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.

Whatever your position on Iraq, John Kerry is your man

The post-debate spins are impressive. I appreciated Dennis Prager's thoughtful insights about why Kerry could get away with his self-contradictory statements. An excerpt:
I believe that this debate can lead to only one conclusion: Either John Kerry is a man of few principles who will say almost anything on the most vital
issues of life and death in order to get elected; or he is personally so
confused on this issue that he will repeatedly make self-contradictory
There is no other explanation for this unassailable fact: John Kerry won the debate because he sounded better; and he sounded better in large measure because he got away with saying whatever any voter wanted to hear.
That is one reason President Bush looked so annoyed at times. It is very hard for the principled to listen to the unprincipled.

Read the rest of the column.