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.