Thursday, December 30, 2004

Where is Christianity growing the most?

There is some interesting demographic data on the growth of Christianity.
"Within the next twenty-five years the population of the world's Christians is expected to grow to 2.6 billion (making Christianity by far the world's largest faith). Stop and consider that: it will grow by 2.6 billion. From 1934-1994, the number of Christians in the world increased by 1300 percent (from 40 million to 540 million in the last 60 years), while the world's population grew only 400 percent.

But this growth has largely taken place in the Southern hemisphere and in Asia, outside the radar of most Western media. Of the approximately two billion Christians alive today (one-third of the planetary population), 560 million live in Europe and 260 in North America, for a total of 820 million. The combined number of Christians in Latin America (480 million), Africa (360 million), and Asia (313 million) is 1.15 billion. On a percentage basis, then, almost 60 percent of Christians in the world today live in the Third World. Jenkins forecasts that of the expected 2.6 billion Christians in the year 2025, 67 percent will live in Africa (633 million), Asia (640 million), or Latin America (460 million). Jenkins emphasizes that by 2050 only about one-fifth of the world's three billion Christians will be non-Hispanic whites. As Jenkins states: "Soon the phrase 'a White Christian' may sound like a curious oxymoron, as mildly surprising as 'a Swedish Buddhist.' Such people can exist, but a slight eccentricity is implied." "

Oddly, this geographic growth pattern seems inversely related to the number of Christian bookstores and radio stations.

Talking about the Tsunami with your family

John Piper wrote a helpful meditation about the devastating tsunami. I appreciate his clarity, and recommend you review it.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

No new posts for a while

I'll be taking a rest from blogging to enjoy Christ in Christmas. Fix your eyes on Jesus, brothers.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Have you noticed the Merry Christmas revolt?

Some people have decided "Enough with the PC crowd." I've watched people catch themselves as the words "Happy Holidays" start to come out, smile, and then say "Merry Christmas!" with a smile. I've seen Merry Christmas in red 72 point font letters in an email signature. There was the pair in the street singing "We Wish You a Winter Solstice, We wish you a Winter Solstice, and a happy new year." Then they broke up laughing, waved, and shouted out "Merry Christmas!" Jewish writers commend Christmas -- see Prager, Goldberg, West, Jacoby, and Krauthammer.

Say Merry Christmas to all, and mean it.
More on taxation

Walter Williams has a good column about a national sales tax or flat tax. His recommendation that the 16th amendment be repealed is a good one, "so Congress can't hit us with both an income and sales tax."

I also liked these two comments:

"Another benefit of a national sales tax is that being taxed 23 percent to 30 percent with every purchase we become more aware of the cost of government. Income taxes and corporate taxes conceal that cost. "

"My personal preference is a constitutional amendment limiting federal spending to a fixed percentage, say 10 percent, of the GDP. You say, "Williams, why 10 percent?" My answer is that if 10 percent is good enough for the Baptist Church, it ought to be good enough for the U.S. Congress."

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Women in Combat Units

It's nice to see attention to this issue again. Cal Thomas writes about some disturbing changes in military policy. I'm sure I'll be labeled sexist, and I know there are some women who can pass the physical requirements for soldiers, but it's still not right to put women in combat units. And it's increasingly difficult to distinguish combat from non-combat units in a theatre of war.

There should be something deep in a man's gut that rails against intentionally putting women in harms' way.

I'm still trying to sort out my thinking about police and firefighter roles.
Search and Rescue Patch

I keep this with my Bible as a good reminder of the mission of the Church.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Recovering the Arts for the Church

Doug Giles has a good column reminding us that the Church should recover the Arts. Many of you are very creative and artistic, and so are our children. (This shouldn't surprise us -- we're made in the image of God, the source of all creative power!)

A friend pointed out to me that "The Passion of the Christ" movie and the popularity of Christian contemporary music demonstrate there is a large economic market for good stuff. People are willing to pay money for it.

Let us encourage the Arts, and recover them for Christ-honoring purposes. They're a huge influencer on culture.

Book recommendation

I recommend you add The Heavenly Man to your reading list. This is the astounding story of God's power working through a humble Chinese evangelist named Brother Yun. It reads like the book of Acts. It's a great story of the Chinese house church movement and the men and women who commit themselves to Jesus in the face of horrific persecution.

This book would be good for your teenage and college-age children and grandchildren as well.

Here's an excerpt (p. 286-287 in my copy) to whet your appetite:

"We have also come to understand that the past thirty years of suffering, persecution, and torture for the house churches in China were all part of God's training for us. The Lord has perfectly fitted us to go as missionaries to the Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu worlds.

Once I spoke in the West and a Christian told me, "I've been praying for years that the Communist government in China will collapse, so Christians can live in freedom." This is not what we pray! We never pray against our government or call down curses upon them. Instead, we have learned that God is in control of both our lives and the government we live under. Isaiah prophesied about Jesus, "And the government will be on his shoulders" Is 9:6.

God has used China's government for his own purposes, molding and shaping his children as he sees fit. Instead of focusing our prayers against any political system, we pray that regardless of what happens to us, we will be pleasing to God.

Don't pray for the persecution to stop! We shouldn't pray for a lighter load to carry, but a stronger back to endure! Then the world will see that God is with us, empowering us to live in a way that reflects his love and power. This is true freedom!"

Saturday, December 18, 2004

New blog

I've created a new blog just about teaching the Bible. It's called Teach to Change Lives. I encourage you to check it out and the xml feed to your aggregator. The xml feed is

Friday, December 17, 2004

For Peter Drucker fans...and dads

Some of us are Peter Drucker fans. Jim Collins tells the story of spending a day with Drucker in his introduction to The Daily Drucker. Now even if you're not a Drucker fan, all dads should appreciate this story. A few excerpts:

"His generosity of spirit explains much of Drucker’s immense influence. I
reflected back on his work, The Effective Executive, and his admonition to
replace the quest for success with the quest for contribution. The critical
question is not, “How can I achieve?” but “What can I contribute?” "

"There are two ways to change the world: with the pen (the use of ideas)
and with the sword (the use of power). Drucker chooses the pen, and has rewired
the brains of thousands who carry the sword."

"...what ultimately sets Peter Drucker apart is that he does not see
himself as a guru; he remains a student. Most management gurus are driven to say
something; Drucker is driven to learn something. Drucker’s work is
interesting—he is interesting— because, to borrow a phrase from the late John
Gardner, he remains relentlessly interested.
“Just go out and make yourself
useful,” he finished. Then, without another word, he got out of the car and
walked into his modest home..."

There are a few keys here for dads. Ask "What can I contribute?" Change the world with ideas and Christ-tempered power. Remain a student and be driven to learn something. "Just go out and make yourself useful."
Good views on Christmas

God bless Charles Krauthammer!

" I'm struck by the fact that you almost never find Orthodox Jews complaining about a Christmas creche in the public square. That is because their children, steeped in the richness of their own religious tradition, know who they are and are not threatened by Christians celebrating their religion in public. They are enlarged by it.
It is the more deracinated members of religious minorities, brought up largely ignorant of their own traditions, whose religious identity is so tenuous that they feel the need to be constantly on guard against displays of other religions -- and who think the solution to their predicament is to prevent the other guy from displaying his religion, rather than learning a bit about their own.
To insist that the overwhelming majority of this country stifle its religious impulses in public so that minorities can feel ``comfortable'' not only understandably enrages the majority, but commits two sins. The first is profound ungenerosity toward a majority of fellow citizens who have shown such generosity of spirit toward minority religions.
The second is the sin of incomprehension -- a failure to appreciate the uniqueness of the communal American religious experience. Unlike, for example, the famously tolerant Ottoman Empire or the generally tolerant Europe of today, America does not merely allow minority religions to exist at its sufferance. It celebrates and welcomes and honors them. "
Insight into the Orange Revolution

Adrian Karatnycky shares some interesting information about the religious dimension of the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine.

It's interesting to see the impact of Christian faith on political revolutions. The American Revolution was often called "the Presbyterian rebellion" in Britain because of the fiery Presbyterian sermons and prayers that fueled it. The French revolution lacked a Christian center and was based on humanist views. The Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was defeated by huge crowds surrounding the churches and reciting the Lord's prayer. Christian faith was at the heart of the movements that toppled Communist leaders in Poland and Czechloslovakia.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

It's become the Silly Season

A school in Plano bans red and green attire at a school "winter break" party because they're Christmas colors? A small part of me is outraged at this. Another small part is saying "Why should anyone be surprised, it's a logical extension of decisions made earlier, right?" And the rest of me thinks this is good. Perhaps the Lord will use events like this -- and the attention they bring -- to shake a few hearts into recognition of how silly it's becoming.

Meanwhile, Christians in the Sudan and others are suffering and dying rather than deny Christ.
Useful study guides

I know some of you are working with your kids, particularly jr. high and high schoolers, to improve their study habits. Check out the excellent guides at
Power of images

Check out this I-pod add spoof:

Also someone recently described a B.C. comic to me. The key line: "Jesus went to hell to cancel your reservation."
Thoughts from Senator Brownback

Yesterday the men of CrossTrainers were priviliged to hear Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas speak. I captured a few tidbits worth sharing:

His favorite lawyer joke: "How many lawyers does it take to grease a combine? One, if you run him through slowly enough." Apparently that didn't go over well when he first told it to a group in Washington. Puzzled, he was reminded by a friend that half the group were attorneys, and the other half didn't know what a combine was.

"There is a revival taking place in this country." Samuel Huntington, author of Clash of Civilizations, says that's the only explanation for what's going on in this country.

The political left should not fear evangelical Christians. We have an opportunity now to reintroduce ourselves to the country. It is the Christians who are helping people who need it the most -- in this country and in painful places throughout the world. And why? Not for a political idea but because the love of Christ working through them compels them. So the great need is to bear fruit, much fruit (see John 15:1-5).

We will be held to a higher standard -- and we should be. We have the Truth.

Three great priorities for Christian citizens:
* Care for the weak and the voice-less
* Stand for freedom and life
* Work for cultural renewal (e.g., restoring marriage)

Pornography is an addictive drug delivery system. It elicits the same kind of brain chemistry as many illegal drugs.

Righteousness is the plumb line of our house of government, and Justice is the level.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Taking Responsibility for Education

Walter Williams suggests we need a radically different approach to education given the data on what kind of citizens it has produced:

" A 1990 Gallup survey for the National Endowment of the Humanities, given to a representative sample of 700 college seniors, found that 25 percent did not know that Columbus landed in the Western Hemisphere before the year 1500, 42 percent could not place the Civil War in the correct half-century, and 31 percent thought Reconstruction came after World War II.
In 1993, a Department of Education survey found that, among college graduates, 50 percent of whites and more than 80 percent of blacks couldn't state in writing the argument made in a newspaper column or use a bus schedule to get on the right bus, 56 percent could not calculate the right tip, 57 percent could not figure out how much change they should get back after putting down $3 to pay for a 60-cent bowl of soup and a $1.95 sandwich, and over 90 percent could not use a calculator to find the cost of carpeting a room. But not to worry. The American Council of Trustees and Alumni's 1999 survey of seniors at the nation's top 55 liberal arts colleges and universities found that 98 percent could identify rap artist Snoop Doggy Dogg and Beavis and Butt-Head, but only 34 percent knew George Washington was the general at the battle of Yorktown. "

Dads, it's hard to read Deut 6 and say that you're not responsible for your kids' education. I'm not arguing that home-schooling, Christian schools, or public schools are the answer. I am suggesting that you need to be your kids best teacher for things that matter.
Do you have the VMAT2 Gene?

It's common folly to think "there must be a gene for everything." If it's genetic, then there would be no personal responsibility -- a perfect fit for the Humanist Manifesto and sinful hearts that enjoy sin. (We sin because we like it.) There have been multiple studies looking for the genetic basis for homosexuality -- you probably have only heard about the ones that where scientists "found" something. Funny how how Time, Newsweek, and the CBS News don't report on the studies that show no definitive genetic basis at all. And it doesn't explain how there can be so many testimonies of ex-gays (another item that gets little media attention).

So now Dean Hamer, who earlier chased homosexuality genes, has a book out purporting to show that humans with VMAT2 are more spiritually-minded. It's titled The God Gene, probably for marketing purposes. The reviews on Amazon are helpful. David Limbaugh also has a good column about it.

This is an important area to understand, and you probably should be coaching your kids to think critically on this point.

There may be some genetic predisposition to many behaviors. (Frankly, it can be difficult to sort out genetics from environment.) But if there are genes predisposing or compelling a person into homosexual sin, then I expect we could find genes for pride to be universal, and genes for stealing, for lying, for disrespect to others, for coveting what is not ours, and for idolatry of all kinds.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Grounding rituals

I enjoy a few rituals that remind me of God's faithfulness and that I'm part of His plan (see Ephesians 1:3-14).

I look in on my kids when I get up, and listen for their breathing.

I smell my Bible and run my hands over the paper.

I look at the stars when I retrieve the newspaper in the morning. They are massive and blazing hot, though I see only pinpricks of light. Walking back up the driveway, Polaris, the North Star that doesn't change, is right over our house.

I pray as I enter my workplace, asking the Lord to open my eyes to opportunities for helping others. My computer password is selected to remind me that it's not about me.

Holding hands while we pray at dinner -- I imagine the warm love of Christ connecting our family.

What kind of rituals do you have? What rituals would help you? Have you explained any of this to your kids?

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Learning to Lead

Christianity Today has a useful article -- how to spot new leaders. They identify ten signs of potential:
1. Leadership in the Past
2. The capacity to create to catch vision
3. A constructive spirit of discontent
4. Practical ideas
5. A willingness to take responsibility
6. A completion factor
7. Mental toughness
8. Peer respect
9. Family respect
10. A quality that makes people listen to them

Help our troops

I'm told one much-appreciated gift, particularly for soldiers who have been wounded, are prepaid phone cards. Here's a nice statement from Hugh Hewitt:

Finally, from a naval officer I respect a great deal, an e-mail on how to aid wounded troops in the two weeks left before Christmas: "Yellow ribbons tied around trees and red, white and blue stickers on the backs SUVs saying "Support our Troops" are things that make civilians feel good but do nothing for the men and women actually in uniform. So please consider the following: The number ONE request at Walter Reed hospital is phone cards. The government doesn't pay long distance phone charges and these wounded soldiers are rationing their calls home. Many will be there throughout the holidays. Really support our troops --Send phone cards of any amount to: Medical Family Assistance Center Walter Reed Medical Center 6900 Georgia Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20307-5001 They say they need an "endless" supply of these -- any amount even $5 is greatly appreciated. Walmart has good prices on AT&T cards, Sams Club is even better, if you are a member."

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in Iraq

Two churches bombed in Mosul yesterday. There are over 700,000 Christians in Iraq. (History note: Mosul is the modern city built where the ancient city of Ninevah stood -- see the book of Jonah.)
"We need more math and science!"

We live in a world of accelerating technological wonders. It seems that fewer Americans are seriously studying math, engineering disciplines, and the hard sciences. There is reasonable evidence that US students are not learning as much math and science as in other countries. And I'm biased -- I'm a scientist by training, and am concerned that the next generations develop a credible mastery of math and science. Their world will be significantly shaped by applications from biotechnology and materials science. Citizens lacking the capacity to understand math and science may well be the victims of it.

Side note: those who panic because our science and engineering graduate programs have many more non-US citizens than US-born students may be missing part of God's great design to bring the nations together and share the Gospel.

Christians should be the best thinkers on the planet. We should be training our children to think in biblical frameworks, to think logically, to study complex problems and work through them. (At this point we need remedial training for many adults!)

I also believe that Christians should be the best citizens in the US. We should train ourselves and our children and grandchildren in our country's great history, and civics, and how to live in community with one another.

But citizenship in heaven, through the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, is the first and second and third goal. As the Lord apportions spiritual gifts through His Body, the Church, so I believe he will apportion interests in math, science, history, psychology, economics, music, art, and every other subject. For each area of knowledge may be studied to develop our minds, serve others, and have an expanded view of the greatness of God. Each area can (and should) lead us into worship.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Spiritual Gifts

I've been thinking more about spiritual gifts lately, particularly for my kids. I have only a few more years before they leave home. They should have some sense of their spiritual gifts so they can serve confidently.

The biblical texts to study are:
  • Romans 12:3-8
  • 1 Corinthians 12:1-3
  • 2 Corinthians 14:1-40
  • Ephesians 4:7-161
  • Peter 4:7-11
This makes a good meal-time discussion topic for a family.

One of the better books on this subject is Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow, by C. Peter Wagner.

There are also some interesting online gifts assessment tools available. You answer questions, and then the tool gives you some ideas about what gifts are more likely given you than others. A Google search will turn up a dozen tools; try this one if you're interested.

I recommend you consider this "electronic survey" approach just a first step. Others in your community of faith can help discern and confirm your gifts. You'll find great joy when using your gifts.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

What's a fair tax system look like?

There will be considerable debate in the coming months about what "fairer, simpler" tax code should be adopted. There are interesting position papers available on flat tax rates, national sales taxes, and value-added tax systems. (Fair warning -- none of this fits neatly into 30 second radio news sound bites.)

I believe a simpler tax system, even with no exemptions, will promote economic growth. I believe a key issue is to create a system less prone to manipulation and less likely to promote lies to evade taxation. Therefore I'm suspicious of graduated tax systems and those with many possible exemptions.

Meditate for a few moments on the 10% tithe required of the Israelites to support the Levites and the priestly ministry. There were no exemptions. No means to shift payment to another timeframe. It applied whatever business you were in, wherever you lived, whatever stage of life, and whether you were the grossest sinner or the most godly person in the community. What if God had laid out a graduated plan and set up a series of exemptions? Think of how this would been manipulated, and how fast!

Alan Reynolds wrote a readable column recently listing seven technical reasons why a single rate flat tax would be the best solution.

The other challenging issue to consider the transition plan. It will be difficult to wean Congress away from one of their favorite means of operation. I haven't studied this, but suspect that many tax exemption laws have specified timeframes to continue -- it's probably not feasible by single fiat to change all these timeframes into a short time. The IRS regulations also currently drive reporting income and spreading taxes over multiple years (e.g., depreciation schedules are factor for capital purchases in businesses). There are millions of jobs associated with the status quo for taxes. If the work changes rapidly, those people will need to find gainful work in another area. (I would hope many would shift to the revenue-generating side of the economy.)

The complexity of the transition, coupled with the charged political environment and limited-scope voter, will require bold and clear leadership through a sea of uncertainty.

I have some suggestions that might help:
  • Let's act like responsible adults. Take the focus off "what's best for me, now?" and shift it to "what's best for our children, in ten years?"
  • Get back to a constitutional framework for the federal government, a much more limited government. Reversing (even slowing!) the trend to shifting responsibility of the federal government is a must.
May God help us, because neither of these is easy, either.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Defeating Ungodly Ideas

Men, we're in a war of ideas. Check out Marvin Olasky's column about Peter Singer, the influential philosopher at Princeton University. " While politicians debate the definition of marriage between two people, Singer argues that any kind of 'fully consensual' sexual behavior involving two people or 200 is ethically fine. " And it gets worse.

Remember the divine weapons we have. Use 'em.

"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." 2 Cor 10:3-5
Warm your hearts for prayer

I keep a file of quotes and articles about prayer, and review it from time to time. My heart needs to be encouraged and reminded about prayer, or else I grow cool and slack. Here are two quotes that should warm your heart. Walking in the path Christ lays out for Christian husbands and fathers means lots of prayer!

"What the church needs today is not more or better machinery, not new organizations, or more novel methods; but men whom the Holy Spirit can use-- men of prayer, men mighty in prayer." – E.M. Bounds

"Prayer is not overcoming God's reluctance, but laying hold of His willingness." – Martin Luther

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Good resources from NavPress

I recommend you sign up for the free newsletters from NavPress. They have newsletters for small groups, Bible studies, and disciplemakers.
Satan doesn't waste time on the trivial

"Satan always fogs in the area of the crucial, not the trivial." -- Howard Hendricks. What is the crucial thing in your spiritual life? Authentic worship of God and authentic relationships with your wife and children. Whatever fosters this authentic vertical and horizontal relationships will be Satan's target.
Definition of Mentoring

I heard this yesterday from a CCBT speaker, who is very interested in demystifying mentoring: "Mentoring is a guide on the side, not a sage on the stage." So a mentor is a spiritual friend, a human paracletes.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Thank God for C.S. Lewis!

Chuck Colson has a nice tribute to C. S. Lewis, born November 29, 1898. Lewis is certainly one of the most influential Christians on my life.

Read the Chronicles of Narnia series to your kids if you haven't already. In fact, I recommend them to adults. Lewis' novels are like the best children's sermons -- he's speaking to the parents, too.

Is Arafat in Hell?

Dennis Prager has an interesting column defending the belief that Arafat must be in hell. His belief is based on a rational discourse and a just God:

"One, therefore, need not be a conservative Christian to believe in some form of hell for the evil. All one need be is a rational believer in a just God. For if there is a just God, it is inconceivable that those who do evil and those who do good have identical fates. A just God must care about justice, and since there is little justice in this world, there has to be in the next. ... So, of course, I hope Yasser Arafat is in hell. It means that a just God rules the universe. If you think that is hard-hearted, consider the alternative, that one of the most corrupt and cruel human beings of the past half-century is resting in peace. Whoever isn't bothered by that is the one with the hard heart."

Christians can go further, and with more confidence. Jesus warned about hell (a lot!).

This is a good dinner topic with your family. Challenge family members to look up relevant Bible passages.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Good thought for moments of temptation

"Many a man thinks he is buying pleasure, when he isreally selling himself a slave to it." --BenjaminFranklin
Marketing to weak minds

I enjoy reading Seth Godin's material, very stimulating ideas. Check out this blurb about his upcoming book: Seth Godin is coming out with a new book in May called "All Marketers Are Liars: But Great Marketers Tell Stories We Want to Believe."
This from the Portfolio summer catalog:
Every marketer tells a story. And, if they do it right, we believe them. We believe that wine tastes better in a $20 glass than a $1 glass. We believe that an $80,000 Porsche Cayenne is cooler than a $36,000 VW Touareg, which is virtually the same car. We believe that $225 Pumas will make our feet feel better than $20 no-names...and believing it makes it true.Seth Godin argues that it doesn't matter if something is actually better or faster or more efficient. What matters is whether the consumer believes your story. Godin teaches readers how to create a powerful story (even if it's a fib).Marketers succeed when they tell us a story that fits our worldview, a story that we intuitively embrace and the share with our friends. Think of the Dyson vacuum cleaner and the iPod.Marketers fail when they are selfish and scurrilous, when they abuse the tools of their trade and make the world worse. Think of telemarketers and Marlboro.This is a powerful book for anyone who wants to sell things people truly want, as opposed to commodities that people merely need.

This gets me to thinking about the message of the Gospel. (Two parts -- 1. You are far worse than you can imagine. 2. You are far more loved than you ever dared to hope.) Mr. Godin would argue that it only matters that the sales message align with people's desires, not whether it is needed or even true. The Gospel aligns not only with the desire of our hearts -- to be loved, to be known, to matter, to understand our place and purpose -- but is also objectively true. A clear winner!

Godin's ideas here also make it easier to understand why we settle for such lousy substitutes that the world offers us, no matter how pricey.
Make It Your Business

Thomas Brooks' dedicatory to his wonderful book, Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices, ends with strong words of encouragement, purpose, and request for prayer. This book belongs in your library, but should be well-used. Study this (don't get hung up on the style of English, this is from 1652), and see how a man of Christ loves others.

"My desires to you are, That you would make it your business to study Christ, his word, your own hearts, Satan's plots, and eternity, more than ever; That ye would endeavor more to be inwardly sincere than outwardly glorious; to live, than to have a name to live; That ye would labor with all your might to be thankful under mercies, and faithful in your places, and humble under divine appearances, and fruitful under precious ordinances; That as your means and mercies are greater than others', so your account before God may not prove a worse than others'; That ye would pray for me, who am not worthy to be named among the saints, that I may be a precious instrument in the hand of Christ to bring in many souls unto him, and to build up those that are brought in in their most holy faith; and 'that utterance may be given to me, that I may make known all the will of God' (Eph. 6. r9); that I may be sincere, faithful, frequent, fervent and constant in the work of the Lord, and that my labor be not in vain in the Lord; that my labors may be accepted in the Lord and his saints, and I may daily see the travail of my soul.
But, above all, pray for me, that I may more and more find the power and sweet of those Things upon my own heart, that I give out to you and others; that my soul may be so visited with strength from on high, that I may live up fully and constantly to those truths that I hold forth to the world; and that I may be both in life and doctrine 'a burning and a shining light,' that so, when the Lord Jesus shall appear, 'I may receive a crown of glory which he shall give to me in that day, and not only to me, but to all that love his appearing.' (John 5. 35 and 2 Tim. 1. 8).
For a close, remember this, that your life is short, your duties many, your assistance great, and your reward sure; therefore faint not, hold on and hold up, in ways of well-doing, and heaven shall make amends for all.
I shall now take leave of you, when my heart hath by my hand subscribed, that I am,
Your loving pastor under Christ, according to all pastoral affections and engagements in our dearest Lord, THOMAS BROOKS "
About Civil Unions

Midge Decter delivered an excellent speech about the problems with compromise on civil unions. Worth y0ur time.
The Same Man -- Public and Private

Heard recently: "I don't want to hear your message if your wife doesn't want to hear your message." Men, let us take care that our life at home is consistent with our life on the platform, in public view.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

It's Thanksgiving!

Some time back we were at a get-together at a friend's home. He was called upon to ask the blessing for the meal. He quieted all of us with this question: "Is everyone thankful? I wouldn't want anyone to perjure themselves." Let us be thankful, grateful men!

I'm grateful for a President who does not flinch from reminding us that our liberties and freedom come from God. See the text of his official proclamation. Here's a part:

"All across America, we gather this week with the people we love, to give thanks to God for the blessings in our lives. We are grateful for our freedom, grateful for our families and friends, and grateful for the many gifts of America. On Thanksgiving Day, we acknowledge that all of these things, and life itself, come from the Almighty God. Almost four centuries ago, the Pilgrims celebrated a harvest feast to thank God after suffering through a brutal winter. President George Washington proclaimed the first National Day of Thanksgiving in 1789, and President Lincoln revived the tradition during the Civil War, asking Americans to give thanks with "one heart and one voice. Since then, in times of war and in times of peace, Americans have gathered with family and friends and given thanks to God for our blessings.
On this Thanksgiving Day, we thank God for His blessings and ask Him to continue to guide and watch over our nation."

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

"This is a health crisis, not a sin!"

Joe Carter takes the evangelical church to task for not addressing the sin of gluttony.

"While many churchgoers have heard sermons warning against the dangers of sexual sins such as adultery or fornication, they’re not likely to have heard their pastor speak out against gluttony. It’s doubtful that many Christians would even consider it a sin. An openly homosexual couple attempting to join the congregation would be looked down upon by the obese deacon showing them to the door; and no one in the pews would even recognize the irony. The stink of our hypocrisy is so overwhelming that it’s amazing we can hold down our order of Super Size fries.
Gluttony was once listed among the seven deadly sins. But now it's considered, when it's thought about at all, as a private health matter. We may realize that overeating has led to weight gain, a change in appearance, or diminished health. But we never recognize it as a spiritual problem."

Read the whole column. You don't have to be overweight to guilty of gluttony.

"Lest we start to feel superiour to the obese, though, we should remember that not all gluttons are overweight. I’m 5’10”, 165 lbs and, thanks to the Marine Corps preoccupation with physical activity, in relatively good shape. But while my waistline may not expose my shame, I’m prone to overindulging in food. I eat several snacks between meals. I eat when I’m in my car. I eat when I’m bored. I eat when I’m restless, when I’m frustrated, when I’m watching TV, when I’m on the computer…I eat constantly for no other reason than that I can.
In stuffing my face, I neglect my spiritual life. I turn to the refrigerator instead of turning to prayer. I pause at the vending machine instead of pausing in meditation. I seek out a piece of bread instead of seeking the Bread of Life. I fill my life with food in order to avoid filling it with God. "

Good thoughts for men who would live out Jesus' style of eating -- fasting with prayer, eating what's appropriate, and unafraid to feast with celebration.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Focus on the Word

How wonderful -- it's National Bible Week!

"The Bible is the rope God throws us in order to ensure that we stay connected while the rescue is in progress." -- J.I. Packer

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Pit bull or Poodle?

The passivity of men in the Church and the majority of homes is a primary spiritual problem. This blog is named "Be Bold, Be Gentle" because Christian men should reflect the toughness and tenderness of Jesus Christ. That's the combination that the Holy Spirit will bring out in us as we obey the clear commands from the Word.

I encourage you to read Doug Giles' latest column "Do You Have a Pit Bull Attitude?" He contrasts biblical pitbulls with biblical poodles in his usual ascerbic style. Here's an excerpt:

"God intended His believers—especially Christian leaders—to be spiritual warriors, to be pit bulls who smash demonic strongholds, stand for truth and bring life, light and healing to this great planet.
As I see it, a Christian without a Pit Bull Attitude is a Poodle Christian. What a terrible fate, to be a poodle Christian. A pit bull Christian is a hero and a champion, braver than the bravest, one who laughs at difficulties, dangers, and death.
The poodle Christian runs to his air-conditioned doghouse when it starts to get “hot in the kitchen.” Sweetie poodle Christians fear they might lose the curl in their hair if they get too close to the flame … too close to the front of the major spiritual and moral battles of the day. Therefore, the poodle Christians choose to hang out within the stained-glass-tinted windows of the Church instead of going out into the real world to confront secular monsters. Yes, the call to battle always seems to find them at covered-dish dinners. "

There are those who fear strong men. In my experience these people want tamer men, "sissified men." They believe that strong men will harm women, children, and the weak. Strong men have throughout history. But not men strong in Christ. Men strong in Christ have changed the world so that women, children, and the weak have nothing to fear. Men strong in Christ hear God's voice and obey it. They are rich in grace and mercy because God has redeemed them from the pit of hell. They provide for and protect others because God's character has been worked into their hearts. They discern good and evil, and act appropriately towards both, because the Holy Spirit indwells them.

Be bold, be gentle. Be strong in Christ.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Parenting tip

Dads, let's remember that we're raising kids who belong to God. Our aim is for them to grow up strong in Jesus and be Christ-like, not [in my case] Glenn-like.

Friday, November 19, 2004

May God bless the Marines!

We should be very grateful to the Marines for their victory in Fallujah. I'm grateful men this tough and disciplined and honorable defend my family and our country. As for NBC's videotape purportedly showing a Marine shooting a defenseless Iraqi lying on the floor... get the right picture. See the excellent Semper Fi editorial in the WSJ.
Confusion about Theocracy

There's plenty of fear-mongering from ill-informed writers about the President's re-election pushing America into a theocracy. Joe Carter posts some useful perspective on the meaning and history of theocracy. Here's his hook starter:

"Living in a country where 34 percent of the population believes in UFOs and ghosts, I shouldn’t be surprised to find that Americans will believe just about anything. Still, it is rather disconcerting to discover so many people think that our nation is turning into a “theocracy.” "
Building Mighty Men

A friend recently pointed to 2 Samuel 23:8-39 and said we needed to be builders of mighty men. Read the stunning descriptions of David's mighty men, and consider who are the mighty men in your family, church, and community today.

Who will be the mighty men in the next generation? And the next?

How are mighty men built? Does this give you some ideas of how to inspire your sons and the young men in your community?

Recommended reading: Thoughts for Young Men by J.C. Ryle, a contemporary of Charles Spurgeon.

Thursday, November 18, 2004


Linda Lawson spoke briefly at CrossTrainers yesterday. She lost her husband and three other family members in a plane crash earlier this year. She had several good things to say to the men, but here's the best:

"Every women I know is insecure. You need to remind your wife that she matters."

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Don't Waste Your Life DVD

I just watched the Don't Waste Your Life presentation by John Piper on DVD. Get it. I know some of you just aren't readers. Get it and watch it. $11 for a book and the DVD. I believe this message, internalized in you and your family, can change the world.
Where there's a cross, there's a touchpoint on the cultural war

I recommend Dennis Prager's column defending the small cross on the Los Angeles county seal. He closes with this:

"In 1834, 99 years before Adolf Hitler and the Nazis came to power, the great German poet Heinrich Heine, a secular Jew, predicted what would happen if Christianity ever weakened in Germany:
A drama will be enacted in Germany compared to which the French Revolution will seem like a harmless walk in the park. Christianity restrained the marshal ardor of the Germans for a time, but it did not destroy it; once the restraining guard is shattered, savagery will rise again . . . the mad fury of the berserk of which Nordic poets sing and speak.
That is what this American, this Jew, and millions of others believe is at stake in the Left's attempt to impose a redesign of the Los Angeles County seal and thereby redesign America."
Right statements on faith

Give Star Parker for hitting the nail cleanly with her hammer in We All Have Faith in Something. She correctly identifies the traditional Democrat faith -- in government as a solution. "The Democratic gospel preaches an all-encompassing faith that politics and government will solve our personal problems. ...check out what they call values: Government-run health care, government-run schools, government-run personal retirement and a politically defined and managed overall sense of social justice. "

Now, men, let us be careful to place our faith in the right Person.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

What would it look like if...

Here's a good dinner conversation starter for your family. Read this passage from Acts 19, The Message translation of the unexpected result of some exorcist's attempt to use the name of Jesus:

13Some itinerant Jewish exorcists who happened to be in town at the time
tried their hand at what they assumed to be Paul's "game." They pronounced the
name of the Master Jesus over victims of evil spirits, saying, "I command you by
the Jesus preached by Paul!" 14The seven sons of a certain Sceva, a Jewish high
priest, were trying to do this on a man 15when the evil spirit talked back: "I
know Jesus and I've heard of Paul, but who are you?" 16Then the possessed man
went berserk--jumped the exorcists, beat them up, and tore off their clothes.
Naked and bloody, they got away as best they could.
It was soon news all over Ephesus among both Jews and Greeks. The
realization spread that God was in and behind this. Curiosity about Paul
developed into reverence for the Master Jesus. 18Many of those who thus believed
came out of the closet and made a clean break with their secret sorceries. 19All
kinds of witches and warlocks came out of the woodwork with their books of
spells and incantations and made a huge bonfire of them. Someone estimated their
worth at fifty thousand silver coins. 20In such ways it became evident that the
Word of the Master was now sovereign and prevailed in Ephesus.

Encourage your family to imagine the scene in all its details.

Then ask these questions:

How is authentic faith different than “Jesus talk”?
Can you think of “secret sorceries” that may be present in our midst today?
What would our city look like if the Word of the Master were sovereign and prevailed? What would your family look like?

Don't be surprised if the responses to the third question begin to describe a sinless state. Help them realize that sin and its effects will still be here, but that we would be quick to reconcile and forgive, and so the effects of sin would be much less.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Greeting one another

I'd like to promote an idea: when you talk with people, write emails, and letters, use biblical language of blessing people. The letters of the New Testament usually begin and end with statements like

"Grace to you and peace from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ," (Ephesians 1)

"To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ, may mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you." (Jude)

Why not do this today? Are we afraid this kind of blessing is "old fashioned?"

I've been enjoying new kinds of closing greetings in emails. Feel free to use any of these:

Under His Mercy,
Serving the best King ever,
Your fellow-bondservant, ,
May the Lord open our eyes and hearts ,
Enjoying Christ together,

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Renewed plug for online resource

There are some new readers of this blog since I last mentioned Bible Gateway. Great free resource, I use it frequently.
Even in the "blue" states

Curious data about % votes for President Bush in the states he lost to Senator Kerry:

39% - Rhode Island, Vermont
40% - New York
44% - California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland
45% - Hawaii, Illinois, Maine
46% - New Jersey, Washington
47% - Oregon
48% - Michigan, Minnesota
49% - New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin

The "blue" states are less uniformly blue than some think.

Have you noticed the uptick in conversations with your friends and extended families about "moral values?"

Friday, November 12, 2004

Fighting the Sin of Pride

Print off a copy of this article and read it...weekly. Great stuff from John Piper. And if you haven't already, sign up to receive [free!] sermons and writings from
About those exit polls

Much heat but little light has come from the infamous exit polls that so many have written about. Check out Charles Krauthammers' column which logically debunks the "it's moral values, stupid white evangelicals!" story. Key excerpt:
Its origins lie in a single question in the Election Day exit poll.
The urban myth grew around the fact that ``moral values'' ranked highest in the
answer to Question J: ``Which ONE issue mattered most in deciding how you voted
for president?''
It is a thin reed upon which to base a General
Theory of the '04 Election. In fact, it is no reed at all. The way the question
was set up, moral values was sure to be ranked disproportionately high. Why?
Because it was a multiple-choice question and moral values cover a group of
issues, while all the other choices were individual issues. Chop up the
alternatives finely enough, and moral values is sure to get a bare plurality
over the others.
Look at the choices:
-- Education, 4 percent --
Taxes, 5 percent -- Health Care, 8
percent -- Iraq, 15 percent --
Terrorism, 19 percent -- Economy and Jobs, 20
percent -- Moral Values, 22
``Moral values'' encompasses abortion, gay
marriage, Hollywood's influence, the general coarsening of the culture, and, for
some, the morality of pre-emptive war. The way to logically pit this class of
issues against the others would be to pit it against other classes: ``war
issues'' or ``foreign policy issues'' (Iraq plus terrorism) and ``economic
issues'' (jobs, taxes, health care, etc).
If you pit
group against group, moral values comes in dead last: war issues at 34 percent,
economic issues variously described at 33 percent, and moral values at 22
percent -- i.e., they are at least a third less salient than the others.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Managing the incoming information artillery barrage

There's a critical skill that we need to master, and we need to help our children master: handling the multiple firehoses of information available to us today. There are email, blogs, podcasts, cell phones, beepers, radio, television, newspapers, magazines, newsletters, snail mail, and (gee I almost forgot :-) books. How do you practically sort it out? What's important? How do you focus? What would Jesus do!?

First, let's make sure we cultivate a love for God's Word in ourselves and our families. Work with your wife, and teach your children how to read the Bible -- both devotional and study methods -- and apply it. I'm learning that we need to weave prayer into this work, or else we'll cultivate dry theologians rather than wells of living water that can minister to others.

Second, make time and space for relationships. These are more precious than most books, and certainly more than almost anything that's on TV. The books Margin and Making Room for Life are particularly recommended here.

Third, there are particular skills for processing information that I believe will be increasingly essential for people. I recommend Surviving Information Overload and Getting Things Done in this category. If you are only shooting to help yourself, that's too low a goal. Purpose to teach your whole family about this.

Arafat dies

Arafat dies in Paris at age 75. A few days ago Rich Tucker had, to my mind, appropriate commentary about Arafat's legacy and how the "intelluctual elite hailed him."

Let us pray for the leadership of the "Palestinian" people, shameless and horribly manipulated like pawns in a lousy chess match. A fraction of the people are brothers and sisters in Christ. (Don't be taken in by simplistic media reporting that all Palestinians are Muslim and support Hamas.)

Remember Genesis 12:3, brothers. God is still looking after His people.
Christians and Government

I believe Christians should stay engaged in civics because it is both good citizenship (which honors the Lord), and it is an avenue of influence to limit the damage of sin (through law).

But I also know that involvement in government is a dangerous allure. Some evangelicals are "expecting" the Bush administration to "repay" for their votes. This is hazardous and manipulative, and not in the way of Christ.

Cal Thomas has reminders for us, also. See "Focus on the wrong families?"

Monday, November 08, 2004

The Wives of Weinsburg

Doug Phillips shares this story.

The wives who lived within the walls of the Weinsberg Castle in Germany were well aware of the riches it held: gold, silver, jewels, and wealth beyond belief.Then the day came in 1141 AD when all their treasure was threatened. An enemy army had surrounded the castle and demanded the fortress, the fortune, and the lives of the men within. There was nothing to do but surrender.

Although the conquering commander had set a condition for the safe release of all women and children, the wives of Weinsberg refused to leave without having one of their own conditions met, as well. They demanded that they be allowed to fill their arms with as many possessions as they could carry out with them. Knowing that the women couldn't possibly make a dent in the massive fortune, their request was honored.

When the castle gates opened the army outside was brought to tears. Each woman had carried out her husband.

The wives of Weinberg, indeed, were aware of the riches the castle held.

Sunday, November 07, 2004


Husbands, Fathers, I want you to do two things today. First, go to God's Word, start anywhere familiar and comforting, and then read aloud until you feel God's encouragement and strength in you.

Second, ask God to show you another man who needs encouragement. Then follow-through, phone or email him with some encouragement.

Tomorrow, repeat this process. Get in the habit of seeking God for encouragement, and passing it on to others. That's being bold and being gentle.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

This is telling

Eleven states had referendums about same-sex marriage on the ballot. All eleven state voted against same-sex marriage by very wide margins -- 2:1 or higher! Praise God, men.
Still working to be salt and light

I appreciated Chuck Colson's comments in his most recent column:
The kingdom of God will not arrive on Air Force One no matter
how good the president’s character or great his ability. Don’t get me wrong:
Elections are important; the law is a moral teacher. But all the laws and
political victories will not help us if we lose the culture. Our job is the same
no matter who is in office: that is, to make serious disciples and to bring
Christian truth to bear in all of life....To paraphrase the Scriptures, what
will it profit us if we win the presidency—but lose our children to a corroded
culture? The election is over, and now it’s time to get down to our job, to be
steady at our posts—discipling our children and transforming culture, the only
way cultures are ever changed: from the bottom up.

Armstrong Williams echoes this truth and calls for political leadership that will facilitate moral striving " to rekindle in our children a sense of moral striving, so that they may realize something greater than a popular culture that glorifies violence, sexual promiscuousness, same-sex unions and disintegrating family structures. "

What happens in your house, men, is more important than what happens in the White House.

Monday, November 01, 2004

What will we do if John Kerry is elected?!

I’ve heard this question from several Christians lately, with gasps and mutterings. There’s a simple answer: We should do the same things we would do were President Bush re-elected.

Pray for kings and all those in authority. (1 Tim 2:2) Pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:7)
Love the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. (Deut 6:5)
Love others as yourself (Lev 19:18). Serve others in the power and name of Jesus.
Sing spiritual songs in your heart. (Col 3:16) Be joyful and hopeful (1 Thess 5:16-18; Col 1:11), glad for a redeemed life, ever-looking forward to heaven.
Be in the world without being of the world. (John 17:6) Be salt and light in your neighborhood and workplace (Matt 5:13-16
Talk about the Word of God all the time with your family (Deut 6:7)
Wake up every day astonished that you are alive (see Luke 13:1-5)

And we can count on our Risen Lord to guide us into all truth and wise living, for the sake of His Name.

Now I have strong preferences about which candidate should be President, and what Presidents and other elected officials should do and not do. (Here's a start -- let every citizen be familiar with The Constitution!) But men, we need to be sober-minded, and pay attention to clear instruction from Scripture. Whomever is elected President is not our Savior. Let us not ascribe to any man more than what God ascribes.
What are you called to?

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God (Ephesians 1:1)

Paul fully understood that he was an apostle by the will of God. It was his calling, his purpose, his endeavor – everything was subject to this.

You are not outside the will of God, brother. What are you called to be and do? Put your name and purpose in that sentence. , _____________ by the will of God.

I’m a husband, father, teacher, encourager, and spiritual leader by the will of God. That's an incredibly encouraging reality!

What about you?
About lies

The only thing that God cannot do is lie. Satan is the father of lies – his crummy kingdom is built on a foundation of lies. Lies are his native tongue.

How much different would the world be if people were incapable of lies? No matter what, you could only tell the truth – to others, and to yourself. This will be a key difference between our numbered days here, and heaven.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Suddenly, Deeply Religious

Several buddies have noticed that Senator Kerry is really lacing God-talk into his speeches lately. Check out Jacoby, Olasky, and Piper for some useful perspective on this.
Walking by Sight

Great truth shared yesterday about a fellow CrossTrainer who was called home: "He is walking by sight now." May we be found steadfast, faithful men who walk by faith.
Four More Years

I enjoyed John Ellis' recommendation to reelect President Bush.

Someone asked me the other day why I supported President Bush, "aside from the
family thing" as he put it. I said I was supporting him because I thought he
understood the issue at stake better than anyone alive. And because he cared
about that issue completely. And that he was on the right side of that issue
from day one and every day thereafter. And that he was devoted to committing
this nation to a course of offensive engagement with the terror apparatus that
might, just might, save us all here in the United States. The President Bush I
read about in the papers and the newsweeklies and the blogs bears almost no
resemblance to the President Bush I know and visit with from time to time. (I've
never seen media as blatantly dishonest and biased as we have all seen this
year.) The man I know is smart, extraordinarily disciplined, enormously
hard-working, open to new ideas and approaches, decisive, shrewd and gifted with
a keen sense of the possible. He is decent and honest and true, which cannot be
said of many of his critics. Has he made mistakes? Yes he has. Do they warrant
his retirement. I don't think so. Because over-riding everything is the Big
Issue and on this issue President Bush has been steadfast and strong and right
as rain, while his opponent has rambled and waffled and weaseled every which
way. Our enemies will brace for four more years of hell if Bush is re-elected.
They will celebrate if Senator Kerry wins. Here's to four more years of hell.

How would your relatives and friends describe you?
Album of the Year?

Lots of good albums this year -- my vote goes to Casting Crowns. Just outstanding theology woven here!

Monday, October 25, 2004

Bias in headlines

Newspaper headlines are sound bites, and often reveal bias. Consider this report from the Des Moines Register yesterday, "Majority of profs lean left at Iowa schools," about the political affiliation of faculty at Iowa colleges and universities.

Overall, counting multiple Christian colleges as well as secular schools, faculty: "Of the more than 2,400 faculty registered to vote, 55 percent are Democrats. Independents make up 28 percent and Republicans about 16 percent."

The story features the University of Iowa, however. "For every eight Democratic professors at the U of I, there is one Republican....Faculty in some disciplines, such as business and agriculture, are more conservative than professors in education or liberal arts, Knight said. [Iowa State University's] College of Business is the only unit in the Register's review in which Republicans outnumber Democrats. In that department, there are twice as many Republicans. In comparison, the U of I's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has a dozen registered Democrats for every Republican."

Check the headline again -- 16% Republican overall, only one unit in the entire state where Republicans outnumbered Democrats, the U of I ratio at 8:1 -- this is lean left? Keep in mind, too, the state population is almost exactly 50-50 Democrat-Republican, with less than 3% registered Independent.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Not everything that hinders is sin

Eric Evers offers some excellent insight here. Pay attention to this.

"Today in my Hebrews reading (I know I haven’t blogged on Hebrews for a while, but I have been studying it, and loving it!), I was at 12:1: “Let us throw off everything that hinders, and the sin that so easily entangles…” Notice that division: “everything that hinders,” and, in addition to that, “the sin that so easily entangles.” Not everything that hinders us is sin. Some of what hinders us from following Jesus full-out with freedom and devotion is, in fact, good stuff. It’s good, but it’s not what God is calling us to do. It’s good, but it’s not the point. And so it hinders us, slows us down, restricts our range of movement, in our pursuit of the point of life.
So what hinders you? If you’re a preacher or teacher, ask that of your presentations: “What hinders this talk from being relentlessly focused on the point I need to get across?” Whether you’re a preacher or teacher or whatever, ask that of your life. What (other than, obviously, unbelief and sin) hinders you from full-throttle, unrestricted pursuit of the race of faith? What clouds your focus on the point? And how can you lay it aside?"
Christians and political affilitiation

There have been several articles recently about Christians and political affiliation. I've found two articles today worth reading. Doug Giles has some blunt statements in his column, titled "A Christian Can Be a Christian or a Liberal, But He Can’t Be Both." Richard Foster won't indicate who to vote for or against, but has an October perspective outlining four convictions for civil responsibility.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Two types of accountability partners

I strongly believe that every Christian man needs accountability partners. We should be very close to our spouses, but these dear women cannot be our only accountability -- our role is to be God's minister to them.

In the past few years I've set up two types of accountability partners.

The first is to guard against the downside. I have one brother whom I meet on these issues of sexual purity, time in the Word, serving our families, matters of integrity at work. We have very specific lists to check one another.

The second is to encourage to reach more for Christ. For me, this is a small number of men who are asking questions about what God is teaching me, my teaching ministry, and encouraging me to keep working towards excellence. I don't need to go over basic danger issues with them, because I have this covered by another man.

The division between the two types of accountability is helpful. It would be a rare man who could cover all areas well. I share this in hopes you can benefit, also.
The US Must Continue Supporting Israel

Charles Krauthammer suggests that John Kerry would weaken US support for Israel to gain more international support for other US interests.
Think about it: What do the Europeans and the Arab
states endlessly rail about in the Middle East? What (outside Iraq) is the area
of most friction with U.S. policy? What single issue most isolates America from
the overwhelming majority of countries at the United
The answer is obvious: Israel.
In what currency, therefore, would we pay the rest
of the world in exchange for their support in places like Iraq? The answer is
obvious: giving in to them on Israel.

May it never be!

What's Really Important?

It's been said that you know what people think is really important by evaluating their actions more than their words. Watching Boston Red Sox fans is instructive. In the final three games of the playoffs before their astounding victory over the Yankees, fans pulled out all the stops. Wiccans came to Fenway park and performed favorable spells. Any number of clergy prayed for their beloved team to achieve victory. The faithful, decades-hopeful fans arrayed in front of their TV sets with their lucky shirts on.

It's a great athletic performance, but it's a game.

When will we see the same outpouring of "spiritual energy" to address the problems of divorce, lonely old people, kids dropping out of school, and acts of lawlessness? Oh, yeah, those are supposed to be fixed by the government.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Book Recommendation: Elders and Leaders

I'm not done reading this yet, but am already prepared to recommend it to leaders. Gene Getz writes carefully about a subject that matters a great deal to the Church today. There are about a gazillion books and articles on leadership for the business community now. But they often ring hollow, ego-stroking more than challenging to serve others. Pastor Getz accomplishes something in Elders and Leaders that I have not seen elsewhere -- a picture of leaders working together to lead a local fellowship.

Click on the image below for more information about Elders and Leaders.

The Lord is with us

“Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them." (Numbers 14:9)

We tend to say “The Lord is with us” casually, almost as one syllable, as throwaway as a Hallmark card. We must remind ourselves frequently of the truth and power of what is being said here. Dissect it one word at a time:

The There is only one Lord, unique, supreme

Lord He made all things, holds all things together, and is the focal point of creation. You don’t get to say “No, Lord.”

Is Present tense! We have been given today, a special day, and He is Now.

With We are in Him, He is with/among/connecting/enabling us

Us There are no solitary Christians. Elijah whines that he the last prophet left, and is gently rebuked by the One who has reserved 7000 in Israel. (1 Kings 19) How many tens of thousands are reserved in central Iowa? Where you live? One of our central tasks in local fellowship is to be a fellowship and be together.

Taken together, this is AWEsome stuff. Let’s boldly go forward, confident that The Lord is with us – for His purposes and His glory.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Good article on US Law Supporting Definitions of Marriage

Jeff Jacoby: Why marriage can't be left to the states
We the Citizens are the Problem, Not the Politicians

Every election cycle we hear people say that they are weary of the division, the acrimony, the harsh and overy-simplistic political spin, the ads, the name-calling, etc.

Examine history and you'll see that political campaigns are probably no worse now than in the early colonial days of this country. The campaigns against Jackson and Lincoln were harsher than against Bush today, though there were fewer media outlets and news did not travel as fast. So perhaps there is merit to the argument that it's worse now because it's accelerating.

I do not believe election campaigns are like this because of The Media (another "they" group), or because of campaign financing laws, or because of technology options, or because politicians have lower character and many advisors shoving them into spin mode. The real reason that our election cycles will continue this way is because we like it. (After all, we sin because we like it.) The root cause of all this is that citizens and non-citizens in the US are shallow. The political process is simply responding (effectively) to our behaviors. We
  • prefer soundbites to detailed information
  • prefer not to analyze complex situations, nor seek to understand interconnecting systems
  • prefer to separate government from "us"
  • prefer to operate from preferences than principles
  • prefer easy to hard
Yes, there is a small percentage of citizens who study the issues carefully and look beneath the surface with a carefully principled worldview. But campaigns will not be won by tailoring their approach to this group, because only a small minority have worked hard to overcome the endemic slothfulness of our human nature.(Interestingly, most people would put themselves in this minority, but their behavior belies it.)

There are some wonderful distinctives of the American nation that yet survive this slothful instinct. For it is not all about deep thinking. In this season, the quote below is helpful perspective:

"America has always been about freedom. Despite our flawed history -- slavery, our treatment of American Indians, our failure to initially grant suffrage to women, our internment of Japanese-American citizens during WWII -- we have fought hard to correct these failures. We fought those who would enslave other nations and then we helped rebuild the nations of our former enemies. Our soldiers, sailors, and airmen are stationed in more than a hundred nations throughout the world to ensure that the enemies of freedom will not succeed. I suggest this is not a time bashing America. This is a time to recognize and celebrate our commitment to freedom and, like our Founding Fathers, pledge our lives, our property, and our sacred honor to advance freedom throughout the world." -- Alan Caruba

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Unity is Paramount

Our unity in Christ is a precious treasure for us to steward.

We are one Body, with one Spirit (Eph 4:1-6). It is God who causes growth (1 Cor 3:5-9). Our one body has many parts (1 Cor 12:12-31). It is the Lord who makes us one in Christ (Eph 2:11-22). We should live as new people in love (Col 3:3-17), and look to the interests of others (Php 2:1-11).

How are you doing as a steward of the King?
The Right Perspective

Remember, men -- it's not my's the part God has arranged for me in His unfolding story.
Lord, Send Sap!

We need to persist in praying for the salvation of extended family members, neighbors, and nations. We desire that everyone would "taste and see that the Lord is good." We long for these dear ones to be rescued from the black pit where they blindly stumble along, and find the heart-filling joy that following Christ will bring to them.

How long must we pray? We will boldly ask until God answers (Matthew 7:7-12; Luke 18:1-8), confident that He hears us (1 John 3:21) and delights to give us the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37:4). These prayers for salvation are congruent with His heart for the world adn every person He has created in His image (Genesis 1:27).

Here is a picture that might help you as you pray.

Jeus tells us that He is the vine, and we are the branches (John 15:5-6). The branches have no life without the vine. Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing, and are like dead branches only good for burning. Paul describes how we Gentiles are branches grafted into Israel, the tree of life (Romans 11:17-25). God has caused His life (the tree sap!) to flow into each believer, giving new life and bearing fruit for the glory of God in Christ.

These dear people, these loved ones we pray for, are lifeless branches now. Ask the Great Lord Gardener to graft each person in, and send life-giving sap flowing into them. Can you see it with your eyes of faith? Oh, how the Lord is magnified when He grafts in completely-dead-in-their-sin branches (Ephesians 2:1) to the family of God! We cry out, "Lord, send sap!"

My brothers, may we be found diligent, imaginative people of prayer.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Strength and Honor!

Men, we could do far worse than encourage one another frequently as Roman soldiers did before battle : "Strength and honor!"

Our strength come from Christ and is in Christ. Our honor is the honor of adopted sons, inheritors of the glorious One. Let us be remarkable (meaning, others will be compelled to speak well of us) in strength beyond ourselves, and remarkable in honor.

Nehemiah's model for family leadership

Dads, check out Doug Phillips' Nehemiah 1-6 outline as a model for family leadership. "Wise and blessed leaders accomplish great things at remarkable speeds when they stay remarkably focused, humble, and courageous before the Lord God."

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Recommended blog

Check out The Evangelical Outpost. Excellent work, and a diverse set of commentary that makes for thoughtful reading.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Kerry has serious chutzpah

John Kerry repeats the outrageous claims about blacks being denied the right to vote in 2000:

Before traveling to Arizona last night to begin preparations for the de bate in
Tempe, Mr. Kerry campaigned yesterday in Florida, where he reminded
African-American voters of the closely divided 2000 election. At tending two
church services with African-Americans, first with Haitian Catholics and
with black Baptists, Mr. Kerry cast the disputed 2000 recount in
terms, the Associated Press reported. "We have an
unfinished march in this
nation," Kerry said at Friendship Missionary
Baptist Church. "Never again
will a million African-Americans be
denied the right to exercise their vote in
the United States of America," he
said, promising to respond aggressively to any
allegations of
disenfranchisement. The Reverend Jesse Jackson and the
Reverend Al
Sharpton joined Mr. Kerry to help mobilize the African American voters.
"November 2, the power is in your hands, hands that once picked
cotton," the AP quoted Rev. Jackson as saying. "Everything we have fought
for, marched for, gone to jail for - some died for - could be reversed if the
wrong people are put on the Supreme Court," Rev. Sharpton said.

It takes some serious chutzpah to claim African Americans were denied the right to vote in Florida in 2000. A six month investigation by the U.S. Civil Rights Commission found no evidence of this. An independent investigation by the Civil Rights division of the Department of Justice also found no evidence. No one has stepped forward with credible evidence that he was denied the right to vote. No one calls John Kerry on this? See Larry Elder's column about this issue for more commentary.

Also, I would imagine that George Bush giving a speech in any church would create quite the media stir and outrage. This story was on the back page of the Des Moines Register, without any critical commentary.

Self-control, focusing on the greater good

Jesus' self-control is a good lesson for us. He is falsely accused by the Jewish leaders, brought before the Sanhredrin (which operated like a kangaroo court), then sent to Pilate. Pilate sends Jesus to Herod. Look at Luke 23:9-10:

"[Herod] plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. The chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him."

Jesus had submitted Himself to the Father's plan. Consider what Jesus could have done and said to his accusers -- being fully righteous in it! -- and chose not to. Jesus chose to be the Lamb of God who would not cry out or defend Himself. He was focuses on the greater good, not lesser justice of this moment.

Men, when do you and I need to exercise self-control and restraint in small things, seeking the greater good? Let us be watchful for these opportunities with our families, neighbors, and co-workers.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Be staggered by Christ

Be encouraged by these strong words from John Piper:
Little souls make little lusts have great power. The soul, as it were,
expands to encompass the magnitude of its treasure. The human soul was made to
see and savor the supremacy of Christ. Nothing else is big enough to enlarge the
soul as God intended and make little lusts lose their power.
Vast starry
skies seen from a mountain in Utah, and four layers of moving clouds on a
seemingly endless plain in Montana, and standing on the edge of a mile-deep drop
in the Grand Canyon can all have a wonderfully supplementary role in enlarging
the soul with beauty. But nothing can take the place of the supremacy of Christ.
As Jonathan Edwards said, if you embrace all creation with goodwill, but not
Christ, you are infinitely parochial. Our hearts were made to be enlarged by
Christ, and all creation cannot replace his supremacy.
My conviction is that
one of the main reasons the world and the church are awash in lust and
pornography (by men and women—30% of internet pornography is now viewed by
women) is that our lives are intellectually and emotionally disconnected from
infinite, soul-staggering grandeur for which we were made. Inside and outside
the church western culture is drowning in a sea of triviality, pettiness,
banality, and silliness. Television is trivial. Radio is trivial. Conversation
is trivial. Education is trivial. Christian books are trivial. Worship styles
are trivial. It is inevitable that the human heart, which was made to be
staggered with the supremacy of Christ, but instead is drowning in a sea of
banal entertainment, will reach for the best natural buzz that life can give:
Therefore, the deepest cure to our pitiful addictions is not any mental
strategies—and I believe in them and have my own. The deepest cure is to be
intellectually and emotionally staggered by the infinite, everlasting,
unchanging supremacy of Christ in all things. This is what it means to know him. Christ has purchased this gift for us at the cost of his
life. Therefore, I say again with Hosea, let us know, let us press on to know
the Lord.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Being Men of Integrity

A man of integrity…
Believes what Jesus believed (a transformed mind)
Lives what Jesus lived (a transformed character)
Loves as Jesus loved (transformed relationships)
Ministers as Jesus ministered (transformed service)
Leads as Jesus led (transformed influence)
(From Choose the Life, by Bill Hull, 2004)

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Framing the Discussion

Here's an important work for understanding better how to communicate truth to others. George Lakoff is a linguist, and makes compelling case that we need to communicate in an appropriate frame of reference for a message to be heard. Facts outside a person's frame of reference have very little effect.

Now you need to understand that Professor Lakoff wrote this to help "progressives" argue better against "the conservatives who are destroying America." I about choked on the themes he chose for illustrations. But I encourage you to get past that and learn about the ideas about framing discussions.

And remember that God can change frames!
Are You Busy?

Gerry McGovern challenges us to change our vocabulary. Instead of saying we're "busy," we need to think about being productive and effective.

Building below the water line

Gordon MacDonald writes eloquently about leadership. You need to read this, and then apply it.

"David McCullough's The Great Bridge (Simon and Schuster, 1972). As usual McCullough (among the best of modern writers) tells a great story, this time of the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, which arched the East River and joined Manhattan to Brooklyn.
In June 1872, the Chief Engineer of the project wrote: "To such of the general public as might imagine that no work had been done on the New York tower, because they see no evidence of it above the water, I should simply remark that the amount of the masonry and concrete laid on that foundation during the past winter, under water, is equal in quantity to the entire masonry of the Brooklyn tower visible today above the water line" (italics mine).
The Brooklyn Bridge remains a major transportation artery in New York City today because, 135 years ago, the Chief Engineer and his construction team did their most patient and daring work where no one could see it: on the foundations of the towers below the water line. It is one more illustration of an ageless principle in leadership: the work done below the water line (in a leader's soul) that determines whether he or she will stand the test of time and challenge. This work is called worship, devotion, spiritual discipline. It's done in quiet, where no one but God sees.
Today there is a tremendous emphasis on leadership themes such as vision, organizational strategy, and the "market-sensitivity" of one's message. And it's all great stuff (stuff I wish I'd heard when I was real young). But if it is all about what's above the water line, we are likely to witness a leadership crash of sorts in the coming years. Leaders blessed with great natural skills and charisma may be vulnerable to collapse in their character, their key relationships, their center of belief because they never learned that you cannot (or should not anyway) build above the water line until there is a substantial foundation below it. A re-read of the life of Moses (which I've just done) is the best example of this. The man spent 80 years preparing for his more visible work.
My opinion: the test of a leader is less what he or she accomplishes before 45 years of age and more what happens after. Call it sustainability! The trick is to last and grow stronger, wiser, more focused with the years. "
Great quote
"When a problem appears to have no solution is means we are asking the wrong questions." -- Star Parker
Fahrenheit 9/11 vs. Lord of the Rings

Kathleen Parker nails it:

The nation is essentially divided into two cinematic camps: (1) those who
believe that America's story was best told in Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11,"
and (2) those who think Peter Jackson pretty much captured the essence of
current events in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, based on J.R.R. Tolkien's
literary masterpiece of the same name.

What would you do as a Christian in Iran?

Read Jonah Goldberg's column on protests inside Iran.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

One of the best books on discipleship

A Long Obedience in the Same Direction should be in your library. Eugene Peterson packs this book with insights and wisdom that will serve you well.

This fact should humble us

According to Bob Tepper, President of R&D at Millenium Pharmaceuticals, based on what researchers have gathered from sequencing the human genome, all humans are 99.9% identical to each other, but we're 50% identical to a banana.

Cleanup after Hurricane Ivan

We spent a few days with my inlaws cleaning up damage to their home after Hurrican Ivan swept through. The wind damage was relatively mild compared with the effects of the storm surge.

I was also challenged several times to consider God's sovereign power, even in a devasting hurricane. "There are no maverick molecules in the universe." I'm looking at Psalm 46 in a new way again.

For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. According toalamoth. A
1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. 2
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall
into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains
quake with their surging. Selah 4 There is a river whose streams make glad the
city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. 5 God is within her, she
will not fall; God will help her at break of day. 6 Nations are in uproar,
kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. 7 The LORD Almighty is with
us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah 8 Come and see the works of the LORD
, the desolations he has brought on the earth. 9 He makes wars cease to the ends
of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields
with fire. 10 "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the
nations, I will be exalted in the earth." 11 The LORD Almighty is with us; the
God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

A category 5 hurricane brings considerable desolation to the earth. It's fearful and awesome. And our calling is to be still (another translation has it "cease striving") and "know that I am God."

We are under His great mercy, and daily astonished that any of us are alive.