Friday, April 28, 2006

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Chazown

That's the Hebrew word meaning "dream, revelation, or vision." Craig Goeschel chose it as the title of his book, and writes to encourage believers to discover the biblical vision for their lives.

This excerpt caught my attention:

" I surveyed about fifty Christians, asking two questions. First, I asked, "If money were no object, what would you do for the rest of your life?"
I fully expected answers such as:
"I'd volunteer my time at the Crisis Pregnancy Center."
"I'd adopt children from a third-world country."
"I'd mentor young inner-city kids."
Sadly, the most common answers orbited around personal comfort. Instead of Spirit-led, selfless responses, virtually everyone gave answers like:
"I'd quit working, buy a nice car, a new house, a boat."
"I'd travel."
"I'd hire people to help me around the house."

Then I asked, "Besides ministering to your family, what do you believe is the number one, most important thing God wants to accomplish through you?" To their credit, the people were pretty honest. But I found their most common answer heatbreaking.
It was "I don't know."

Read the rest of this post. If you don't know what God wants you to do as a husband and father, start on your knees and in the Word. Write me if you need more help.
Turn Off TV Week

Apparently this is "Turn Off TV Week." We don't watch much live TV, so I missed this news. If you're interested in the negative impacts of TV on your brain, check out this
Marketing the Kit-Kat Bar in Japan

What does this story tell us about human vulnerabilities? "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus," because we're prone to fix them on so many other things that cannot possibly fulfill our needs.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Input Junkie vs. Wisdom & Understanding

I'm an input junkie. I read very fast, and voraciously. I'm devouring, collating, filtering, summarizing, forwarding, and cross-linking data all the time. I have to really work at meditating, focusing, reflecting -- because it's much easier to just go get more information!

Was I born at a wonderful time for an input junkie, or what? The amount of information available (irrespective of quality) is increasing at an ever faster rate. Some people are overwhelmed now, but I'm still jazzed.

Here's a helpful comment from Nicholas Carr that I'm choosing to reflect upon:

"Like me, you've probably sensed the same thing, in yourself and in others - the way the constant collection of information becomes an easy substitute for trying to achieve any kind of true understanding. It seems a form of laziness as much as anything else, a laziness that the internet both encourages and justifies. The web is "a hall of mirrors" that provides the illusion of thinking, Michael Gorman, the president of the American Library Association, tells Orlowski. "No one would tell you a student using Google today is producing work as good as they were 20 years ago using printed sources. Despite these amazing technical breakthroughs, these technologies haven't added to human wellbeing."
Do You Need a Church to Grow?

Living together in community is hard. It's good, but it's not always easy.

In Life Together, his classic book written for seminarians, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote balancing chapters titled "The Day Alone" and "The Day Together." Both solitude and togetherness are essential for Christian growth. (If you haven't read this book, get it.)

"Less than 20% of American adults believe participation in a congregation is critical to spiritual growth," according to a recent study. I don' t know why we should be surprised at this. Few people have had good experience with Christian community, and American culture is antithetical to deep relationships. We long for them, but love our alternatives much better.

I've got more observations on this issue than solutions. The answer is one deep relationship at a time, and that's what our loving God is all about.
Christian Perspective on the Environment

Kevin Nelstead has a good post on a Christian perspective on the environment. Being given dominion over the earth is not the same as sovereignty over the earth.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Signs of a Culture

Discipleship Journal reports that the most frequently checked word in the online Merriam-Webster dictionary in 2005 was...

Integrity

Is this is a sign of a confused culture? Thousands of people longing to know what integrity is, because it is so missing in our culture?

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Who doesn't believe in evolution?

Who doesn't believe in evolution as the origin of humans? American adults, that's who. At least according to a CBS news poll earlier this month. The data clearly shows a majority rejecting the notion of secular evolution, the idea that God did not play a role.
Good insight

Walter Williams points out the problem with balanced budget amendments: they do not rein in government spending, but will encourage more taxation.

"A balanced budget is no panacea. For example, suppose Congress spent $6 trillion and taxed us $6 trillion. We'd have a balanced budget, but we'd be far freer with today's unbalanced budget. The fact of business is that the true measure of the impact of government on our lives is not the taxes we pay but the level of spending."
More about Global Warming in the News

It seems that concerns about global warming are surfacing frequently in the news and magazines now. (Earth Day?) Jonah Golberg describes this as a "green scare." Robert Balling Jr. debunks the forthcoming HBO special, "Too Hot Not To Handle." And here's a nice short article about some of the junk pushed as good science.

My concern is that we help our families get past sound bites and simplest views. There are many stakeholders, including the poor in the fast-developing world. Mankind has proven adaptable to living in many circumstances. Economic systems are vulnerable to well-intentioned manipulations. All souls are precious.

I did laugh out loud when I read this in the WSJ:

"Two US explorers plan to start a four-month summer expedition to the North Pole next month to gather information on the animal they believe could be the first victim of global warming -- the polar bear," Reuters reports from Los Angeles. "Project Thin Ice 2006" will the be the first such expedition since 2004. Reuters explains that the explorers had to call off the mission they planned last year because of -- we kid you not -- "unusually heavy snow and ice."

(Yes, I've been told g.w. will create colder conditions in some areas. But it's still funny.)

Thursday, April 20, 2006

How Not to Step Towards Sexual Sin

John Piper has excellent counsel for us about the ten steps towards sexual sin, and how not to take them. Remember than past success does not guarantee future obedience, men!
Be Decisive

In terms of family leadership, I suspect more men are stuck in neutral out of indecisiveness than anything else (with not knowing how & what to do -- there are so few good models to see today -- being a close second). So I recommend you check out this Fast Company blog entry on how decisiveness builds momentum. Even though it's written from a business perspective, you'll see how it applies to home life.
About Your Taxes

John Stossel has a sobering column about your taxes. "...by 1999, government cost every man, woman and child an average of more than $10,000 per year -- more than housing and health care combined."

"...the "concentrated benefits-diffuse costs" problem: The benefits of any given government program go to a few, but the costs are spread among many. If sheep and goat ranchers get $200 million in handouts, it costs each of us less than $1. What are you going to do about that? Go to Washington and protest? For a buck, you probably won't even write your congressman, let alone take him out to dinner or give him a $2,000 campaign contribution. Yet the sheep ranchers have an incentive to spend $199 million lobbying if it gets them a $200 million subsidy back. Economists call it rent-seeking. Of course, even the sheep ranchers would be better off if the government stuck to its basic purposes. But it makes no sense for them to pay for everyone else's programs and not demand their own."

The Alternative Minimum Tax is catching many families now -- and is structurally anti-family.

But I shouldn't be worried about paying too much tax, according to Senator Clinton. I should be paying more into a centrally-planned government driven economic system where the "smart" people in political power redistribute money to where it is needed.

I'm going to go read my copy of the US Constitution again, and think fondly of days before the 16th Amendment.
I Want to See God!

Yesterday I fell to my knees in prayer as I read this in Habakkuk 3:2

"Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord.
Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy."

I've read a lot about God's deeds and fame, from the Bible, and history books, and events today. I've heard many testimonies. I've heard much more than I've seen first-hand! This is going to be my prayer for a time:

Renew your fame and deeds in our day, Lord! I want to see You.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Can a Christian Vote for Liberal Political Positions?

Doug Giles has an interesting (and bold) column, "A Christian Can Be a Christian or a Liberal, But He Can't Be Both."

Mr. Giles argues that authentic, biblical Christians can't support liberal politicians because they're going to implement policies that oppose Christian presence, influence, and work. (Read the whole column, don't just read my summary.)

It's sad that the word "liberal" has been hijacked by socialists and leftists. Liberal is derived from Latin and means "freedom." Many non-Right groups now describe themselves as "progressive," I suspect to be a more positive-sounding label than "conservative." There's nothing new or progressive about leftist governments, seeking increased power and authority. The Great American Experiment laid out with the US Constitution (which we moved VERY far from at the federal level) is what is progressive and new.
Fun Joke

There was a big-game hunter out to get a grizzly bear. He prayed for prey. He tramped through the big woods for hours, but never saw even a trace of a grizzly. Weary and dejected, he finally sat down on a hickory stump and leaned his gun against a nearby sapling, to rest for a while. Suddenly, he looked up to see a mighty grizzly bearing down on him. With no time to reach for his gun, he breathed a desperate prayer: "God, give this bear religion, so he won't kill me." The bear halted dead in his tracks, rose on his hind legs, spread his mighty paws, and looked to the heavens with thanksgiving. "Thank you, God," the bear shouted, "for sending this wonderful meal I'm about to eat."
Value Metrics for Dad

Todd Rhoades has a convicting post challenging us to check the actual amount of time we spend with God, our wives, and our kids.
Pray for our Brothers and Sisters in the West Bank

Our fellow Christians in Aboud are struggling, in effect caught between the Israelis and the Hamas-led government.
Debate: Athiesm vs. Christianity

This is an interesting video of a debate between Cliffe Knechtle and Dr. Michael Newdow, the atheist who sued to remove "Under God" from the Pledge of Allegience. I once spent part of a day with Mr. Knechtle at Northwestern University. He's an outstanding communicator.

I also recommend Mr. Knechtle's book, "Give Me an Answer."

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Math Challenged?

Time Magazine is getting buzz because of their big cover story, "Dropout Nation." Even a casual reading suggests there are some math problems with their statement that 1/3rd of students aren't finishing high school, and it's been this way for a long time. (Alan Reynolds does a good job debunking their data and analysis.) And as World Magazine editors point out, why doesn't "60 Minutes" do a story on the crisis in high schools?

There are plenty of concerns about public schools. There are systemic problems that require careful thinking and sustained effort on the part of the curriculum designers, the teachers and administrators, the parents, employers, and especially the students. Throwing more money at the problem does not help when the problems are heart and character issues.

Time Magazine is in the business of selling magazines and ad space. Math-challenged readers are going to fall for their strategy of hype and exaggeration every time.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Easter Creates Compelling Dividing Lines

The story of Christ's resurrection just doesn't let you waffle around the issues. Either it's true, or not. There's no reasonable middle ground. In fact, I believe God made certain that the "middle of the road" had no substance.

Years ago now a roommate gave me a little New Testament and challenged me to read it. "You have to answer two questions:
1. Who is Jesus?
2. What will you do about that?"

Middle grounders had better avoid the second question altogether.

I think a lot of criticism of Christianity by those who have some reasonable knowledge of the biblical account comes because people don't want to change. The resurrection story demands that you and I change; we can't ever be comfortable in "sin management" strategies again. So for many critics, it's much easier to spew venom than deal with their personal need for transformation.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Set a Direction, and Start Moving

"Greatness is not where we stand, but in what direction we are moving.We must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it - But sail we must, and not drift, nor lie at anchor." -- Oliver Wendell Holmes
Jesus is Not a Breck Girl

One of the remarkable things to notice in the Bible is the unique combination of toughness and tenderness of Jesus. (That's where the name of this blog comes from, by the way.) Jesus appealed to men and women and youths and children. As Steve Farrar points out, we may make paintings of him with long silky clean hair and soft skin, but Jesus is not a Breck Girl.

The church today is failing to reach men as well as they should. Check out this

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Listen to Mike Swaim’s teaching on Psalm 112

You can learn so much from sitting under the teaching of great Bible teachers! I’m privileged to get to hear several great teachers at CrossTrainers, a weekly men’s group here in central Iowa.

Mike Swaim taught last week from Psalm 112, and I highly recommend this talk to you.

Here’s why:
* He does a wonderful job of teaching directly from the Word.
* Few teachers I’ve seen are more capable of engaging men and inspiring them.
* This lesson is about the blessings that come from delighting in God’s Word – which is true for all of us, men, women, and children.* Mike weaves in personal stories to illustrate and emphasize points.

It will help if you know these things:
* At the beginning of the talk, Mike is holding up his well-worn Bible when he says “this book”
* Mike is a West Point graduate, served in Vietnam, and is a high school basketball coach

You can download Mike’s talk as an mp3 file (12MB, 52 minutes) from here:

http://www.afclive.com/crosstrainers/ct_audio_files.php

Get this and listen to Mike's important message – it will bless you, and you can learn a lot about how to teach by studying Mike’s example.

Monday, April 10, 2006


Remembering April 9

This was an important milestone in liberation.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Don't Use These Church Slogans

They're funny, like good satire, because there's an element of truth in them…
http://www.wittenburgdoor.com/archives/church_ads.html

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Facts

Christian men need to be good thinkers and train others to be good thinkers. (I've written about this before.) You don't need to be a Ph.D. in anything to be competent to find facts and analyze situations and square them with a biblical worldview.

But you do need to deal with facts, even uncomfortable facts. There seems to be a growing unwillingness to do this in America. Dick Armey points out that in Congress today "Demagoguery beats data." This experiment has been done before, men, and we have seen nations fall.

So if you won't deal with facts, and you depart from a biblical worldview on the creation, fall, and redemption of man, then you shouldn't be surprised when a scientist gets a standing ovation for recommending that we use airborne Ebola virus to kill 90% of the humans on Earth in order to save it.
Islam has Imperialist Ambitions

Efraim Karsh has an excellent overview (6 pages printed) of the imperialist ambitions of Islamic leaders from Muhammad forward. Recommended.
Peter Drucker's Advice on Picking Leaders

Peter Drucker has some interesting advice on picking leaders:

"What would I look for in picking a leader of an institution? First, I would look at what they candidates have done, what their strengths are. You can only perform with strength--and what have they done with it? Second, I would look at the institution and ask: "What is the one immediate key challenge?" I would try to match the strength with the needs.

"Then I would look for integrity. A leader sets an example especially a strong leader. He or she is somebody on whom people, especially younger people, in the organization model themselves. Many years ago I learned from a very wise old man, who was the head of a very large, worldwide organization. He was in his late seventies, famous for putting the right people into the right enterprises, all over the globe. I asked him: "What do you look for?" And he said: "I always ask myself, would I want one of my sons to work under that person? If he is successful, the young people will imitate him. Would I want my son to look like this?" This, I think, is the ultimate question."

(Source)

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Media Bias

Marvin Olasky relays this humorous account: "Columnist Michael Barone recalls asking a news executive, "Doesn't the fact that 90 percent of your people are Democrats affect your work product?" The response: "Our people are professional. They have standards of objectivity and professionalism, so that their own views don't affect the news." Barone: "So what you're saying is that your work product would be identical if 90 percent of your people were Republicans." The response: "No, then it would be biased."... "

Now, I've never been so blatantly biased in my entire life! I'm completely objective and professional in all my opinions! :-)

My grandfather used to say, "Since you have a belly button, you're entitled to your opinion."

The fundamental issue for Christian men to remember is that media bias isn't simply about political view.* The hardest media bias to overcome is the FORMAT. Regular human beings simply cannot package the complexities and subtleties of the issues we face into 2.5 minute video segments. You can't appropriately represent all the dimensions of an issue. Being so selective about what you say and show guarantees that you'll interject your bias.

The news media, of course, are responding to what the audience wants. Few people, in my experience, actually want to get information in order to think about it. When it gets past a point of being "entertainment," they're going on to the next channel.

It's incumbent on Christian men to be thinkers, and not dependent upon someone else's sound bites, no matter how well they "fit" your preferred paradigm. And we need to train our kids to be discerning, capable of finding facts from multiple sources and working through them logically. (Do not count on schools to do this for them, men, that's your job. I'm not saying you have to homeschool.)

*For the record, I do believe the data supports the statement that overall, mainstream TV network news and the largest newspapers tilt towards the liberal side.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Prayer of Sir Francis Drake

"Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves. When our dreams have come true because we dreamed too little. When we arrive safely because we have sailed too close to the shore. Disturb us, Lord ."

Hat tip: Mark Batterson
"Scientific" Study on Prayer

There's been much newspulper trumpeting of the study showing no effect of prayer on patients.

My friend Kevin Nelstead addresses this WONDERFULLY in his blog, The Earth is Not Flat. Just nails it.

If you are at all interested in scientific issues and a Christian perspective, add Kevin's blog to your reading list. He's sharp, dedicated, and a good writer. Kevin is a missionary teacher in Romania, currently home on furlough.
Immigration in America

How should men of God be thinking about the current immigration debate? I don't have THE answer, but I do think it's important that we not get caught up in shrill debate. There are laws that are not being enforced, and since they are not ungodly laws, that will likely lead to problems and complications. There are national security issues. There is the fact that the economy is strong, and crime rates are actually falling -- and our immigration problems have a different character than European immigration problems altogether.

Check out John Podhoretz' column, good thoughts here:

"All these arguments are sound, and they raise issues that must be addressed. What is distressing about them, however, is how weirdly defeatist they are. Immigration foes are convinced that the American national fabric is frayed, tattered and in danger of disintegration - that America cannot survive in its present form if current immigration trends continue.
They fear the kind of social disorder now on display in Europe, where disgruntled Muslim immigrants are increasingly testing the limits of democratic civil society.
That's not the America I see, or the America I live in. I see a vibrant, dynamic, extraordinarily strong and extraordinarily stable country that has dealt successfully with far more pressing domestic problems without losing a beat."

On the macro level, I don't have the wisdom to know how best to proceed. I would remind our elected leaders that there are multiple system factors operating. Cause and effect are usually not closely positioned in time or space!

On the individual and community level, I think we need to follow the way of Christ and love people. What does that look like? Let's pray for direction.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Encourage People Today

Men, encourage people today. Encourage your kids, your wife. Build them up, give them positive reinforcement on Christ in them, the hope of glory. Encourage your neighbors and coworkers. Encourage other brothers in the church. Remind them of God's faithfulness, goodness, and provision.

Be a big conduit of God's love to others today!

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Fathering Crisis

The NY Times article, The Plight of Black Men" is getting more attention. From the weekly Fathers.Com newsletter:

"The situation is so desperate, and the ramifications are so profound for the African American community, that the time is approaching to declare a state of emergency in our nation.
According to the studies cited, more than half of all black men do not finish high school, and among those in their 20’s, 72% either cannot find work, do not want to find work, or are incarcerated. By their mid-30’s, 6 in 10 black men who had dropped out of school had been imprisoned at some time. About half of all black men in their late 20’s and early 30’s who did not attend college are non-custodial fathers. Of course, all these factors are interrelated: many black fathers feel overwhelmed by their financial responsibilities, but they don’t have the education or skills to find a legitimate job that would truly help their situation, so some turn to crime. A sense of hopelessness dominates young black men at a time when they should be looking to the promises of the future.

It’s impossible to capture the breadth of the crisis in a few paragraphs. Erik Eckholm, author of the Times article, summarized it this way: "Terrible schools, absent parents, racism, the decline in blue collar jobs and a subculture that glorifies swagger over hard work have all been cited as causes of the deepening ruin of black youths."

This will take 2 or 3 generations to correct. Fathers and grandfathers are going to need to train sons and grandsons. Yes, there are economic and community factors -- but those same factors have existed in many times and places in history, without these results! This is a fathering crisis, with spiritual roots.
Why Democratic Capitalism Works Better than Collectivist Economics

Steve Forbes gave an excellent speech at Hillsdale College (transcript) debunking collectivist economic myths. And he never once mentions flat taxe rates :-) Recommended.