ministry. Here are some ideas for things to include:

Key notes from good sermons in the margins
Outlines of devotions you've done in the past -- they will be useful again!
Great quotes from books and speakers that are worth reviewing, and sharing
Doctrinal outlines (I have the 12 points of doctrine for the EFCA)
Bible reading plan
A Biblical outline for sharing the Good News with people

So this is about making an ever-better tool for you to use in the Lord's service. But keep in mind the truth of what's really needed most -- Christ in you. Consider these words from Robert Murray M'Cheyne, the great Scottish Puritan pastor: "What my people need most is my personal holiness. That's right. But human holiness is nothing more than a God-besotted life."

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Being a good general store owner

"[Jesus] said, 'Then you see how every student well-trained in God's kingdom is like the owner of a general store who can put his hands on anything you need, old or new, exactly when you need it." (Matt 13:52, The Message translation)

How's your comfort level with your Bible, men? For any situation, can you go to God's Word and find appropriate guidance or strength? God will bring us new opportunities every day (see Eph 2:10), and our part is to be prepared.

Make it your ambition to wear out Bibles. Write in them. Create a legacy you can leave to your children. But get God's Word in your heart and mind.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Reminders of what we must teach our children

"We have failed our children if we have not passed on to them a
realistic perspective of government. We must insure that they know that it is
not okay to raid people's paychecks and steal their property, even if
doing so seems to be in the best interest of society. We must not take
it for granted that our children know the importance of spiritual things
and understand the foundations of traditional morality. We must insure
that they do. Walt Disney would not know the company he founded only a
generation ago. He would roll over in his grave at what those at the
helm of Disney today have made of his dream. Henry Ford would turn away
in disgust at what the Ford Foundation is doing with his fortune. I am
certain that the Founding Fathers would be distressed at the way we have
allowed their carefully constructed, much debated words...twisted so as
to kick God and the Bible out of our schools and to protect the
purveyors of obscenity. They would wonder in disbelief at the income taxes we
allow to be confiscated from our paychecks today and the property that
is stolen without compensation by means of egregious land use
regulations. In their day, they would have hung the government official who told
them that they could not build a deck on the back of their house
without a government permit or could not own a gun without the government's
consent.... Today, 'church going' Walt [Disney] would not even be
welcome to sit on the board of directors of his own company. Today, neither
George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, nor James Madison could
be elected to Congress in any of the states from which they hailed two
centuries ago. That's what happens when a generation or two fails to
pass on to their children and those who work under them the values and
traditions that form the very underpinnings of their society. Precious
things slip away, for the price of liberty really is eternal vigilance."
--Bill Sizemore
What do you want to be IF you grow up?

Todd Wilson relays a hilarious application to date my daughter form. Ideal for dads who remember clearly what 15 to 18 year old boys are like.

For those of us raising boys who will date other men's princesses, Todd has some excellent suggestions for training them:

1. Train him to be involved in his own family. He can't do his own thing.
2. Train him to be a good listener. Eye to eye, no distractions.
3. Train him to be gentle. No harsh words or roughness.
4. Train him to be able to say, "I'm sorry" -- even when he feels wronged.
5. Train him to have a real, growing relationship with God. He can't go it alone.
6. Train him to care more about loving his wefe and raising his children than he does about his career.
7. Train him to be able to say "No" to his own desires and "Yes" to hers.

A lot of this training will come from our boys watching how we relate with our wives, men!
What would gun control people think of this?

Thomas Jefferson has rightly been described as the American Sphinx -- no matter what your decision, he has a quote to support you. Truly a good politician, because he could come down squarely on both sides of an issue. Here's an example that might aggravate the gun control advocates:

"The constitutions of most of our States assert that all power is inherent in the people; ... that is their right and duty to be at all times armed."

Dear American Soldier

Great Dennis Prager column, in the form of a letter to our soldiers. Here's an excerpt: "In sum, you are carrying the great burden of history on your shoulders every day you serve in Iraq. That some of your fellow citizens do not understand this only means that the war for civilization is taking place as much here at home as it is in Iraq.

We pray for you not only because you are our sons and daughters risking your lives, but because if God is good, and if we humans can discern between good and evil, you are doing God's work. It is as clear as that. No American war has ever been clearer."

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Stronger affections needed

Great quote from C.S. Lewis in The Weight of Glory : "If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased."

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Temporary Hiatus

Your primary blogger is traveling in the Lord's service and will not be posting anything until after Nov 25. Check back then! If you send me a note to beboldgentle@yahoo.com, I will send you a reminder message about the next posting. God bless you as you strive towards being a great husband and dad.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

"Annabelle Sees Light"

That's the wonderful tag line in the Des Moines Register, a story they're reporting about a seven year old girl who sees light for the first time because of surgery. She's a picture of joy, her face beaming as she looks out a bright window.

Psalm 36:9 comes to mind: "For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. "

It reminds me of the joy I have in Christ, because of His mercies and power, that I can see light! The shekinah glory of God is ours to enjoy -- safely -- in Christ. Praise the Lord!

Men, I long for two things as I read this:

1. There are many I'm praying for that will see light. Lord, speed the day when I will read headlines about family members, coworkers, neighbors, and nations seeing the light of Jesus!

2. May our joy in the light of Christ match this picture of Annabelle, so that the whole world will see us and give you glory.

Be bold, be gentle, be filled with light.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Book recommendation

John Piper's recent book Don't Waste Your Life is a jewel. Get a copy.
Jihad isn't limited to US and Israel targets

Walid Phares has a sobering and convincing analysis of why terrorists are attacking Saudi Arabia.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Men’s Rules

One of our CrossTrainers speakers used these “Men’s Rules” to highlight some key differences between men and women. (Warning – there are many versions of these rules on the Internet – I have sanitized these.) Give these a read, and then stick with me for some follow-up thoughts.

“Please note ... these are all numbered "1" ON PURPOSE!

1 Ask for what you want. Subtle hints don’t do it!

1 Most guys own three pairs of shoes - tops. What makes you think we’d be any good at choosing which pair, out of thirty, would look good with your dress?

1 Yes and No are perfectly acceptable answers to almost every question.

1 Come to us with a problem only if you want help solving it. That’s what we do. Sympathy is what your girlfriends are for.

1 If something we said can be interpreted two ways, and one of the ways makes you sad or angry, we meant the other one.

1 You can either ask us to do something or tell us how you want it done. Not both. If you already know best how to do it, just do it yourself.

1 Christopher Columbus did not need directions, and neither do we.

1 ALL men see in only 16 colours, like Windows default settings. Peach, for example, is a fruit, not a colour. Pumpkin is also a fruit. We have no idea what mauve is.

1 We are not mind readers and we never will be. Our lack of mind-reading ability is not proof of how little we care about you.

1 If we ask what is wrong and you say "nothing," we will act like nothing’s wrong. We know you are lying, but it is just not worth the hassle.

1 When we have to go somewhere, absolutely anything you wear is fine. Really.”

Pretty funny, right? A few hours after laughing with all guys, I became convicted in my heart that I needed to review these again. They’re funny because there is truth here. Ephesians 5:25 comes to mind: “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loves the church” This morning I prayerfully turned these “Men’s Rules” into a means of examen. Where am I on this one? What do I need to do (or stop doing) to grow into the marriage relationship that Christ desires for us? These may reflect the current state, but by God's grace they need not reflect the future state.

My wife is the best, most noble woman on earth. Proverbs 31 was written about her. She is an incredible blessing to me. I pray that each of us can say this.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

We won the Tet Offensive

There's plenty of lousy sound-bite thinking about what really happened in Vietnam. Would Vietnam have fallen to the Communists if we had stayed? I appreciated Robert Bartley's analysis in Iraq: Another Vietnam?

A democrat's perspective on George Bush vs. the "Naive Nine"

Zell Miller writes about why he will vote for George Bush for president, though he's voted for the Democratic nominee in the last 12 presidential elections. On of the most interesting comments is this: "For I believe the next five years will determine the kind of world my four grandchildren and four great-granchildren will live in."

How's your multigenerational vision, men?

Monday, November 03, 2003

Martin Luther on schools

"I am much afraid that schools will prove to be the great gates of hell unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures, engraving them in the hearts of youth." --Martin Luther
Another helpful resource for dads

Fathers.com is worth bookmarking. Ken Canfield has compiled a lot of valuable articles -- I found some helpful information in the fathering teens section. You can sign up for the encouraging newsletter, as well.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Launch an adventure

If you’re willing to launch a spiritual adventure to expand your heart and increase your ministry, pray that people around you – including your children -- will ask you questions.

Let’s review some verses.

“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Pe 3:15)

In the future, when your children ask you, 'What do these stones mean?' (Joshua 4:6)

The Philistines asked, "What guilt offering should we send to him?" (1 Sam 6:4)

And if they ask you, 'Where shall we go?' (Jer 15:2)

"Where did this man [Jesus] get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?" they asked. (Matt 13:54)

Face it – it’s difficult to share with people who aren’t asking you questions. It’s easier to coach and train and encourage our kids when they’re asking us questions, too.

Why do I call this an adventure? Because you’ll be amazed at how wonderfully and creatively our God will answer your prayers. Strangers, coworkers, and neighbors will ask you very specific questions about your faith, or will ask ordinary questions about your life in such a way that it becomes natural to share your faith or give praise to God. Your children will ask you questions that you have to stretch to answer. Extended family members will get beyond the usual “So, how’s work going? I see the kids are still growing.”

Here’s the best part: they’re going to ask you questions that will drive you further in prayer and dependence upon God so you can answer them!

One quick example. I was recently asked by an unbelieving coworker, “Why the hell do you want to go to Venezuela?” I started my reply with, “ ‘Hell’ is the operative word there.”

So pray that they will ask.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

The problem with images

Chuck Colson relays this critical observation by Neil Postman, author of Amusing Ourselves to Death (emphasis is mine) :

"Postman’s thesis is that different media encourage different ways of thinking. The printed word requires sustained attention, logical analysis, and an active ima gination. But television, with its fast-moving images, encourages a short attention span, disjointed thinking, and purely emotional responses.

Postman says he first discovered the connection between media and thinking in the Bible when, as a young man, he was struck by the Old Testament words: “You shall not make for yourself a graven image.” Postman says he realized that the idea of a universal deity cannot be expressed in images, but only in words.

As he put it, “The God of the Jews was to exist in the Word and through the Word, an unprecedented conception requiring the highest order of abstract thinking.” This is the God Christians worship today—a God known principally through His Word and incarnate."

Men, let's prayerfully consider the TV watching in our homes. Let's work to ensure that we and our families are good thinkers, and not taken in by sound bytes and pixels manipulated by those who do not know God.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Jews and Christians bring different perspectives

Mel Gibson's new movie The Passion has evoked amazingly different responses. Dennis Prager provides helpful insights. Here's an excerpt:

"When watching "The Passion," Jews and Christians are watching two entirely different films. For two hours, Christians watch their Savior tortured and killed. For the same two hours, Jews watch Jews arrange the killing and torture of the Christians' Savior."

Monday, October 27, 2003

How far can logic take you?

My mother, studying for her CPA exam, used to say that logic was a step-by-step means of arriving at the wrong answer.

"Every logical position will eventually lead you into trouble, and heresy, and chaos. Every logical position is consistent, but it is logic which is in the human mind, not God's logic. The human mind is finite and cannot grasp eternity, and therefore the finite mind sees the infinite as not graspable coherently. If we could grasp it all coherently, without contradiction, we would be God. The person who insists on being logical to the end winds up in a mess. I am not saying that we should not be rational. I am not anti-intellectual. I am saying that the intellect by itself is helpless to arrive at total truth." --Kenneth L. Pike

Let's keep 1 Cor 1:25 in mind, brothers.

Sensitive? Or lacking sense?

There are always concerns when technological progress outstrips the conditions of the heart. Paul Greenbert dissects the news reports about the more "sensitive" tests for Down's Syndrome in utero and their application to support abortion.

Paul Greenberg: Our brave new world

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Knowing your day of death

Neil Cavuto writes about the curious story that Pope John Paul now knows the day of his death, and how it may be affecting his actions.

A few thoughts:

We're told to take up our cross daily and die to ourselves. Our purposes are rooted, therefore, in Christ, and in our new life in Christ.

God may choose to reveal to some the time of their death, but that does not appear to be the norm. Unless he does, let us walk in faith simultaneously making long-term investments in people (so that the generations to come will be blessed) and making every day, every hour count.

If I think about it, I don't want to know when I'm going to die. Frankly speaking, I lack the spiritual maturity to walk in trust and obedience if I was convinced of that fact.

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." -- Matt 5:8

The pure in heart long to see God. The old heart of stone (Ezek 36:25-28) can’t see God anywhere, but the new heart of flesh finds God sovereign everywhere and speaking continually.

“Purity of heart cleanses the eyes of the soul so that God becomes visible.”
-- John MacArthur

Friday, October 24, 2003

How is God's glory being revealed through Terri Schiavo?

Thanks be to God! He has turned the heart of the governor and now Terri Schiavo is being fed again.

Let us always choose life, remembering that we are all made in the image of God. Ben Shapiro has some good comments about this issue, outlining the different worldviews of those who wanted Terri to starve and those who believe that we're responsible to help her live.

God is using Terri Schiavo to put these differences in high relief, so they are visible to all.
Be prepared

We need to coach our kids to think through how they will respond when temptations come -- before they come. We talk to our kids about what they will do if/when someone offers them a joint, or if they're with a group of kids who start vandalizing property, or if they see a Playboy magazine at someone's house. There simply isn't time to calculate the right responses when some temptations come at us so quickly, and the longer the temptation hangs there in front of us the less likely we are to turn away. (Though it's always possible with Christ's help -- see 1 Cor 10:13. We try to prepare them for potential peer pressure or scorn for making God-honoring choices. This is training.

What about you, brother? Have you thought through your response plans? List out four kinds of temptations you're more vulnerable to, imagine scenarios, and prayerfully make your commitments on how you will respond.

Here's a good scenario to think through: If you were General Boykin getting flamed by NPR and newspapers and the Arab American Insitute for making public statements consistent with the truths of the New Testament, how would you respond? (If you aren't familiar with this story, you can start with Ann Coulter's column -- I sometimes cringe when I read her columns, because she can be shrill, but she makes good points.)

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Where are the Muslims who will silence their own?

"The notion that religion is not at the heart of the hatred directed at America from outside and now inside the country qualifies as extreme denial. Throughout the Muslim world, America is condemned not mainly because of its ideas but because Islamicists believe we are infidels opposed to God." -- Cal Thomas

Check out the rest of this column.
2nd American Civil War -- Part II

Dennis Prager continues his astute catalog of Left and Right views. Here's a good example: "The Left believes that criticism of Christianity is important and that criticism of Islam is bigoted. The Right believe that criticism of Islam is important and most criticism of Christianity is bigoted."

Monday, October 20, 2003

How long can our republic last?

Alan Keyes has some sobering words for all who are concerned about recent judicial actions.

Let us be found faithful in prayer, men, for the glory of God.
Three questions

I recommend you ask (and answer) three questions daily. The first two were given to me as challenges along with a New Testament when I was considering Christianity in 1985.

1. Who is Jesus? Our understanding of Jesus grows as we enter into kingdom living and walk along the arc of discipleship. He is Lord!

2. What will I do about that? What decisions must I make today to serve the Lord of the Universe? "When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die." -- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I'm convicted now that I must ask and answer a third question:

3. Where is your faith? This comes from Luke 8:25. Let's examine each word in this question.

Where? Is your faith stuck on a post-note in your Bible, or is it in your heart? Is your faith placed on Jesus, or on idols that cannot sustain you (position, paycheck, achievements, stuff that will rust or rot)?

Is? The present tense. Not last year or yesterday. Today. Now. Not next year or after you retire. Today. Now.

Your? Your faith. The question is not about the faith of your pastor, your parents, your spouse, your children, your neighbors. Your faith.

Faith? "Without faith it is impossible to please God." (Heb 11:6) Jesus didn't ask where the disciples' memory was, nor their dreams, nor their skills in navigating or storm reading.

Where is your faith? Your Lord, Savior, Master, Teacher, and Friend is asking. These are wonderful days for ministry.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Bringing up children

Dads, you need to read this sermon by John Piper : "Raising Children Who Hope in the Triumph of God"

"Therefore I conclude that whatever else it means to bring our children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord == the King and Commander and Ruler of all things == it means this: bring the children up to hope in the triumph of God.

== Bring them up to find their place in the triumphant Cause of the Lord Christ.

== Bring them up to see everything in relation to the triumph of God.

== Bring up to know that the path of sin is a dead end street no matter how many cool and famous people are on it, because the cause of righteousness will triumph in the end. Christ has already struck the decisive blow on Good Friday and Easter morning."

Saturday, October 18, 2003

Where to put our energies to preserve marriage?

I have some misgivings about efforts to add a constitutional amendment defining marriage. I can't quite put my finger on why.

Gary Aldrich makes some good points in his column about this issue.

Key excerpt: "Marriage is in trouble; nobody can argue otherwise. But an effort to amend our constitution – even if we could get one – will do nothing to improve the institution of marriage. Gays and Lesbians, and even their radical and obnoxious agenda, are not responsible for soaring rates of divorce. Religious conservatives should concentrate on the causes of divorce and use their amazing and powerful influence to help reduce the incidence of divorce."

Along these lines I recommend the Divorce Proofing Campaign from America's Family Coaches.

Step one for all of us to strengthen and preserve our own marriage.

As the Lord brings people into our sphere of influence, we should prayerfully and practically help them strengthen and preserve their marriages. Each is precious.

If a marriage amendment comes in the context of this ministry, great. But it's not a starting point or the solution in itself. Changed lives are.

The Gospel is critical in this every day. Every hour. Remember that the Gospel comes in two parts, each necessary. First part : You are far worse than you can imagine. Second part : You are far more loved than you ever dared to hope. Jesus is the issue.

Types of war

Clifford May's ideas of war of power vs. war of wills are helpful.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Learning from elm trees

Check out this good book review. Our culture is very steeped in the Enlightenment thinking. This is one reason why the language Tolkien uses in The Lord of the Rings trilogy sounds like a throwback -- it is!

Men, we do well to study nature. The created has much to teach us about our Creator!
Watching the headlines

David Limbaugh points out a scary set of headlines this week.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Spiritual Bernoulli

You're probably familiar with the Bernoulli principle: there is a sideways force generated when a fluid (even air) is moving at velocity. This is what pulls your car towards the semi rig when it passes you at high speed.

There is a spiritual Bernoulli principle at work when we worship the Lord of Heaven. When the congregation sings and fills the air with praise, lifting high the great Name of Jesus, there is a spiritual "sideways" force created that draws the people of God closer together. When we pray and praise Almighty God, our marriages are knit together, and our children are drawn closer to our hearts.

So if you sense distance and gaps in your relationships, leverage this spiritual law of the universe -- praise the Creator, our ever living Lord, Savior, Master, Teacher, and Friend -- and watch the gap close.

For His Glory only! Amen!

When praying men need encouragement to keep praying

"When God has something very great to accomplish for His church, it is His will that there should precede it, the extraordinary prayers of His people. And it is revealed that when God is about to accomplish great things for His Church, He will begin by remarkably pouring out the spirit of grace and supplication." -- Jonathan Edwards

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

"How long will you waver between two opinions?" ( 1 Ki 18:21)

Dennis Prager writes lucidly about the second American civil war.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Churchill inspires -- good message for today!

"Do not let us lose the conviction that it is only by supreme and superb exertions, unwearying and indomitable, that we shall save our souls alive. No one can predict, no one can even imagine, how this terrible war against German and Nazi aggression will run its course or how far it will spread or how long it will last. Long, dark months of trials and tribulations lie before us. Not only great dangers, but many more misfortunes, many shortcomings, many mistakes, many disappointments will surely be our lot. Death and sorrow will be the companions of our journey; hardship our garment; constancy and valor our only shield. We must be united, we must be undaunted, we must be inflexible. Our qualities and deeds must burn and glow through the gloom of Europe until they become the veritable beacon of its salvation. " --Winston Churchill (1940)
What is this telling us?

The pop cultural view that violent women are cool and entertaining is disturbing. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 is perhaps the farthest along this ugly trendline, but not the first. (See a good review if you had any doubts about seeing this one.)

What ugliness inside us ("Let's just call that sin.") are these movies appealing to? Consider that, then turn your eyes -- and the eyes of your family -- to Jesus.

Saturday, October 11, 2003

Concerning addiction to prescription pain medication

There are those who will seek to crucify Rush Limbaugh because they delight in the "hypocrisy" of the self-righteous who are exposed.

Christians are people of mercy, because of God's mercy towards us. Jesus emphasized this in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:7). Mercy means giving people less punishment and more help than they deserve. Mercy is identified with justice, and does not excuse sin.

Check out Ben Shapiro's story for a helpful view.
We had to act in Iraq

Mark Alexander's analysis Weapons of Mass Destruction -- and Obstruction... is excellent. "The U.S. inspection team has uncovered significant evidence of chemical- and biological-weapons programs, and even more extensive evidence of Iraq's missile program -- all banned under UN resolutions. Kay reported Saddam's Iraq to have been in violation of UN sanctions in at least nine separate covert programs. The inspectors also found evidence of chemical- and biological-weapons testing on humans. This preliminary report -- after only three months of investigation -- stands in stark contrast to 12 years of failed United Nations weapons inspections; a failure culminating in the UN Security Council's weak-kneed acquiescence to Saddam."

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Be strong and courageous

Dennis Prager nails it with his insights about the necessity and power of beliefs. An excerpt:

"That is why this battle is a battle of civilizations. One civilization believes in liberty and one does not. The problem is that the civilization that has liberty has not produced anywhere the depth of belief in liberty that the opponents of liberty have produced. That is why most Europeans (and their supporters in America on the Left) see dying or killing for almost anything as pointless. When you don't believe in anything except not dying, you don't really believe in anything. For this reason, European civilization is in peril.

The great question mark is America. America is already in the midst of a civil war, thankfully still non-violent. It is between those who fervently believe in America and in Judeo-Christian revelation and those who fervently believe in neither."
For LOTR fans

Many guys are big fans of the Lord of the Rings movies. Greg Wright at Hollywood Jesus has detailed analyses of the books and movies, highlighting the differences between J.R.R. Tolkien's and Peter Jackson's visions. This is worth checking out if you want to be better prepared to discuss the spiritual significance of the story with your family or friends.

Loving books

Let your wife and children see you reading books -- good books and great books. Some things are more caught than taught, and your family needs to catch the love of books.

“If you can not read all your books, at any rate handle, or as it were, fondle them—peer into them, let them fall open where they will, read from the first sentence that arrests the eye, set them back on the shelves with your own hands, arrange them on your own plan so you at least know where they are. Let them be your friends; let them be your aquaintences.” Sir Winston Churchill

Make it your ambition to wear out books -- particularly your Bible.

Monday, October 06, 2003

Relationship between work and rest

Excellent John Stanford emailing today:

"C. S. Lewis said that he never wrote a book without using ideas from
19th-century author George Macdonald. (Quite a recommendation...)

Over a century ago Macdonald penned an imaginary conversation about
the relationship between work and rest. Here it is, slightly

The concern that's filling your mind at this instant -- the need
that's not a need -- is a demon draining your soul.
> No, mine is a reasonable, unavoidable concern.
Is it something you have to do at this instant?
> No.
Then you're allowing it to usurp something that's required of you at
this instant.
> What's that?
Trust in the living God.
> I do trust Him in spiritual things.
Everything is a spiritual thing.

Coffee thought: When I trust God to provide for my practical needs,
it pleases him more than anything else (even more than "ministry" I do
in his name)."

-- John Stanford

While not a Christian, David Allen has done the best work I've seen on managing workflow, no matter what your occupation.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

Encouraging God's under-shepherds

October 12 is Clergy Appreciation Sunday. CT has some good suggestions for encouraging your pastor.

David Kay report

There's a huge gap between what David Kay reports about findings in Iraq and how most media outlets are reporting it -- "No WMDs in Iraq" headlines. Read the actual report and decide for yourself.

Friday, October 03, 2003

Good news!

House Votes to Ban Late-Term Abortion Procedure
Krauthammer -- on target again

Charles Krauthammer pins down some good perspetive in Everyone's an expert. The reconstruction of Iraq is going amazingly fast. Oil production is at 1.6 million barrels a day, more than three-quarters of 2002 production levels. There is no hunger, disease, or refugee problem.

One primary reason that reconstructing Iraq government, business, and social systems is going much faster than any historical precedent (e.g., Germany or Japan) is that the military campaign was remarkably precise -- leaving most things intact. If you travel through many cities in Germany, by comparison, there is precious little pre-1945 construction remaining, certainly nothing industrial.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

If you want God to bring revival, draw a circle on the floor, kneel inside the circle, and ask God to start a revival inside the circle.

Read Cal Thomas' column about the wordliness of the American church, titled "In Dow We Trust." Read it again.

Defining "rich" and "poor"

Bruce Barlett has a good analysis of poverty statistics in his column, "What is poor?"

Travel any time in a 3rd world nation and you get new, realistic definitions of wealth. For example, you're wealthy if you

* can control the temperature of the air around you
* have running water that's drinkable
* can get your children immunized against deadly childhood diseases
* have more than 1 change of clothes

Keep in mind that if you have Christ, you're filthy rich. That's the only imperishable inheritance.

An enigma wrapped in a riddle...

"To this day, people gazing upon China see what they want to see.

It's important that we see the PRC for what it really is - warts and all. And understand that despite a quiescent period, our national interests and aspirations, and China's, have not been, and in the future will not likely be, the same." -- Peter Brookes

Where are the WMDs!?

Every intelligence agency in the world recognized that Saddam had WMDs. (He'd already used some of them!) So where are they? Clifford May outlines two likely scenarios.

And if this story of Kuwait foiling a smuggling of chemical weapons to somewhere in Europe is true, it should be very big news indeed.

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

It Takes A Man To Be A Dad

That's the slogan of the National Fatherhood Initiative. Check out this new ad they're running in major business magazines. The text reads:

"This is a baby. It needs you. It needs your love, your touch, and your time. Spend lots of time with it. Build a bird house. Read a book. Go for a walk. Do homework. Play. The more time you spend, the better chance it has of growing up happy and healthy. It grows very quickly. Pay attention. Never underestimate the difference you make."

Of course this strategy of tagging the baby would only work for the minority of men who read instruction manuals. :-)

For Christian fathers, we need to add some instructions:

1. Pray. Pray a lot. Here are some suggested prayers for your child.

2. Teach. Take Deut 6 seriously.

Our Lord promises that children are a blessing (see Psalm 127:3-5). Walk faithfully and humbly before God, dads -- it's ok if these kids are a handful before they're a quiverful. (Derek Kidner gets credit for that idea.)

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Friday, September 26, 2003

There really are facts about the post-war administration of Iraq

Do not succumb to soundbites. Do not succumb to soundbites. Do not succumb to soundbites.

Ad hominem swipes at President Bush are the order of the day. Edward Daley outlines the facts in Let's Get A Few Things Straight.

* the remarkable speed in establishing a central bank, new currency, an Iraqi cabinet, and basic infrastructure (especially compared with historical examples in Germany and Japan)

* that the Bush adminstration did not "rush" to war, or take unilateral action without Congress and the UN

* that there are readily-available details about how the $87 billion request would be spent

And more. Worth reading.
The Church is at the center, not the periphery

As we follow Christ and are made more into His likeness, it should come as no suprise that we're out of step with the culture around us -- and we will see persecution as a result. We are like foreign invaders to the body, triggered an immune reaction. Here come the white blood cells! (You may also want to meditate on this question: "What does it mean about my life if I'm not being persecuted?")

Check out Ann Coulter's column "It's the Winter Solstice, Charlie Brown!" for a review of David Limbaugh's book Persecution: How Liberals Are Waging War Against Christianity The examples of public school teachers and boards squelching prayer are sobering.

It's critical that we keep perspective, men. This helps me:

"[Jesus] is in charge of it all, has the final word on everthing. At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ's body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everthing with his presence." (from Ephesians 1, The Message translation by Eugene Peterson)

And let us not forget that persecution comes in degrees smaller and larger. Consider Richard Wurmbrand's story in Tortured For Christ.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

We've already done the experiment with the alternative

"Do you like having rights the government cannot take away? Do you like being equal? Do you like a country with few laws? These ideas have origins."

William Federer reviews some important history of these ideas in Three Secular Reasons Why America Should be Under God.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

10 Reasons You Cherish Your Wife

Last year I spent several weeks observing my wife closely and writing 10 reasons I cherish my her. (This was her request for a birthday present.) It was a wonderful process and probably helped me at least as much as it lifted her. They are posted now on a wall in our home, and I reread them often to remind me that I'm the most-blessed man on the planet.

Gary Rosberg says that every man marries 'up.' It's true.

Monday, September 22, 2003

Get a plan

I recommend the Discipleship Journal Bible reading plans, if you aren't already on a successful pattern of regular reading (and not just your favorite parts).

Sunday, September 21, 2003

What tickled their funny bone?

Cool high-res scans of babies at 26 weeks in utero are causing a predictable uproar in Britain and Australia. These babies are smiling! God is good! Go read Psalm 139 again, men!

No dress rehearsals!

In her column titled "Parenting: You only get one chance to do it right," Rebecca Hagelin hits on an important truth we dads need to remember every day: "Remember, raising kids is not a dress rehearsal ... you get one chance to do it right."
What mushrooms teach us about sin

Ever spotted a mushroom in your yard that wasn't there yesterday? Where did that come from!? Wow they grow fast.

Actually, that fungus has been there a while, it just wasn't evident or visible to you. Some time back a spore had germinated in your yard. The fungus grew and spread, feeding on the dead grass thatch at soil level. Millions of thread-like microscopic cells, called hyphae, formed a network there.

When conditions were just right, the network of hyphae consolidated and formed the mushroom you saw. This is the fruiting body, which produces spores that start the cycle all over again.

Ever had a blow-up with your wife or kids -- whom you pray for daily? Maybe it's some other sin you thought was long gone -- rage, theft, lust, greed, perversion. The lesson of the mushroom is that the basis of that sin is still with you. It simply required the right conditions to explode into visible form.

"The heart is deceitful above all else -- who can fathom it?" wrote Jeremiah. "I know that nothing good live in me," wrote Paul (Rom 7:18). The answer is godly mourning for our sins (Matthew 5:4).

Common hindrances to godly mourning include

* Cherished sin. There are some sins you still enjoy.
* Despair. Putting yourself outside of God’s grace, believing He can’t help.
* Conceit. Believing there is nothing to mourn.
* Presumption. Being satisfied with only a little forgiveness for the small amount of sin you have. This is like treating cancer like a cold that will go away in 48 hours.
* Procrastination. “I’ll get to it when it’s more convenient.”

Here are some suggestions to help

1. Study sin in Scripture to gain an accurate understanding of it. Sin is evil and repulsive to God, and destructive and damning to us. Sin grieves God, resists grace, makes us weak and impure.
2. Confess sin and repent -- don’t just admit it.
3. Check your sense of God’s forgiveness. Are you experiencing release and freedom from knowing your sins are forgiven? Do you have His peace and joy? Do you experience the divine comfort He promises to those who have forgiven, cleansed, and purified lives?

Maybe you need to get this praise song "stuck" in your mind today:

Purify my heart
Touch me with your cleansing fire
Take me to the cross
Your holiness is my desire
Breathe your life in me
Kindle the love that flows from your throne
O purify my heart!
Purify my heart

Why haven't there been other terrorist attacks on US soil since 9/11/2001?

Walid Phares has an articulate column on Al Qaida's tactics. There are many encouraging signs, but let us remain vigilant.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

"All that stands between us and the abyss is George W. Bush."

Diana West writes clearly about the importance of Bush standing strong in the political war as well as the war against terrorists. (She insightfully calls it a war against barbarians.)
A Catholic's response to the Church leadership

I appreciated Peggy Noonan's thoughtful essay, What I Told the Bishops. Her comments ring true and should be considered by any church leader.
It's Not My Job

I think about this picture now when I hear my kids -- or one of the whiny voices in my own head -- say "it's not my job." Hang tough, dads, do the right things.
"Holiday Party" no more

Check out Dennis Prager's suggestion on fighting to rename your company "holiday party" a Christmas party.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Ten Identity Markers

Some key thoughts from 1 Peter 2:1-12 (adapted from a John Piper letter):

1. It is you who desire the word of God
2. It is you are are growing up into the fullness of salvation instead of coasting in your spiritual life
3. It is you who have tasted that the Lord is good
4. It is you who understand that Christ is precious
5. It is you who are being built into a spiritual house, not a physical building but a spiritual house for God
6. It is you who are a chosen race
7. It is you who are a royal priesthood
8. It is you who are a holy nation
9. It is you who are a people for Christ's possession. You are not your own.
10. It is you who were in spiritual darkness before, but now are in marvelous Light!

Sunday, September 14, 2003

I prepared this lesson for our elder/deacon meeting before we started discussions about budget priorities. We can have constructive discussions -- even sharp disagreements – about specific expenses and the timing of purchases. But we must have complete agreement on our foundations and purpose. I share this as an example that others may use.

The word ‘Facility’ comes to English from Greek. The word ‘facile’ comes from the same root word. The original meanings are “to make possible, to ease, to have capacity for.”

Our church mission statement is “To Know Christ and Make Him Known.” Therefore our core priorities are

* Caring for people (John 15:17; John 13:35)
* Instruction and training (Deut 6:4-5; Eph 6:4)
* Allow people to use their giftedness (1 Cor 12; 1 Cor 14; Romans 12)
* Enable outreach to neighbors and nations (Matt 28:19-20)

All these wrapped together are Worship (Rom 12:1)

We’re in a war, and we don’t want to carry excess baggage – nothing useless for the task at hand. We need maneuverability and adaptability. (For more on this, see the Marine’s excellent manual, Warfighting.)

We can also be assured that our loving Father will not give us excess money that we can’t handle wisely. Frankly, we’re not that spiritually mature yet. Therefore we need to exercise leadership and discern between wants and needs. No leadership would be required if the answer was always “Sure.” We must have self-discipline and a consistent spirit of putting others first.

Let us also recall that we live in a very healthy tension between understanding that time is short and being exhorted to leave legacies for the next three generations. We’re instructed to “number our days” rather than our years, and to live so that our children and grandchildren our blessed.
Growing in humility through parenting

There's nothing quite like the challenges of parenting to humble a man.

Some days there seems no connection between cause and effect. It's awfully tempting to withdraw from the field, to be selfish and walk away. But real fathers don't -- we stick it out, we stay engaged through the uncertainty, we continue in prayer, we continue to love unconditionally. And we are dependent on the partnership of the Holy Spirit and our loving wives.

Thomas Brooks, the great Puritan pastor, had seven ways to know if you were humble:

1. We will be weaned from ourselves. (Gal 2:20; Phil 1:21)
2. We are lost in the wonder of Christ. (2 Cor 3:18)
3. We do not complain about situations, knowing that we deserve worse.
4. We see others strengths and virtues clearly (Phil 2:3; Rom 12:10) and our critical attitudes diminish.
5. We spend much time in prayer, because we are always in need.
6. We take Christ on his terms, rather than ours.
7. We abundantly praise and thank God for His grace. (1 Tim 1:14)

Take courage, men. Be bold, be gentle. "“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you, there is more of God and His rule.” -- Mt 5:3 from The Message translation.
In "Usama’s strategic reasons behind the attacks," Walid Phares outlines three likely goals of Usama bin Laden, and underscores our potential weaknesses that help make his strategy work.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Jefferson commentary on Newspapers

"The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers." - Thomas Jefferson.

I doubt newspapers are any better today than they were in the late 1700's.

This reminds me of a garbage collector I met in Evanston IL who didn't read newspapers but did read through the Bible four or five times per year. Whatever topic you wanted to discuss he would start in Genesis and work his way to Revelation. That's the man I want to emulate, not Thomas Jefferson.
Defend our families!

Here's a sobering fact: The illegitmacy rate (children born out of wedlock) was 8% in 1965 in the United States. Today it is 33.8%.
Is your family listening to good music?

We would be hard-pressed to fully explain why music has so much power to shape us -- our thoughts, our moods, our tempo. C.S. Lewis had his demons characterize the heavenly music as painful compared to hell's "glorious noise" in his book, The ScrewTape Letters. He also hit upon something special when he wrote of Aslan (Christ) creating the world of Narnian by singing to it (The Magician's Nephew). Music is an invention of God and works very deep in our souls.

Therefore, men, as spiritual leaders of our homes, what are we and our family listening to? For those of who grew up listening to great rock songs of the 70's and 80's, with all the fabulous guitar riffs and familiar drum solos, take care before you let your kids hear those lyrics! (It can be rather embarrassing to explain to a child why you know every word to Lola and Can't Get No Satisfaction :-)

There is probably a good contemporary Christian radio station near you. (My family likes KZZQ.)

If you have pre-teens and teenagers, let them explore different kids of Christian artists and listen to the style they like. Listen to their preferred music in the car and the house. Talk with them about the lyrics. Help them develop discernment about what they listen to, and why.

May the great song of Aslan reverbrate in your heart today.
God's sovereignty and his tender call

My conviction (and it has taken me years to come to this) is that God is sovereign. Nothing surprises Him. He is in control. I find it impossible to square all of Scripture, apart from this view.

Some would call God's sovereignty a paradox -- if God already knows who will come to Him and who won't, why is pleading with us? Why does Israel's unbelief (Rom 10:21) grieve Him?

And there are other examples:

God has hidden the truth from some, and he invites all. (Matt 11:25, 28)
All are invited to Christ, and the Father gives some to Christ. (John 6:35, 36)
All are invited to believe and be forgiven; as many as were appointed to life did believe (Acts 13:38, 48)

John Piper has some encouraging words on this : "This is what it means for God to be God. Man is not the final, ultimate sovereign over his own life. God is. God is the potter. We are the clay. But on the other hand God "desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim 2:4). He holds out his hands all day long to Jews and the Gentiles of the Twin Cities [Piper ministers in Minneapolis/St. Paul]. He calls, he beckons, he invites.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Thinking biblically about killing abortionists

I appreciate Doug Phillips' analysis of the actions of convicted (and now executed) Paul Hill and whether his actions were biblically justified. This is a good example of a Christian man thinking biblically, and not making judgments based on emotional information. Because this is part of Doug's blog posting, I have excerpted it here:


Last night convicted abortionist killer Paul Hill was executed by lethal injection. Justice was accomplished. God’s law was upheld.

To the moment of his execution, Paul Hill, a de-frocked Presbyterian minister, husband and father, maintained his innocence, claiming instead that he had only acted in defense of others, and should be acquitted on the grounds of justifiable homicide.

The common law defense of justifiable homicide is derived from the case laws of Exodus which make clear that one may use lethal force if necessary in defense of self or others where imminent life-endangering harm is threatened and lethal force is necessary to prevent the crime. In addition, lethal force may be used in defense of country, or by the state against those criminals lawfully convicted of a capital offense.

So where did Paul Hill go wrong? Practically speaking, Mr. Hill acted as executioner, not rescuer. Having determined that the abortionist in question was guilty of past murders, and would probably commit future murders, Paul Hill stalked, hunted and executed the abortionist. The problem here is that the biblical jurisdiction to execute rests only with the state. There is no provision in Scripture for vigilante justice.

And what of Hill’s argument of justifiable homicide?: Under biblical and common law, justifiable homicide in defense of others requires (a) a clearly identifiable victim and (b) an aggressor who is presently engaged in a clear life-threatening act of violence against that specific victim, and (c) a reasonable determination that lethal force is necessary to prevent the specific life threatening act of the willful aggressor against the innocent party.

Paul Hill failed each of these tests: Who was the victim here? We don’t know. In fact, we don’t even know for sure what the abortionist was going to do that day. We may presume he will be about the business of killing babies, but that is not sufficient to make a claim to justifiable homicide. Nor was the abortionist being stopped from a crime in progress. He was simply gunned down in his parking lot. Nor was Paul Hill rescuing a victim from an observable and specific criminal act. Nor must we conclude that executing him was the only way to stop this man from future acts of murder.

Paul Hill lacked the jurisdiction to execute another. He never found himself in a circumstance which warranted justifiable homicide, as defined at biblical and common law. His was an act of premeditated murder, and for that God’s Word required his execution by the state.

But before we walk comfortably away from Mr. Hill, perhaps we should examine ourselves as well. Many Christians today oppose abortion, except in those circumstances where doctors claim that the mother’s life is threatened by the unborn baby. The classic case involves a “tubal” or ectopic pregnancy.

Though most “life of the mother” arguments for killing a baby stem from pure emotionalism, many Christians who seek to offer a rational defense of this type of abortion, usually do so by borrowing the same reinvented justifiable homicide argument embraced by Paul Hill to sanction the assassination of abortionists.

As with Paul Hill’s justification of the murder of abortionists, advocates of killing unborn babies “for the life of the mother” reason that it is o.k. for a mother to kill her child if it is an act of self-defense. But Paul Hill and pro-life exception advocates fail the biblical test. Both are terribly guilty of borrowing from pragmatic, non-biblical arguments, and twisting the Scriptures to justify a desired result.

Several things are worthy of note: First, a baby is not a willful aggressor. This ends the debate on justifiable homicide. A baby neither intends the harm, nor acts aggressively against its mother. (In fact, if “blame” is to be passed, it should rest on the mother, not the baby, since it was the mother’s body which produced the circumstances in which the baby has found himself.) The Bible makes no provision for executing an innocent party (one which lacks intent to harm) in order to help another.

Second, while the unborn baby in the case of an ectopic pregnancy may pose a threat which could materialize into a harm to the mother, the threat is not imminent in the classic sense, nor is it conclusive that the baby’s presence necessarily will cause harm. All that is known is that it might cause harm. Consequently, the murder of the baby takes place in anticipation of a statistical possibility. Here again, the biblical requirements for justifiable homicide are not met.

Conclusion: God’s law is the standard. God’s word speaks not only to vague principles, but to specific methodologies. We are not at liberty to improvise, nor may we substitute our own private interpretations in order to advance a “greater cause.” The greatest cause is obedience to our Lord. Paul Hill was wrong because he misconstrued Scripture. His thinking became off-base and he embraced a form of unbiblical pragmatism---the ends justifies the means. Consequently, there is blood on his hands. It is my prayer that the Church of Jesus Christ will learn from this error, and self-examine our view of the so-called abortion exceptions, such that we will not be guilty of the same crime."
Brendan Miniter asks Where Were You? And where do you stand two years after Sept. 11? Here's an excerpt:

"But to overcome terrorism Americans must remain willing to pay the price of mastering our emotions. We must not give into the cravenness of fear, nor the seduction of half-measures. America is, as Ronald Reagan said, the last, best hope of mankind because our resolve and courage are the best guarantors for freedom. There's no need for "Victory Gardens" for this war, but Americans must cultivate strength within themselves.

This is a war not only over the future of the Middle East, but over our very soul as a nation. Do we believe in ourselves and that we occupy a unique place in history? Does America have the moral authority to stand up--alone if necessary--against the tyranny of terrorism?
If so, then as Americans we must act. Today we have a president who is willing to take the battle to the terrorists even in the face of international pressure to do nothing. But for too long as a nation we've allowed our culture, driven by a fear of offending anyone, to drift toward timidity.

That must end today as we must also move toward rebuilding the civil institutions that ensure the strength of our republic. In the schools we must rescue civics from the social-studies teachers who teach anti-Americanism. In the public square we must fight to preserve the right of religious expression. Within our churches we must demand that our religious leaders lead. Ministers once reinforced the moral authority of a free people by preaching that freedom was God's gift to mankind. Today that message is largely left to the president. "

It's oft-forgotten that the British referred to the American war of independence as the "Presyterian Rebellion" because it was Presbyterian pastors who rallied Americans on the issue of freedom as God's gift.

I hope you're concerned as I am about the trendlines evident in American government and culture today. Let's stand up, men, and ensure that this generation and the next and the next have freedoms. That's going to take self-discipline and courage on our part. We need to train our children well.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

A strong country needs bold and gentle men

I'm a supporter of President Bush. He is bold and gentle. I am, however, increasingly frustrated with his administration's domestic policies and decisions. We're already come so far from the US Constitution, and his decisions are pushing us towards bigger federal government. That coupled with a judiciary that is out of control create weaknesses that may prove fatal in a future crisis.

Mark Alexander has an useful analysis of the situation, drawing comparisons to the factors that led to the collapse of Rome.

The way out requires that American people recover strong moral character and discipline -- to say No!. Richard Foster's introductory words to Celebration of Discipline are apt: "Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people."

The choices that you and I make today, men, will make the difference. Let us be devoted to the higher calling, leaving aside lesser things. This generation and the next need us.
You are the spiritual leader of your family

I recommend Spiritual Leadership: Moving People On to God's Agenda (by Henry & Richard Blackaby) for husbands and dads. Though explicitly written for pastors, businessmen, coaches, and teachers, there is a lot of good insight and encouragement for family leadership. Leadership is a gift, requires discipline and training, and is for the purpose of serving others. I treasure the Blackaby's definition of Spiritual Leadership : Helping people hear God's voice and obey it. Brothers, that's precisely what we're called to do for our wives and our children and our grandchildren.

Saturday, September 06, 2003

Even the smallest light

I suspect all of us occasionally get discouraged, thinking that our efforts to be salt and light amongst our extended families, our neighborhood, and our co-workers just isn't effective. I mean, it's really dark in some setting.

John Piper points out that the 2-watt lightbulb in his daughter's nightlight provides more than enough illumination to help her see in the darkness. A 2-watt lightbulb reveals all the stuff on the floor that you might stumble over, the corners of the bureau and desk, the location of the door.

The human eye is exquisitively sensitive to light. If it were perfectly dark, you could easily see someone strike a match 90 miles away.

Don't be discouraged if you think your Christ-light is weak. Even a little light breaks the darkness. Some of you reading this have been led out of darkness by another believer with a weak bulb -- but it was like a halogen spotlight for you. Go ahead and hum, "This little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine."

Getting perspective

Yesterday morning I took a United flight from San Diego to Denver, and then on to Des Moines, returning home from a business conference.

By the time I boarded the plane I was fuming. I'd had the usual problems with getting a taxi at 4:30am, then the boarding agent told me they'd given my reserved aisle seat to an elderly man who needed to go to the bathroom frequently. The security guards gave me the usual "extra" attention for a man traveling alone. I found myself stuffed into a cramped window seat, adjacent to a, uh, "generously-sized" man taking more than his half out of the middle space between us. He fell asleep before takeoff and snored loudly, occasionally flailing his arm over me. I was mentally composing my complaint letter to United. (My laptop wasn't working, but I couldn't have retrieved it from under the seat anyway, not with Bubba flowing on me.) I was annoyed. I was ticked-off. My pride was on Full Power, my intellect fully focused on my rights, and woe-betide anyone crossing my path today!

I should have remembered -- the Lord has plans.

About 7am I glanced out the window and was stunned by the site of the Grand Canyon, illuminated by the low sun in the clear sky. The colors were magnificent; the scale was hard to absorb. Pictures do not do it justice. It was HUGE, even from 35,000 feet up. I never would have seen that from my original aisle seat, on the other side of the plane. Psalm 8 popped into my mind -- "O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is thy name in all the earth."

Just that fast my attitude shifted. I confessed silently my pride, my contempt for the man next to me, my wasted thoughts. It was a holy time, a re-connecting time. Ah, Sovereign Lord, you are so good to us. Thank you. Thank you.

Tech tip : get the free Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer. Fast, easy, saves you lots of time.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Get a thrice-weekly encouragement message

I encourage you to subscribe to John Stanford's AO notes. They come Monday, Wednesday, and Friday -- and are often just what I need when they arrive! Here is today's message. Subscription information is at the end. Highly recommended.

To me, it's one of the most meaningful verses in the Bible.
I came to it again this morning, on a 3x5 card "shaving verse":

"Not one of all the good promises which the LORD had made
to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass."
-- Joshua 21.45

Israel (early in life he was known as Jacob -- the usurper) and his
descendants often failed to obey God's law. Thus they failed to keep
_their_ side of the covenant agreement with God.

But looking back over Israel's history, the Bible writer reported that
God had been faithful to keep _his_ promises.

It's good to periodically review my history, to remember how God has
helped me and my family. It gives stability, and meaning, to life.

Coffee thought: In what ways has God's unmerited goodness been
evident to me and my family?


(c) 2003 J.L. Stanford
John Stanford (stanford@iastate.edu), Pete Boysen(pboysen@iastate.edu)
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The one thing God cannot do

Is there anything God cannot do?

Yes, but only one thing. He cannot lie. (See 1 Sam 15:29 and Titus 1:2)

Meditate on this great truth from God's Word. This should enlarge your faith and confidence in Him, and shore up your convictions about His goodness and mercy. And then consider how Satan is building his crummy kingdom on a foundation of lies.

P.S. This is a great discussion topic for your next family meal.
Being treated like smokers
"The goal of the secularists and the atheists is to treat religious people like smokers. You can continue to exist only if you are out of sight, out of hearing and out of smell." Phyllis Schlafly never minces words, and her latest column frames the attack on Christianity.

Men, we need to stand against this. At the same time, we must remember that the US Constitution helps guard against a state religion of Christianity -- that would undoubtably lead to tyranny as well. (It's sad to see men argue, "Well, it would be different this time because we would be in charge." Mao Zedong said that, and so did Charles Taylor in Liberia. We live in a fallen world and our hearts are deceitful and easily corrupted. )There is great political freedom in an environment with freedom of religion in both dimensions. A particular religion is not THE state religion, nor does the state make efforts to exterminate religion.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Be sure to check out the archives (see links on the sidebar) for past weeks' postings.
"Gut Check" is an excellent article promoting self-discipline in a recent issue of Breakaway magazine from Focus on the Family. Though written for teens, everyone will benefit. An excerpt:

"We all have some amount of self-discipline; the trick is to make it a lifestyle. Self-discipline is like mental muscle, and it has to be exercised if it’s going to grow.

In looking back on my own life’s biggest failures and most painful disappointments, it’s plain to see in hindsight that, for the most part, all of them could have been avoided if I had exercised self-discipline. In many cases, I knew exactly what I should have done, yet I didn’t do what was right. In other cases, I knew what I should not have done, yet I chose the stupid course of action anyway.

It all fell to the weakness of my will. Had I been stronger in character, I would have been able to make myself execute what I knew to be the best course of action. Whenever I make a habit of denying myself daily, forcing myself to do what needs to be done (especially when I don’t feel like it), I soon find that my entire life is in better shape than it was before. "

Saturday, August 30, 2003

Many of us have to travel on business, and face additional temptations. Here are some strategies that can help:

Put a picture of your wife and kids in the hotel room.
Call home every day.
Double the amount of time you usually spend in the Word. Work on memorizing a verse or passage.
Play Christian music in your hotel room -- get a Christ-praising song in your heart and head!
Limit TV watching. Put a towel over the TV to add a step to turning it on. Don't watch anything you wouldn't watch with your wife.
Have an accountability partner who can check on you. Work out code-words to use in normal conversation or around others.

Remember that God is always with you and watching you - nothing is hidden from Him. We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses -- and my dad, grandfather, and great-grandfather are among them. May God, our families, and our brothers find us faithful. Amen!
Mark Alexander writes clearly of the situation in Alabama -- it's Civics 101. "Indeed, the substance of this case solely concerns the rule of law as plainly written by our Founders in the U.S. Constitution, the protection of which is entrusted to the federal judiciary, whom it authorizes by oath to defend it, and its Bill of Rights, as adopted by the several states (including Alabama). The core question raised by this case is whether our Constitution should be altered by amendment (as per original intent), or adulterated by adjudication, which our Founders (as explicated in the Federalist Papers) and the states clearly rejected. "