Saturday, January 31, 2004

Let your Yes be Yes

"Much of what sophisticates loftily refer to as the "complexity" of the real world is in fact the inconsistency in their own minds."
- Thomas Sowell

Remember the old joke about the politician -- "A politician is a person who can come down squarely on both sides of an issue."

The heart is deceitful above all else -- who can fathom it? We need to beware of our enormous capacity to rationalize and temporize.

Friday, January 30, 2004

Where are the WMD?

Lots of hullabaloo about the failure to find WMD in Iraq. Did the scientists pull one over on Saddam? Were they moved to Syria and Lebanon? Was it a just war if there are no WMD? Likely, Likely, and YES! The war was about removing tyranny and a persistent threat to the US and free countries.

Charles Krauthammer, as usual, has some good words about David Kay's recent comments:

"Before the great hunt for scapegoats begins, let's look at what David Kay has actually said about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

First, and most trumpeted, he did not find ``large stockpiles of newly produced weapons of mass destruction.'' He did find, as he reported last October, WMD-related activities, from a very active illegal missile program to research and development (``right up until the end'') on weaponizing the deadly poison ricin (the stuff found by London police on terrorists last year). He discovered ``hundreds of cases'' of U.N.-prohibited and illegally concealed activities.

Significant findings, but still a far cry from what the administration had claimed last March. Kay has now offered the most novel and convincing explanation for why U.S. intelligence -- and, for that matter, U.N. inspectors and the intelligence agencies of every country that mattered -- had misjudged what Iraq possessed.

It was a combination of Iraqi bluff, deceit, and corruption far more bizarre than heretofore suspected. Kay discovered that an increasingly erratic Saddam had taken over personal direction of WMD programs. But because there was no real oversight, the scientists would go to Saddam for money, exaggerate or invent their activities, then pocket the funds.

Scientists were bluffing Saddam. Saddam was bluffing the world. The Iraqis were all bluffing each other. Special Republican Guard commanders had no WMDs, but they told investigators that they were sure that other guard units did. It was this internal disinformation that the whole outside world missed.

Congress needs to find out why, with all our resources, we had not a clue that this was going on. But Kay makes clear that Bush was relying on what the intelligence agencies were telling him. Kay contradicts the reckless Democratic charges that Bush cooked the books. ``All the analysts I have talked to said they never felt pressured on WMD,'' says Kay. ``Everyone believed that (Iraq) had WMD.''

Including the Clinton administration. Kay told The Washington Post that he had found evidence that Saddam had quietly destroyed some biological and chemical weapons in the mid-1990s -- but never reported it to the U.N. Which was why Clinton in 1998 declared with great alarm and great confidence that Iraq had huge stockpiles of biological and chemical arms -- ``and some day, some way, I guarantee you, he'll use the arsenal.''

The intelligence failure is quite spectacular, but its history is quite prosaic. When the U.N. inspectors left in 1998, they assumed that the huge stockpiles of unaccounted-for weapons still existed. What other assumption could they make? That Saddam had destroyed them and not even reported that to the very agency that could have then vindicated him and gotten sanctions lifted?

Secretary of State Colin Powell correctly makes the case that this very fact -- the concealment of both the weapons and their possible destruction -- clearly justifies the legality of the Iraq War, since the terms of the 1991 cease-fire placed the positive obligation on Iraq to demonstrate its own disarmament. And that it clearly and repeatedly failed to do.

But beyond the legal question is the security question. People forget that when the Bush administration came into office, Iraq was a very unstable situation. Thousands of Iraqis were dying as a result of sanctions. Containment necessitated the garrisoning of Saudi Arabia with thousands of ``infidel'' American troops -- in the eyes of many Muslims, a desecration (cited by Osama bin Laden as his No. 1 reason for his 1996 Declaration of War on America). The no-fly zones were slow-motion war, and the embargo was costly and dangerous -- the sailors who died on the USS Cole were on embargo duty.

Until Bush got serious, threatened war and massed troops in Kuwait, the U.N. was headed toward loosening and ultimately lifting sanctions, which would have given Saddam carte blanche to regroup and rebuild his WMDs.

Bush reversed that slide with his threat to go to war. But that kind of aggressive posture is impossible to maintain indefinitely. A regime of inspections, embargo, sanctions, no-fly zones and thousands of combat troops in Kuwait was an unstable equilibrium. The U.S. could have either retreated and allowed Saddam free rein -- or gone to war and removed him. Those were the only two ways to go.

Under the circumstances, and given what every intelligence agency on the planet agreed was going on in Iraq, the president made the right choice, indeed the only choice."

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Killing Ingratitude in Your Family

We play "the Thankful Game" in our home periodically. Everyone gets a bowl of M&Ms, or peanuts, or something small and yummy. We often sit around the living room, sometimes I'll get a fire going in the fireplace. You need to have the whole family together and relaxed. The rules are simple:

One person announces something he/she is thankful for. It can be anything that comes to mind.
That person gets to eat one M&M or peanut or treat from his/her bowl.
Each person goes in turn.
Repeat until all the treats are gone.

We find this very helpful to kill the ingratitude that creeps into our family life. Mom and Dad need to set the pace on this one. This is a terrific way to help train children to think about others and give thanks to the One who has blessed us.

Christian bragging

I was reminded yesterday of a great line in sales : "It ain't braggin' if it's true."

Have you reflected lately on what you can brag about because of Christ's work for you and in you? Here are just a few:

There is no condemnation for you. (Rom 8:1)
You are seated in the heavenly realms. (Eph 1:3; 2:6)
Your prayers are heard, and answered in love
You are never alone, never forsaken (Deut 31:6)
You have a Father. You have brothers and sisters. You are co-heirs with Christ. (Rom 8:17)
You have good work to do, and a purpose (Eph 2:10; Rom 8:28)
You've been given everything you need (2 Pe 1:3)

Can you think of at least two more?

Of course, we cannot boast in ourselves or our works, for it is all from God and all for God. Praise be to the Lord of Hosts, who has loved us with an undying love!

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Evaluating the Democratic Candidates by the 4 E's

Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, wrote an interesting column for the WSJ about using his famous 4E strategy to evaluate the leadership potential of the candidates for the Democratic nomination for President.

First, look at integrity and intelligence. Then examine Energy, ability to Energize others, their Edge (courage to make tough yes and no decisions), and Execute (get things done).

About anger

Anger is a strong emotion that emerges when we feel a gap between what is, and what should be. Anger is worth examining. It's very common in family relationships, and usually destructive. Our culture frequently rewards and even celebrates anger.

Not all anger is unrighteous. We've slaughtered over 40 million children in the US since 1973 under a ludicrous "privacy" finding in the Constitution. Forty million souls. That's the combined current population of Illinois, Florida, and Texas.

But let's not kid ourselves. A large fraction of the anger we have is not righteous. The gap that drives this anger is between what is and what we think we deserve -- standards set up through idols of comfort, success, and control.

Here is a useful test: Does my anger cause me to act to save lives and lead me to pray, inviting God's power to save and transform lives?

The best book on helping children with anger is The Heart of Anger, by Lou Priolo.

Friday, January 23, 2004


Michael Crichton on whether people ever achieve anything in their self-help efforts: ".....people never seem to change as a result of their intensive introspection. They never understand themselves better. It's very rare to find genuine self-knowledge. It's almost as if you need someone else to tell you who you are, or to hold up the mirror for you. Which, if you think about it, is very weird. Or maybe it's not."

Men, the Bible is our mirror. Jesus is our model. We do need someone to tell us who we are. It's not weird, just honest.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Tolerance vs. Love

Insights from Josh McDowell:

Tolerance says, "You must approve of what I do." Love responds, "I must do something harder: I will love you, even when your behavior offends me."

Tolerance says, "You must agree with me." Love responds, "I must do something harder: I will tell you the truth, because I am convinced 'the truth will set you free.'"

Tolerance says, "You must allow me to have my way." Love responds, "I must do something harder: I will plead with you to follow the right way, because I believe you are worth the risk."

Tolerance seeks to be inoffensive; love takes risks. Tolerance glorifies division; love seeks unity. Tolerance costs nothing; love costs everything.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Great book for parents

I highly recommend Paul David Tripp's book Age of Opportunity. Excellent.

This, along with Eugene Peterson's book Like Dew Your Youth, is seriously changing the way I think about interacting with others. It's not just for parents -- you'll find applications for your marriage and other family interactions, as well.

Don't Make the Gospel Boring

"If you are going to bore people, don't bore them with the Gospel. Bore them with calculus, bore them with earth science, bore them with world history. But it is a sin to bore them with the Gospel."

-- Howard Hendricks

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Discipleship Journal archives

NavPress has made the entire archives of Discipleship Journal available free of charge. This is a terrific resource if you are preparing lessons for your family or church.

What happens when we confuse the created and the Creator

"Among other things Howard Dean has now become an authority on God. The other day he suggested that since God created homosexuals he could not condemn homosexual behavior. Of course, if one follows that same line of logic, God also cannot condemn murder, adultery, bestiality, lying, cheating and stealing because he created creatures who indulge in those sorts of behaviors. My goodness, if Dean is right, God can't even condemn politicians and lawyers." -- Lyn Nofziger

Three biblical parameters for parents

All the biblical counsel specifically for parents falls into three parts:

1. Teach the word of God all the time (Deut 6:7)

2. Discipline your children and lead them into a wise life (Proverbs ch 1-7)

3. Fathers, do not embitter your children (Col 3:21)

That's it.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Enriched by Less-Than-Perfect Humans

This is from the Leadership-Weekly email. Good stuff. -- Glenn

Carmen Renee Berry's recent book, The Unauthorized Guide to Choosing a Church, was "inspired by her odyssey from the deeply conservative church of her childhood into the world of seekers and cynics, and back again." She eventually found that the very reason she withdrew from the church—her disappointment in church members who often failed to act as Christians—was what drew her back. She writes:

I had overlooked one essential factor—that I am as finite and flawed as everyone else. … When a friend committed suicide, I realized I could become too cynical, too lost, and too alone. I needed a church, a community of believers. I needed to live in my faith and visit my doubts. Something happens there that simply doesn't when you are alone in prayer or on the Internet. As much as I hate to admit it, my faith is enhanced and enlarged when in relationship to other less-than-perfect human beings.
Citation: Citation: USA Today (6-2-03)

Monday, January 12, 2004

Putting family relationships into the right context

“The only ordinary homes seem to be the ones we don’t know much about, just as the only blue mountains are those ten miles away.” -- C.S. Lewis

“A search of Scripture turns up a rather surprising truth – there are no exemplary families. Not a single family is portrayed in such a way as to evoke admiration in us… The biblical material consistently portrays the family not as a Norman Rockwell group, beaming in gratitude around a Thanksgiving turkey, but as a series of broken relationships in need of redemption… We are faced, daily, with the reality that something has gone wrong with our families. Our children fight and quarrel; our parenting misfires. We are involved in failure, and we feel guilty. Something has, of course, gone wrong with the family, but it went wrong long before we came on the scene. It is futile to complain or feel guilty; we can, though, go to work and nurture family life on the new grounds provided by the Holy Spirit. Blood relationships are transformed into relationships of grace. Our natural families are informed and redeemed by the same principles that are foundational in the community of the Holy Spirit, the Church.” – Eugene Peterson

Be encouraged, men! We have an awesome God who leads us in this important work. “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1:3)
Signs of a healthy church -- and a checkup for your family

The EFCA has a list of ten indicators of a healthy church. It also works as a check on your family! The ten indicators are:

Centrality of God's Word
Passionate Spirituality
Fruitful Evangelism
High-impact Worship
Mission and Vision-driven
Leadership Development
Church Planting
Financial Stewardship
Intentional Disciplemaking
Loving Relationships

See the EFCA web site for more detail.
Reading the Psalms and Proverbs each month

Here's a daily reading plan to carry you through the Psalms and Proverbs in a month.

Each day you read five Psalms and one chapter of Proverbs. Read the Psalm numbered the day of the month, and the next four at increments of 30. Read the Proverb chapter for the day of the month. The pattern looks like this:

Day 1 : Psalm 1, 31, 61, 91, 121 Proverbs 1
Day 2 : Psalm 2, 32, 62, 92, 122 Proverbs 2
Day 3 : Psalm 3, 33, 63, 93, 123 Proverbs 3

... and continuing this pattern

Day 29 : Psalm 29, 59, 89, 129, 149 Proverbs 29
Day 30 : Psalm 30, 60, 90, 120, 150 Proverbs 30

Pastor Kent Wagner taught me this method.

Mighty Men

John Crotts has written a potent 44 page booklet titled Mighty Men : The Starters Guide to Leading Your Family. Extremely practical. Dense with good ideas.

He begins with this story:

"Two lines formed at the entrance of the men's meeting at church. A very long line waited in front of a door marked, "Men who are NOT the spiritual leaders of their families." Over the other door the sign read, "Men who ARE the spiritual leaders of their families." Only one man stood in this line. When asked what his big secret was, he shrugged his shoulders and responded, "I am just standing where my wife told me to."

Let's remember -- today -- that we ARE commissioned as spiritual leaders of our families. The only question is how well we're doing the job we've been called to.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Talking about Jesus

It's sad to see Howard Dean manipulating voters with Jesus 'talk.'

I'm reminded of the story of the demon-possessed man who beat up the seven sons of Sceva trying to do an exorcism by invoking "Jesus, whom Paul preaches." The demon replied, "Jesus I know, and I have heard about Paul, but who are you?" (Acts 19:15)

Let us be sure our Jesus talk matches our Christ-enabled living. For some of us, that means talking about Jesus more, and for others, less.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Understanding and leading

"men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should
do -- 200 chiefs, with all their relatives under their command" (1 Chron 12:32)

It's important to see that the men who understood the times were able to leverage that understanding because they were chiefs with families under their command. They were not men standing alone, but men leading a community, an army committed the Lord.

You and I should be like them.
Live it forward

"The best portion of a good man's life is the little, nameless,
unremembered acts of kindness and love." -- William Wordsworth

Four generations from now, little of our day to day work will be remembered. But the echoes of our character into future generations can sustain a civilization. "Who despises the day of small things?" (Zech 4:10)

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

What's been accomplished in Iraq

A Marine commander writes to his troops to commend them on what they've helped accomplish -- A positive look at Iraq.

By the way, in 2003 the leading place on the planet for Americans to be murdered was...Chicago.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Role models, not critics

"Being a role model is the most powerful form of educating. Youngsters need good role models than they need critics. It is one of a parent's greatest responsibilities and opportunities. Too often fathers neglect it because they get so caught up in making a living they forget to make a life." -- John Wooden, former UCLA Basketball Coach

What can we learn from advertisers?

According to advertising data, the top reasons people buy something are to:

make money
save money
save time
avoid effort
get more comfort
achieve greater cleanliness
attain fuller health
escape physical pain
gain praise
be popular

What does this tell us about the world and ourselves? Advertisers have homed in on our sinful, shallow, self-oriented natures.

I invite you to reflect on these three verses:

Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. (Isaiah 55:2)

Buy the truth and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline and understanding. (Proverbs 23:23)

"The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" (Mark 1:15)

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Revisiting Celebration of Discipline

Celebration of Discipline (Richard Foster) was the first book that I received after accepted Christ. It was hugely influential on me, and continues to be. If it's been a long time since you looked at it, pick up your copy and leaf through it for reminders.

Elton Trueblood writes in the Foreward: “The greatest problems of our time are not technological, for these we handle fairly well. They are not even political or economic, because the difficulties in these areas, glaring as they may be, are largely derivative. The greatest problems are moral and spiritual, and unless we can make some progress in these realms, we may not even survive. This is how advanced cultures have declined in the past.” Foster outlines the classical inward, outward, and corporate disciplines that are the means of God’s grace to a world cursed with superficiality.

Saturday, January 03, 2004

John Piper dreams -- we should, too

This is from John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist church in Minneapolis. Read it aloud.

My Dream for the Prayer Life of Bethlehem

December 31, 2003

1. Jesus said, in Matthew 6:6, "When you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." So I dream of Bethlehem with thousands of people daily finding a secluded place and time for personal communion with God, confessing sins, thanking God for blessings, praising him for his perfections, asking for help, and interceding for others.

2. The apostle Peter said in 1 Peter 3:7, "Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered." So I dream of a Bethlehem with hundreds of married couples on their knees together praying for each other, and for your marriage, and the children, and the church, and the world.

3. Since the apostle Paul said in Ephesians 6:4, "Fathers . . . bring . . . up [your children] in the discipline and instruction of the Lord," I dream of a Bethlehem with hundreds of families gathering with all the children to read the Scripture and pray. This time everyone prays from the smallest (who can barely say, "Nanu Jesus") to the young adults still at home. This is how the children learn to absorb the truth that prayer is an essential life. All the while they are learning how to pray.

4. Since it says in James 5:16, "Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed," I dream of a Bethlehem with hundreds of small groups and hundreds of deep friendships where people are praying for each other-hands-on prayer for healing, for reconciliation, for lost loved ones, for seemingly intractable sin, for endurance in faith, and where groups and friends are uniting to pray for a cause together, and where the mission of the church is carried in prayer.

5. And since the leaders of the early church said in Acts 6:4, "But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word," I dream of a Bethlehem where all staff meetings and all Elder Council meetings and all committee meetings and task force meetings and planning meetings do not just hurry into human discussion with an opening prayer, but linger with the Lord in a season of prayer and soak the meeting in prayer and then return to prayer during the meeting, so that the way the work of the meetings is done is by prayer.

6. From 1 Corinthians 14:16-17 it is clear that the Bible expects us to pray out loud together as a church and not just in solitude. "If you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say 'Amen' to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up." In other words, God means for us to pray sometimes so that others can hear us and say, "Amen," and can be built up in faith by hearing what we pray. Therefore, I dream of many more people coming to the prayer meetings each morning of the week and Wednesday nights, and on special occasions, so that they can build each other up and be built up by each other's prayers.

7. And finally, since the essence of worship is vertical communion with God (Matthew 15:8-9), I dream of worship services in which everyone is radically, deeply, joyfully, authentically engaged with God in prayer all through the entire service-praying as you come, praying as you sing, praying as you listen, praying as you go.

In all these ways may we accomplish what we exist for: the humanly impossible mission of spreading a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ.

Pastor John

Important Questions for Husbands and Fathers

You can ask yourself these questions, or better yet, team up with other men for encouragement and accountability.

* Are you arranging at least 30 minutes of talk-focused time with your wife each day? Are you looking into her eyes as you listen to her?

* What did your kids learn from the Bible this week? What's do you plan to teach them today? Next week?

Progress on Best books list

Thanks for those who have made suggestions for the best books list. Here is what I have so far. Send other suggestions to

Knowing God (J.I. Packer)
Cost of Discipleship (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)
Mere Christianity (C. S. Lewis)
The Heidelberg Catechism
The Holiness of God (R.C. Sproul)
Your God is Too Small (J.B. Phillips)
Basic Christianity (John Stott)
The Divine Conspiracy (Dallas Willard)
Decision of the Will (Jonathan Edwards)
Commentary on Galatians (Martin Luther)
Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices (Thomas Brooks)
Celebration of Discipline (Richard Foster)
Life Together (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)
Don’t Waste Your Life (John Piper)
Desiring God (John Piper)
Thoughts for Young Men (Ryle)
Imitation of Christ (Thomas a Kempis)
The Pursuit of God (A. W. Tozer)
With Christ in the School of Prayer (Andrew Murray)
In Search of Guidance (Dallas Willard)
Spiritual Leadership (Oswald Sanders)
My Utmost for His Highest (Oswald Chambers)
Point Man (Steve Farrar)
The God Who is there (Francis Schaeffer)
Ideas Have Consequences (Richard Weaver)
John Adams (biography)
Abraham Lincoln (biography)
The Federalist Papers
Tortured for Christ
Fox’s book of Martyrs
A History of Knowledge (Charles Van Doren)
Modern Times (Paul Johnson)
The Fifth Discipline (Peter Senge)
Warfighting – Marine book of war strategy
The Chronicles of Narnia (C.S. Lewis)
The Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien)
Pilgrim’s Progress (John Bunyan)
Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
How to Read a Book (Mortimer Adler)
Elements of Style (Strunk and White)
Quotes Worth Pondering

"Think like a man of action, act like a man of thought." --- Henri Bergson

"Courage is the greatest of all virtues. Because if you haven't courage, you may not have the opportunity to use any of the others." -- Samuel Johnson

"I strongly suspect that if we saw all the difference even the tiniest of our prayers make, and all the people those little prayers were destined to affect, and all the consequences of those prayers down through the centuries, we would be so paralyzed with awe at the power of prayer that we would be unable to get up off our knees for the rest of our lives." -- Peter Kreeft

Friday, January 02, 2004

Learning how to fight terrorists

Clifford May identifies key truths in his column Lessons Learned

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Integrity issues

The Democratic candidates for the presidential nomination are getting caught in lie after lie. Dean, Kerry, Edwards, Clark -- all wading deeper into lies, in order to look better.

Men, let's remember our calling to be truth-tellers. Psalm 1 is a good way to start the New Year.

Psalm 1

1 Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.

4 Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

6 For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.
Interesting take on Judge Moore history

Ann Coulter outlines the story of the ACLU vs. Judge Moore in her column titled "Place Your Right Hand on the Quran and repeat after me..." , putting it in the context of a string of judicial activism efforts. She concludes: " I'm not sure what horror is supposed to befall the nation if the liberals started ignoring the law more than they already do, but apparently it would be even worse than a country in which the Ten Commandments have been stripped from every public space, prayer in schools is outlawed, sodomy is a constitutional right, and more than 1 million unborn children are aborted every year."