Monday, December 31, 2007

Planning "Stretch" Study Work

Spiritual leadership requires that we're personally growing in our knowledge of the Word, and the grace of the Lord. We always need to be bringing fresh bread to the people that our Lord puts in our sphere of influence.

I like to plan out a few "big" items to work on through the year. In practice, it seems I wind up working on other things, also, but it helps me get started and tackle "stretching" work that I otherwise wouldn't get to. Just as it's easier to steer a moving car than a parked one, it seems as if God steers me better after I start working in a direction.

My general goal is to read through the Bible in about 40 days, twice this year. [I give complete instructions on how to do this in my book, "Teach the Bible to Change Lives."] I'll do one read-through early in the year, and the second after the school year finishes.

I'll also consistently work through texts that I'm studying to prepare to teach -- right now I'm working on Titus. This is on top of daily devotional reading.

Other 'big' things I'd like to study in 2008 include:
Some hermeneutics training
Isaiah
Covenants
Discernment

I'm thinking about how to block these into my calendar around some key events and opportunities. For example, I will probably try to cover the hermeneutics and convenants studies earlier in the year, because then I'll be prepared for summer and fall teaching opportunities. Isaiah would be a good project to tackle in the summer when I'm expecting some bigger blocks of time for reading and review.

Again, I won't beat myself up if I find that in December 2008 I studied other things. I will be disappointed if I didn't tackle some stretch work, however!

What about your plans?

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Caucus is Coming! The Caucus is Coming!

The most common thing I hear about the current slate of Republican candidates is, "I'm not sure who I would vote for." (And some of my Democrat friends have the same concern.)

Many Iowans, I think, fail to appreciate our privilege and responsibility. The field has already been narrowed substantially by the time most state primaries occur -- because of early caucus results in Iowa and the first couple of primaries.

Some general observations:

Whomever is elected president will need to work with a deeply polarized congress. Congress is not about unity. In fact, divisions in congress are a key design element from the Constitution, to guard against dictatorships. But I think it is true that shallow political thinking is more rampant in recent years, amplified by the "instant" media and responsive to the shallow, selfish thinking of many US citizens.

The selection process for President uncovers lots of character issues. That's critical for selecting leaders.

I wish the process would give us more clues about the people that candidates would put into key cabinent and ambassador positions. It's a difficult question to ask, or for the candidates to answer. I'm sure they have their ideas about potential candidates, but pragmatically cannot share them.

All the candidates over-estimate what could be accomplished in the first year. I'm grateful for a government design that works across years, or else we'd be demanding new people in leadership every few months. This creates continuity.

Years of entitlement culture and extraordinary affluence have led to a large fraction of spoiled, surly citizens. Political candidates need their votes, so probably do not feel comfortable speaking plainly about painful solutions to difficult problems.

The economic pronouncements are often described as if the US operates outside the realm of supply and demand, or as if our connection to a global economy can be (and should be) manipulated in a one-sided manner to our favor.

There is a difficult tension that Americans need to explore -- trading off freedom and security. This is an important but practically unspoken issue for citizens today.

There has been much criticism of the current administration's diplomacy and foreign policy. (At least some is reasonable; no state can operate perfectly in the global environment.) But there is also a lot of naive discussion about solutions coming from a one-time face-to-face conversation, irrespective of past history. Dialogue is a process you do with people, not to them. And dialogue is very difficult from positions of political, economic, and particularly military strength.

"Faith talk" that gets good response in Iowa is unlikely to be as successful in all regions of the US.

While there is some range among the candidates, the range among the most-likely-to-be-nominated within a party is pretty small. The Democrats are concentrated around the 35-40 yard line, and the Republicans around the opposite 35-40 yard line. The small number of candidates not clustered here are not going to get the nominations.

And whom to vote for? Gotta pray! I'll have plenty of time if I don't watch the campaign ads or answer the phone.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Parenting Hurts

I had a tough stretch being a dad the other day, and went out to the driveway to attack the ice sheet and "work off" a little frustration and pray.

In high school I would get off the bus, drop my books inside the house, and head out to split wood. Great therapy, year round. My hands were tough enough that I didn't even wear gloves unless it was really cold.

My hands are white-collar soft these days, and though I was wearing gloves, they were beginning to hurt. I kept going because it still felt good to work up the ice, and there was more ice left. Inwardly I was partly praying and partly cursing. I was mad.

When I pulled off the work gloves I broke a large blister on my right palm. Painful. Still hurts two days later, and it's one of those spots where bandaids just don't work right.

I love the words to the hymn, "Before the Throne of God Above," and have been thinking about the line, "My name is graven on His hands, My name is written on His heart." (see Is 49:16)

It would really hurt to engrave a name on the palm of your hand. It would be a sign that relationships are incredibly valuable and love is costly, and that you are willing to bear that cost.

I'm grateful that God gives me the opportunity to be a dad. It hurts sometimes. But it's good.

GodTube Virtual Bible

The folks at http://www.godtube.com/ (a Christian YouTube alternative) have put out an interesting and useful Virtual Bible.

What's new about this is that for every Bible passage you look up, they display related videos. Sometimes it's a video of a Bible teacher, sometimes it's humorous. It's a pretty slick way to find video content that might complement your teaching.

By the way, I wouldn't recommend this to dialup users. If you need a fast online Bible for low bandwidth environments, try http://www.biblegateway.com/

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christmas 2007 -- To Do List

Christmas 2007 To Do List

Adore Believe Celebrate Desire Enjoy
Forgive Grow Help Inspire JESUS
Kiss Love Minister Need Obey Pray
Quest Rejoice Sing Thank Understand
Endea
Vor Worship X-alt Yearn Zzzzzz

Monday, December 17, 2007

Demographics of Work

It pays to pay attention to trends.

One trend is that more Americans are centering their lives around work. Few would say this, but behavior speaks louder than words.

"Dilbert has a Tattoo -- the Rise of Individuality at Work" describes the microtrends around love and work, place and work, and age and work. Worth reviewing.

Consider how these microtrends match up with the strong desire for relationships, and how that has shifted evangelism from large events to connecting groups.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

That's the Spirit!

"All right, they're on our left, they're on our right, they're in front of us, they're behind us...they can't get away this time."
-- Chesty Puller, USMC

Whom has God put in front, behind, and on either side of you?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

234 Years Ago

The Boston Tea Party occurred 234 years ago on December 16th, a key event leading up to the American Revolution against England.

I'm not sure what it would take to move from our current federal income tax system, based on the sixteenth amendment ("The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.") back to a sales tax or flat tax approach.

Friday, December 14, 2007

We Don't Get a Map

People want to know the future. We want to know all the next steps. We want clarity on all the optional routes to multiple possible destinations. We want to know all the risks. We want to plan.

What God provides is a compass, and a heading, but not a map.

In truth, this is wonderful Grace to us. In truth, we are not constitutionally able to handle what we want -- the map. It would tear us apart to have it.

The compass and heading instructions are what we need, and what we can handle. Our task is obedience to stay on that heading until given further orders.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Thinking About Political Gag Gifts

It's the season of the year when people scramble to express their political views (especially here in Iowa), even in gag gifts. Some are outraged over the Hillary nutcrackers, the toilet paper with Dick Cheney's image, and on and on. [I refuse to link, you'll have to search yourself.]

Here's something to think about: we have no fears of poking fun at political leaders in the US. Even saying horrible things about them. It might be in poor taste, in might be a waste of time and money, it might cause some others to wonder about you.

Consider, please, how dangerous this is in many countries in the world. There is no tolerance for this kind of "free speech."

So the next time you scoff at a political gag gift, transform it into thanks -- and pray for our brothers and sisters who do not have these freedoms to abuse.

Insight on Money

"Money will solve the problems that not having money creates." -- John Carlton

Golden Compass?

I know Dads are asking about the Golden Compass movie. Before you say, "It will be OK," check out this information:

Plugged In Online Review
STR post about the movie
STR post about how the filmakers softened the movie to "reel in" more viewers

Excerpt from the STR post about the movie:

"God revealed Himself most fully to us through Jesus who is "the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature," and so we see in this courtroom incident a reflection of how God has been treated by us throughout the centuries.
It doesn't matter how good, just, and true He is; we just keep branding him a conniving, cruel criminal.
This was precisely the goal of author Philip Pullman when he created His Dark Materials, a trilogy that begins with The Golden Compass (whose film version is being released today); and considering humanity's track record, we should not be surprised by this. In short, the plot of the trilogy can be summed up as Genesis 3 from Satan's perspective: God is a fraud and a liar who wants to prevent us from gaining true knowledge and wisdom so that he can maintain tyrannical control over our lives. The task of the protagonists, therefore, is to free all the multiple universes by rebelling against God (the "Authority") and ultimately destroying him:
[The leader of the rebellion] showed me that to rebel was right and just.... He opened my eyes. He showed me things I had never seen, cruelties and horrors all committed in the name of the Authority, all designed to destroy the joys and the truthfulness of life.... He is the greatest commander there ever was. Every detail of his forces is clear in his mind. Imagine the daring of it, to make war on the Creator!"

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Comparing Mormon and Christian Views

I've had several requests for explanations comparing Mormon and Christian theology. Here's a good starter. There are certainly others available online. A key issue in my conversations with LDS members is that they use the same theological terms, but with a different meaning.

I applaud the sincerity and convictions of the Mormons I know. But I believe their sincerity is based on false teaching.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Measuring Drought

It's so dry in Georgia that the Baptists are starting to
baptize by sprinkling; the Methodists are using wet wipes,
the Presbyterians are giving out rain checks, and the
Catholics are praying for the wine to turn back into water.

Now THAT's Dry.

(multiple sources on the Internet)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Insights on Perspective

"It is not true that the world hates America. It is the world's left that hates America. However, because the left dominates the world's news media and because most people, understandably, believe what the news media report, many people, including Americans, believe that the world hates America." -- Dennis Prager

No one is going to reasonably say that the US is perfect, or has always been right in it's dealings with others, or always will be right. But in God's mercy and provision, what nation has done more to correct things, and to help other nations without demanding submission?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Peaceful Vote in Venezuela

We're praising the Lord that the vote on the extended constitutional reforms in Venezuela was peaceful. I remain hopeful that this country will experience massive revival!

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,314584,00.html

"Teddy Bear" Muhammad Teacher Back in Britain

Gillian Gibbons is back in Britain, after triggering Muslim outrage in the Sudan.

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,314852,00.html

It's telling that Amnesty International, the Council on Islamic Relationships, and Human Rights Watch have said -- zip -- about this case.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The World Lit Up

I may have posted about this before, but it's a fascinating image composite of the earth viewed at night -- you can very readily make out major cities, interstate road systems, and country borders in many cases.

http://veimages.gsfc.nasa.gov/1438/land_ocean_ice_lights_2048.tif

This is a fun way to pray for the world. Not everthing that is lit up here is living in THE LIGHT!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Short Videos on Faith and Clear Thinking

Stand to Reason posted a wonderful collection of short videos (44 at this writing) on YouTube. Most are less than 4 minutes. Greg Koukl is terrific at explaining things like the nature of faith, whether all religions are the same, how to think about the problem of evil -- the kinds of things you and I should be able to intelligently, charitably, reasonably discuss with our families, our friends, our neighbors.

Recommended. Check out the collection here:
http://youtube.com/user/STRvideos

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Following HARD After Jesus

"Once you let anybody other than Jesus tell you what to do, you begin to die.”

Read this strong post from Perry Noble about staying on course, preaching the Gospel and obeying Jesus. Every ministry leader needs this message.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Encouraging Church Signs in Europe

The overall statistics on the decline of the churches in Europe are not encouraging. But there are bright spots of hope! Kyle Wingfield gives an update on "white dwarf" churches in Europe -- smaller bodies but shining intensively.
"Megachurch" Map

Intriguing map of "megachurches" in the US.

What would a map of "God at work" look like? Can you imagine a "Google maps" type of display that allowed you to zoom in and out, to see the richness and depth of the love of God expressed in people's lives, in families, in communities, in nations?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

George Washington in 1789

WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favour; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me "to recommend to the people of the United States a DAY OF PUBLICK THANSGIVING and PRAYER, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:

NOW THEREFORE, I do recommend and assign THURSDAY, the TWENTY-SIXTH DAY of NOVEMBER next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed;-- for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish Constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted;-- for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge;-- and, in general, for all the great and various favours which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also, that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions;-- to enable us all, whether in publick or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us); and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

GIVEN under my hand, at the city of New-York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.

(signed) G. Washington

(Source)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Thinking Clearly

Stand to Reason has an outstanding group of tips to help you think clearly, derived from James Beverley. Review these yourself, share with your family. The guidance presented here will definitely help you be discerning during this presidential campaign!

Emotion does not settle issues of truth.
Tradition is not always right.
Do not give human authority figures uncritical allegiance.
Be careful of the way you use words. Words are tools. They must be used properly and carefully.
Do not force people into limited or false options.
Do not use name-calling or put-downs as a debate tactic (argumentum ad hominem).
Be careful of accusations based solely on the presumed origin of a given idea or practice (the genetic fallacy). The popularity or unpopularity of something does not make it either true or false.
The fact that something is either an old or a new idea does not automatically make it correct (chronological snobbery).
Be careful in the use of “guilt by association.” Do not dismiss good ideas or practices by letting your imagination take them to inappropriate extremes.
Be prudent when using the “slippery slope” argument (not all slopes are slippery; i.e. “b” does not necessarily follow “a” in all cases.).
Be alert to cause and effect errors (post hoc propter hoc).
Make sure that conclusions follow from adequate evidence and support (non sequitur does not follow). Do not accept clich├ęs or popular slogans uncritically.
Do not “stack the deck,” i.e. only point out observations that support your pet theory, ignoring all evidence to the contrary.
Be wary of generalization. Remember that the truth is not always in the middle.
Do not take ideas or people out of context.
Understand that spiritual discernment means being ready to admit to weakness or limitation in that very gift; being willing to abandon “shortcuts” in return for the demanding spiritual disciplines that produce lasting fruit; and resisting the temptation to judge the hearts of others.
Roundup of Recent Reading

Peggy Noonan has some excellent commentary on the challenges of the US being a "beacon to the world." Best line: "So many criticism of politicians boil down to: He's not manipulating us well enough! We need more actual adults who are actually serious about the business of the nation."

Perry Noble gives some hilarious analysis of the 14 worst church signs.

Amy Hall provides a reasonable response to one of the primary objections to Intelligent Design: it's not scientific. Philosophical naturalism limits science.
Theory of Everything?


Garret Lisi may have found an elegant way to explain how to integrate gravity with electromagnetism, the strong force (which binds protons together in the atomic nucleus), and the weak force (which controls radioactive decay), using an eight dimensional geometric lattice structure called E8. Here's a 2 dimensional slice of E8:




The math is much simpler than the string theory that's been promoted recently -- and doesn't require alternative universes.


Here's a readable New Scientist article about Garret Lisi's discovery.


Now why do I post this on this blog?

"It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings. " Proverbs 25:2 (sometimes called the "scientist's proverb)

As researchers uncover these things, they always find great beauty and elegance, and this further showcases the glory of the Creator.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

"Teach the Jesus Way" Now Available

My newest product for Bible teachers is now available -- "Teach the Jesus Way." You can read my letter describing all the contents.
Caption Contest, Anyone?

Check out these amazing photos -- each captured at just the right moment. Some of them are just begging for a cute caption. Could be a good, fun activity for your dinner table.
Blackberry Psalm

David Zinger is feeling spiritual about his Blackberry:

The BlackBerry is my Connector

The BlackBerry is my connector,
I shall not sit idle
IT makes me never sit in empty meetings
IT leads me out of still downtime
IT restores my date book
IT leads me in the path of write-eousness
For IT is my companion.

Even thought I walk through the valley
Of the shadow of too much information
I fear not missing a thing
For IT is with me 24/7
The screen and keypad comfort me.

Surely email and phone calls shall follow me
All the days of my life
And I shall dwell in the house of
Instantaneous information and connection forever and wherever.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Three Kinds of Men

"There are three kinds of men, ones that learn by reading, a few who learn by observation, and the rest of them have to pee on the electric fence to find out for themselves." -- Will Rogers

Tough to add any useful commentary to this one :-)

If you'd like to read more Will Rogers, check this out:
The Will Rogers Quotation Page

Thursday, November 08, 2007

MayFlower Compact Anniversary

Nov 11, 1620 -- a signal event in history! Worth reading again as the anniversary approaches.

IN THE name of God, Amen.
We whose names are underwritten, the loyal
subjects of our dread sovereign Lord, King James, by the grace of God, of Great
Britain, France and Ireland king, defender of the faith, etc., having
undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and
honor of our king and country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the
Northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the
presence of God, and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together
into a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation and
furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute,
and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and
offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the
general good of the colony, unto which we promise all due submission and
obedience.
In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at
Cape-Cod the 11 of November, in the year of the reign of our sovereign lord,
King James, of England, France, and Ireland the eighteenth, and of Scotland the
fifty-fourth. Anno Domine 1620.

Don't Bring Your Bibles to Beijing Olympics

New York Sun report: athletes should not bring Bibles to Beijing. Chinese officials give a goofy economic rationale. Let's just call this fear.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Wise Thinking about Who Can Speak to Abortion Issue

Gary Wills is getting plenty of attention for his editorial, "Abortion is Not a Religious Issue." He argues that a woman contemplating an abortion has more authority to speak about this issue than anyone else, in particular, anyone speaking from a religious perspective.

But read this outstanding response from Steve at Stand to Reason. He carefully, logically, completely shreds Wills' arguments.

This is a good example of wise, Christian thinking in action. The tone of the response remains helpful and open to dialogue -- no personal attacks, no putting people down. Great example for us to learn from!

Monday, November 05, 2007


Arthur Kornberg


I want to recognize the death of Arthur Kornberg, enzymologist and Nobel Prize winner (1959) for the discovery of how DNA polymerase works in E. coli. He was a terrific mentor and there is a large group of active scientists who came from his lab. The genetic and biochemical approaches his lab groups developed were foundational to an entire generation of molecular biology. You can read more about him here.

As a grad student at Northwestern University I worked on DNA Polymerase/DNA Primase in yeast, and was delighted to talk with Dr. Kornberg at a conference about my work. Even though I pursued another scientific direction, I can still reach back to that conversation and feel encouraged to pursue difficult science for the joy of discovery.


Saturday, November 03, 2007

Anger

I don't have this worked out completely, but I've spent some time meditating on anger. I'll be curious about your comments on this.

Anger is a natural emotion that rushes in whenever there is a perceived gap between what should be and what is. The gap doesn't have to be real. The anger does not need to be proportional to the gap.

My experience is that anger can at best showcase a problem (often a problem with me) -- it's not a solution. It might be necessary to highlight evil.

Acting in anger is not effective. Even in a physical confrontation, anger works more against me than it helps me. This is in part because anger simultaneously fixates on something (so we miss the whole picture) and also diffuses concentration (so we cannot focus power efficiently). Angry people think neither clearly or wisely.

Anger requires fuel, something to feed on, just like a fire needs fuel. Angry people can spend a lot of time finding more to fuel their anger. Anger is like a drug which fools men into thinking it feels good, even as they are destroyed. Take a bite from anger, and it can devour you.

The Bible distinguishes between righteous and unrighteous anger. It's significant that Jesus does not become angry with his executioners, nor those whom called him some awful names and accused him of being in league with the devil. However you do see his anger when someone is blocking someone else from interaction with God (e.g., the money-changers occupying the court of the Gentiles and preventing Gentiles from coming there to pray)

The antidote to anger is to shift the focus to Christ and His kingdom ways, and to stop fueling it. When we recognize our security in Christ, and no longer see people from a worldly perspective (2 Cor 5:16), then we can interact with others in non-angry ways. The cross fills the gap, rather than anger.

Note: I'm not arguing for pacificism or Mikey Milquetoast Christianity. Let our anger be like Christ's. Let our focus be on Jesus. Where bold stands and violence are necessary to stand for God and protect others, we act, but not in anger or vengeance.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Do You Agree With These Problems?

My friend Kevin Nelstead points us to "THIRTEEN CRITICAL PROBLEMS FACING CONTEMPORARY EVANGELICALISM." :

"Vast evidence of a growing doctrinal deterioration on the essentials and implications of the Gospel.
The expansion and influence of the “Prosperity Gospel” throughout evangelicalism.
The loss of the concept of meaningful church membership and the rise of the “audience-only” model of church participation.
The loss of the theological “center” in mainline churches at the precise time many evangelicals are open to reconsidering the mainline vision of worship, especially in Anglicanism.
The triumph and glorification of unchecked pragmatic entrepreneurialism, especially in worship, but in all areas of evangelical life.
The corrosive and compromised influence of Christian publishing in shaping evangelicalism, as exemplified in the rise of Joel Osteen, The Prayer of Jabez and the Prosperity Gospel.
Growing chaos in the theological and practical preparation of pastors, especially in the “emerging” church.
The failure of the “Seeker” model to use its vast resources and influence to produce a Christian counter-culture or challenge the “program centered/facilities centered” model of evangelicalism.
The lack of rising “Billy Graham” quality new leaders for the larger evangelical movement.
The failure of most evangelical denominations to broadly embrace and effectively mentor the current church planting movement.
The demise of quality Biblical preaching at the hands of technology and entertainment.
The apparently fatal infection of much of the emerging church movement with the failed theology of 20th century liberalism.
The cannibalism of evangelicalism on issues related to theological, cultural, social and political diversity. "

In every age Christians must strive to hold fast to Christ, stand firm in the message of the Gospel, from that firm stance reach widely to the world, and work in the cultures and settings where our Lord has planted us.

This calls for humble hearts and minds. Let us make sure that where we see pitfalls and concerns we use that insight to build others up and keep them on safe paths, appealing to brothers and sisters, rather than to tear down and put down and divide. Easy to write, difficult to do with grace and love. (Actually, impossible apart from Christ in us.)

I'm a Day Late!

I missed Reformation Day yesterday. 490 years ago, on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the doors of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. God had been working in others, too, but this is the seminal event we can see today. Hooray for the recovery of the Gospel message for all!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Laugh Out Loud Headlines

It's actually challenging and fun to make headlines that will catch people's attention. I certainly laughed out loud when I saw this one:

"Scientists Find Oldest Living Animal, Then Kill It" (Foxnews.com)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Complexifying Simplicity

Scott Aughtmon shares some insights about striving for focus in a hyper-affluent world of choices. Recommended.
The Theology of Using Video

Mark Driscoll gives a terrific presentation on the theology of using technological means to promote the Gospel. He exegetes 1 Cor 9. Great church history in here, too -- you'll learn about pews, concert hall acoustics, the printing press, speakers, radio, TV, as well as video.

This is not focused on how to use video effectively, but on addressing the question of why using video is consistent with our mandate to make disciples of all nations, beginning locally and working out regionally and worldwide. It might help you with the answer to "we've never done it that way before," and "if it was good enough for Jesus it's good enough for me."

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Theology of Using Video

Mark Driscoll gives a terrific presentation on the theology of using technological means to promote the Gospel. He exegetes 1 Cor 9. Great church history in here, too -- you'll learn about pews, concert hall acoustics, the printing press, speakers, radio, TV, as well as video.

This is not focused on how to use video effectively, but on addressing the question of why using video is consistent with our mandate to make disciples of all nations, beginning locally and working out regionally and worldwide. It might help you with the answer to "we've never done it that way before," and "if it was good enough for Jesus it's good enough for me."
More Climate Recommendations

The newest U.N. Report says "Environmental Damage Threatens Earth's Ability to Sustain Life"

Not much new information in this report, which analyzes progress (mostly lack there-of) over the last 20 years.

Side note: I wonder if the theology of the UN panel is made clear here. It's mother earth that sustains life, not Father God.

The British Science journal Nature suggests that we ditch the Kyoto treaty as unworkable, and an ineffective means to a good goal. Good analysis of the problems in creating a carbon banking system.

And I highly recommend you watch Hans Roslings TED presentation for a fascinating look at world trends in health and economics. (He laments that CO2 production per capita is not improving.) His Trends Analyzer software and presentation make it clear that the world is not as simple as many of us think -- and there has been amazing progress in the last 50 years. A good jumping off point is this Fast Company posting which gives you some overview.

(There's a lot to learn about how to do an effective presentation in this video. But I'm not sure I would do the bayonet-swallowing part...)
For My Reform Theology Friends

You have to know some Reform Theology and Reformation history to appreciate these cartoons.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Valuing Biblical Manhood

John Piper has some excellent comments about masculine Christianity -- and how it helps strong Christian women. Recommended.
What's the Government's Role?

One of the positive things going now in the current presidential primary race is the opportunity for good discussions about the role of the church and the role of government -- particularly the federal government.

The practice of the federal government to be so involved in education, caring for the poor, and healthcare does not go back to 1787, when the US Constitution was ratified. But these three have always been in the calling of the Church. I strongly suspect that this is one of the key reasons why religious institutions in the US are not taxed.

Economically, socially, and politically, I cannot see how continuing the current expectations of the federal government and state governments for education, healthcare, and "protecting" the poor is sustainable. It's not constitutional, for starters. By experiment we have seen that it rarely works well (and throwing more money at them via government agencies is not effective). A government approach cannot serve others in love. Please let me know if you're aware of cases where government efforts were less expensive and more effective than private efforts.

Would it be possible to shift back to a pre-WWII mode where nearly all the hospitals and colleges were started and run via churches? Difficult to imagine, with the current legal structures and public expectations. But God is able to do more than we ask or imagine, isn't He?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Want Balance? Strive for Rhythm.

There's plenty of advice out there about getting balanced in your life. Usually it comes up in articles titled "7 Easy Steps to Balancing Work and Family." (As if we need seven more things to do!)

It's a common prayer request.

But balance is not a concept you find in the Bible.

Really, how much balance is there in these commands?

"Love the Lord your God will all your heart, mind, soul, and strength."

"Love your wife as Christ loved the Church."

"Pray without ceasing."

Let me suggest to you that balance is the outcome of rhythm of action and rest. Balance comes from obeying the Lord, not satisfying selfish desires.

What we do see modeled in the Bible is rhythm. There are periods of work, and rest. Periods of being with people, and periods of solitude. Walking and sitting. Travel and staying. Prayer saturating all of it. Pay attention to rhythm, and God will work balance into your life.

If we aim for balance, we make that a higher goal than obedience to Christ. That leads to frustration, longings, and [too often!] sin.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Women Working Outside the Home

The issue about wives and mothers working outside the home is a hot button for many Christians. We're all over the map on this, and often it becomes some sort of weird litmus test to check the pH of someone's spiritual maturity.

I really appreciate Amy Scott's analysis.

Amy consistently argues that keeping home, serving family, and training children are the way of obedience to Jesus. The responsibilities of home reside with families, not institutions. AND we must serve in love, not out of pride.

"When Jesus healed the blind man on the Sabbath, this was an outrage. In this way, however, we see that God is more interested in our keeping the spirit of His Words and not the letter only. This is how it is possible for a woman to stay at home 24/7 and still sin (in her smugness) while it is possible for a woman to work outside the home, doing so unto the Lord and thereby glorifying God."

Read the whole post here.
The Proper Role of Polls

American media has a love affair with polls and surveys. The results are reported as facts with equal weighting to football scores, guilty verdicts, and press conference quotes.

It's not that simple.

Polls are difficult to design well. How you ask questions shades the type of answers you'll receive. It's a challenge to ask the right number and types of people. The results are usually not interpretable as sound bites. Even done with utmost care, polls represent indicators of opinions and mindsets.

The good folks at Stand to Reason have analyzed the recent poll "demonstrating" that "72% of Americans believe that the decision to have an abortion should be left up to a woman, her family, and her doctor" and "69% believe that abortion is 'the taking of human life.'" They have an excellent deconstruction of the results.

And then they conclude with these excellent points about polls:
"Once again, the real value of a poll is to get people talking. It raises more
questions than it answers. ... There's a big difference between polls and
dialogue. Polls ask sound bite questions and get sound bite answers. There's no
chance for respondents to explain or nuance their answers. That's why you should
use poll results to start the conversation, rather than to tell you what people
think. When you ask people lots of "What did you mean by...?" and "Why do you
believe that...?" questions, that's how you really get to know them."

Let's aim for dialogue, men, and put polls in their proper place.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Four Management Thoughts

"If it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would get done. –Unknown
There are two rules for success. . . 1) Never tell everything you know. –Roger H. Lincoln
When everything’s coming your way, you’re in the wrong lane.
On the keyboard of life, always keep one finger on the escape key. "

This is quoted many times on the Internet, so I'm not sure whom deserves attribution. It's funny, but also sad. In Christ we don't need to live this way any more.
Discipling Our Kids

Mark Batterson writes about setting three challenges for the year for his son -- physical, intellectual, and spiritual. Good model for us dads!

"Honestly, I don't really know what I'm doing! I just figure that if we sweat together, talk together, and pray together we'll probably grow close together! Sure, I have a plan. But I'm not sure what this will look like six weeks or six months from now. One thing is sure: I'm not going to let our culture raise my son! I'm determined to disciple him myself!"

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Bill Parcell’s 10 Quarterback Commandments


Apparently Bill Parcell gave Tony Romo these commandments. There's good advice here for all kinds of leadership situations.


Bill Parcell’s 10 Quarterback Commandments:

1) Ignore other opinions- Family, friends, fans- Ignore on matters of football (work); they don’t know what’s happening here

2) Clowns can’t run a huddle- Clowns and leaders don’t mix- Don’t forget to have fun, but don’t be the class clown

3) Fat QB’s can’t avoid the rush- QBs throw more with their legs than their arms- Stay healthy and energized; not lazy and sloppy- Keep strong those things that will take you the distance

4) Know your job cold- Keep your errors to a minimum- Study

5) Know your own players- Who can perform- Who needs encouragement- Be precise- Know your opponent

6) Be the same guy everyday- in condition- preparing to lead- studying your plan- a coach can’t prepare you for every eventuality- prepare yourself- remember that impulse decisions usually equal mistakes

7) Throwing the ball away is a good thing- work smart- protect against mistakes

8 ) Learn to manage the game- personnel, play call, motion, ball handling, proper reads, clock, clock, clock- don’t ever lose track of the clock

9) Get your team in the end zone- passing stats and TD passes are not how you’re going to be judged- your job is to get your team in the end zone

10) Don’t panic- When all around you is in chaos, you must be the hand that stears the ship- If you have a panic button, so well everyone else- Our ship can’t have panic buttons

11) Don’t be a celebrity quarterback; we don’t need any of those- We need battlefield commanders that are willing to fight it out everyday, every week, and every season and lead their team to win, after win, after win

Monday, October 15, 2007

Abortion Rates

One in five pregnancies end in abortion. 42 million babies were aborted in 2003. "Abortion rates were lowest in Western Europe (12 pregnancy terminations per 1,000 women) but highest in Eastern Europe, where the rate was 44 abortions per 1,000 women. In the United States and Europe, it was 21 per 1,000, while in Asia and Africa, the rate was 29 per 1,000."

Need to couple this data with birth rates (which are extremely low in parts of Europe) and other data to get accurate picture.

Overall, abortions are reduced worldwide since the mid-90's.

Here's one way to compare that number: the population of California is about 37 million people. New York state has about 20 million people.





Friday, October 12, 2007

How to Live a Miserable Christian Life

The Irish Calvinist has a delightful, and sobering series of blog posts instructing us on "How to Live a Miserable Christian Life."

1) trying to repay Jesus for the Cross
2) neglecting the Bible
3) neglecting Prayer
4) be selfish
5) go to a church that does not preach expositionally
6) resist Biblical correction
7) neglect service in the body of Christ
8) neglect evangelism
9) deny the sovereignty of God
10) think that every Christian must look and act like you

I recommend the whole series (even if you're not a Calvinist).
"I cannot save anyone. But I can serve everyone!"

Mark Batterson on serving others as a means of love, which opens up conversations about Jesus.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Venter Claims "Artificial" Life

I'm a little surprised there hasn't been more news about this -- Craig Venter will shortly claim the creation of artificial life. This is the kind of story most media outlets would lap up like Gatorade.

My thoughts about this "claim" to have created artificial life.

I don't deny it's a big milestone on a long path. Synthesizing a chromosome this size is quite a feat.

It might be more accurate to say, "We have given a living organism a completely different genetic blueprint." Redirecting an existing organism is not the same as creating one from scratch.

I will be curious to see how stable the chromosome is to mutations and failures. They've worked very hard to minimize the gene structure. But scientists have often discovered the value of heretofore "junk" DNA when they see what happens when it's removed.

You have to love the global warming angle (to attract funding, perhaps?): "we'll make bacteria that fix CO2!" Uhm, that's what trees are really good at.

The difficulty of this steps simply underscores how special life is, and how little we truly understand. This is is still working with a single-celled organism.
Contending For Our Faith, Without Being Double-Minded

Dinesh D'Souza writes about his new book, "What's So Great About Christianity." It's a response to the athiest bestsellers earlier this year.

I recommend you read this article, and let it stiffen your backbone.

He nails the situation of much of the Church in the US: "Without realizing it Christians have become postmodernists of a sort: they live by the gospel of the two truths. There is religious truth, reserved for Sundays and days of worship, and there is secular truth, which applies the rest of the time."

Here's his summary: "1) Christianity is the main foundation of Western civilization, the root of our most cherished values. 2) The latest discoveries of modern science support the Christian claim that there is a divine being who created the universe. 3) Darwin’s theory of evolution, far from undermining the evidence for supernatural design, actually strengthens it. 4) There is nothing in science that makes miracles impossible. 5) It is reasonable to have faith. 6) Atheism, not religion, is responsible for the mass murders of history. 7) Atheism is often motivated not by reason but by a kind of cowardly moral escapism. "

D'Souza's book is available here.
Great Fathers Are Real Men

Tom Woodlief does a great job tackling the Time magazine story, "Does being more of a father make you less of a man?"

Best insight:

The problem with ideas like masculinity and manhood is not that they are bundles
of bad behavior. The problem is that they’ve been hijacked by half-men. The
droves of males we see advancing themselves in their careers by neglecting their
children should not rightly be called real men. They are boys playing at the
game of man. It is a man-boy who thinks money is his measure. It is a man-boy
who works long hours so he can win the approval of his CEO. It is the man-boy
who thinks he is something because he can get women to do his bidding.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Two Dangerous Prayers

Mark Batterson suggests these two dangerous prayers:

Use Me
Disturb Me

Let's roll...

Friday, October 05, 2007

Two Key Verses for Godly Leaders

I personally go back to 1 Cor 16:13-14 frequently when I need a kick in the pants to do the right things. Here is a devotion I gave recently on these two verses; perhaps it will help you, too.

* * * *
"Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love." (1 Cor 16:13-14)

This is a terrific pair of verses for godly men, for leaders in the church and in our homes. Let's unpack it.

Be on your guard. Echoes of Psalm 4:23, guarding yourself, and the idea of being watchmen on the walls (Ezekiel 33) for others. We live in a dangerous environment for our souls. 1st lesson in Kendo: if you're close enough to strike him, he's close enough to strike you.

Stand firm. Our failings so often are because we didn't stand or we weren't standing firmly. Note that we're to stand - if our work was finished we could sit. And we're to stand confident in our convictions in the faith. And it is THE faith we stand in - the basic gospel message.

Paul urged the Corinthians to stand firm five times in his two letters to them, so this was a key issue for them (as it is for us):
1 Corinthians 10:12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 16:13 Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. 2 Corinthians 1:21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. 2 Corinthians 1:24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm.

Be men of courage. Be, an active word! Women can be courageous, certainly, in Christ. Here we're called to be real men. Courage is moving ahead in spite of your fears. Courageous men perform in battle, not just passively squeak by. Courageous men put others first.

Be strong. "The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old." (Proverbs 20:29) We're to be (there's the active word again!) strong. People should be able to feel our grip, our presence, our words, our support, our giving, our instruction, our rebukes. There's nothing namby-pamby here for leaders! We've got some gray hair - so we apply strength with wisdom and focus (which young men often lack).

Do everything in love. Love is both the fuel and the boundary for our actions. All our doings are defined by love. "We love because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19) And it is Christ's love that compels us (2 Cor 5:14) to serve Him and others.

"Rise up, O Men of God!"

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Thinking Clearly About Abortion

Frank Beckwith has some intelligent reasoning on the moral and legal case against abortion choice. Great talking points, guys, for future conversations. Learn how to overcome shallow, muddy arguments with solid thinking.
Sputnik

Sputnik turned 50 just recently. It's amazing to think that the entire range of experience with satellites and space flights is just 50 years old.

We so often forget that the rate of technological change is not linear, but accelerating.

We also tend to forget that our primary problems are not economic, technological, or political, but spiritual problems. Apart from the work of God, nothing else provides real hope.

P.S. ComputerWorld has a fascinating (well, fascinating to me :-) article about how many technologies, including the Internet, were spawned in the heady days of federal spending after Sputnik coursed through the skies. Read it here.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Skype Videoconferencing with Missionaries

Our church has a missions team in Craiova, Romania right now. During our worship services Sunday we held a skype videoconference with them, projecting it onto the big screen. How wonderful to be able to hear and see them despite the distance! The performance was excellent, and since the video feed and sound are both coming on the channel, they stay in synch. (When you have video over the Internet, and a teleconference phone call, you usually hear their words before you see their lips move :-).

And the cost? Free, if you have the inexpensive equipment (webcam, simple mic) at both ends of an Internet connection.

We've also done teleconferences with missionaries we support in Brazil during the worship time.

These really help the congregation feel our connection to the larger body of Christ worldwide. They're tremendously encouraging to the missionaries, too!

If you'd like to learn more about Skype, check out http://www.skype.com/ . There are many video tutorials available on Youtube and elsewhere -- just search Google for "how to use skype video."

Math Tricks

Just for fun, check out these 11 easy math tricks. Some of them I knew (like how to calculate a 15% tip easily), and most of the others were new. Here's an example:

If you have a large number to multiply and one of the numbers is even, you can easily subdivide to get to the answer:

32 x 125, is the same as:
16 x 250 is the same as:
8 x 500 is the same as:
4 x 1000 = 4,000

Friday, September 28, 2007

Searching for God's Comfort

Two recommended resources about searching for God's comfort in the midst of challenging times.

First, John Piper gave this sermon at the funeral for his stillborn granddaughter. Tenderness and toughness, boldness and gentleness, all before our awesome holy God.

Second, Amy Scott writes a terrific article about how the Christian community makes it hard for people who are suffering and searching for God's comfort. (I've been on both sides of this.) She shares a few good insights:

"My immaturity prevented me from realizing that not everything needs to be said aloud—even if it is true. ... God is not afraid of our honesty. Elisabeth Elliot cautions us, “Do not be afraid to tell Him exactly how you feel (He’s already read your thoughts anyway). Don’t tell the whole world. God can take it–others can’t. Then listen for His answer. Six scriptural answers to the question WHY come from: 1 Peter 4:12-13; Romans 5:3-4; 2 Corinthians 12:9; John 14:31; Romans 8:17; Colossians 1:24. There is mystery, but it is not all mystery. Here are clear reasons.”

"One reason I think the Bible values age over youth is because it’s difficult to live a long life without pain, tragedy, disappointment, and hurt coming your way. Experience gives our words credence when we proclaim, “God is faithful.” II Corinthians 2:3-4 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” We see in this verse that we are God’s agents of comfort to soothe one another. He could zap us with relief, but usually, he sends others who have already walked the path of pain to walk alongside us, holding us up."

Good, maturing words for us.
Stubborn Economic Biases

Bryan Caplan posts an excellent article about four fundamental economic biases that most people have today:
  • the anti-market bias
  • the anti-foreign bias
  • the make-work bias
  • the pessimistic bias
"You can hardly teach economics without bumping into these biases. Students of economics are not blank slates for their teachers to write on. They arrive with strong prejudices. They underestimate the benefits of markets. They underestimate the benefits of dealing with foreigners. They underestimate the benefits of conserving labor. They underestimate the performance of the economy. And in doing all that underestimating, they overestimate both the need for the government to solve these purported problems and the likely efficacy of its solutions. "

It's actually rather frightening to see how much of the current presidential politicking appeals to these four biases.

Read the whole article. Recommended.
How Will You Score On This Civics Test?

My friend B.R. steered me to this 60 question civics test. The test itself is educational, and the system gives you the correct answers to questions you miss.

I missed 4 questions. Don't Let Me Stop You points out that the scores of college seniors on this test are appallingly bad -- one school averaged barey better than random guesses.

How will you score?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Confusing Evils

Plenty has been written about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speeches at Columbia University and the UN.

This man is demonstrably evil. His words and actions have been evil. Just recently his government has held US citizens hostage. There's a long list of other reprehensible acts.

And he begins his Columbia speech quoting the verses from the Koran giving Muslims permission to lie to infidels.

The UN speech shouldn't surprise anyone. That institution is overwrought with a desire to be a collegial "can't we all get along because we're all basically good people" atmosphere that there is little hope for true progress.

My concern is that we, as a people, are not evidencing ability to discern evil and treat it as evil. Instead we have hot discussions about freedom of speech. We get so oriented on defining hate speech that we forget how to identify and hate evil. We contort ourselves into pretzels in the name of "tolerance."

Men like President Ahmadinejad will always be with us. Satan has to have many possible antichrists on the stage and in the wings throughout history, because he does not know the final timing.

The question for us, men, is how we're doing in the discerning evil department.
Real Surgeons Remove Unexploded RPGs

Amazing story of heroism in Afganistan. "We are not gonna leave a U.S. soldier to die in the middle of Afghanistan."

P.S. I applaud ABC News for telling this story.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Theological Pickup Lines

These theological pickup lines just cracked me up!

My favorites:

15. “I could not help but notice you were exegeting me instead of the text during the sermon.”
14. ”Your name must be grace, because you are irresistible.”
13. ”There are six things that motivate me to talk to you, yea seven that turned my head.”
12. “Until this moment, I thought I had the gift of singleness.”
4. “Well, gouge out my eyes and cut off my hands. If I hang around you much longer, I won’t have any limbs left.”
3. “You must have missed The Fall line, because you are lookin’ righteous.”

And...have I mentioned it lately? I'm delighted to be married.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Did Israel Destroy North Korean Nukes in Syria?

On Sep 6 Israeli warplanes obliterated a Syrian position -- and the evidence suggests that it was North Korean nuclear material recently transported to Syria. (See this WSJ piece for one analysis.) The relative silence of Syria and Israel speaks volumes about the significance of what happened.

It's too early to tell, but this could be on par with the Israel's destroying the Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981.

Iran is now threatening to bomb Israel in retaliation for any attack. Not a big stretch from their presidents earlier promise to wipe Israel off the map. (By the way, did you know that goes against UN rules of protocol for member states? Well, the UN hasn't been strong on enforcing their own rules.)

Given the ties that Russia has to both Syria and Iran, I won't be surprised to see them posture openly against Israel soon.

It's harder for me to understand the North Korean impact if we're correct about the scenario. I'm assuming they were well paid in advance for any nuclear material.

Frankly, it's amazing to me that people do not look at the evidence of history of God's faithfulness to his Genesis 12:3 promise. Every nation that has come against Israel has -- at most -- temporary "victory" before crushing defeats. But we understand that it is God's crummy enemy who is behind all this.

Monday, September 17, 2007

How to Grab a Headline

One of our fellow human beings in Nebraska is suing God to prevent more natural disasters.

Reading the detail in the story, I think he's trying to make a legal point about lawsuits.

My first thought was, "Hope he realizes that Job demanded an accounting from God, and got so much WONDER from God that he was laid low and could only say "My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes." (see Job 42:1-6).

Happy Constitution Day!


It's a great day to review and reread one of the most important documents in our history, the US Constitution.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

About Those Without Health Insurance...

A number of presidential candidates are trying to get political traction by looking at health care.

There is plenty of sloppy thinking in this area, in my opinion, made worse by sound-bite presentations of multifaceted issues with many stakeholders.

First, we need to distinguish between health care and health insurance. In the US, hospitals are required to provide care, even to people without insurance or immediate means to pay. (You will not find this true worldwide.) So don't fall into the sucker trap of equating uninsured with "can't receive healthcare." In the US we also pour and phenomenal amount of funding into Medicaid and prescription drug programs.

Second, understand that not all of the 46 million uninsured people are in equivalent situations. This group should be segmented into sub-groups. Here's recent commentary on this from the Patriot Post:

We’ve all heard it: 47 million uninsured Americans, or nearly one in six of
us. Obviously, the only solution to such a disease is socialized medicine.

However, before making such a huge change maybe we ought to take a look
at the facts. For these purposes, we will pretend that 47 million is an accurate
number, not just an inflation-adjusted one derived from an ancient, flawed
study. Do you ever hear that, within four months, 45 percent of that 47 million
(20 million) will have insurance? What about the fact that 17 million of the
uninsured can afford insurance (i.e., they remain uninsured by choice)? Or that
more than nine million are not even citizens?

No? When you add up all the numbers, dump out the duplicates and
subtract the misinformation, fewer than nine million of our citizens go
involuntarily without insurance—a troubling number, but no reason to panic. In
health care, as in every other area of human endeavor, a freedom-based market
approach works best to produce desired services at the lowest prices (unlike
every socialized-medicine approach in history). On the other hand, if we do turn
to the market, citizens would not be beholden to Congress for more crumbs.
No, better to keep the problem big, so it is worthy of their lordships’
attention, and there is enough money and power available to bother
grabbing.


We also need to consider a group of people that are legitimately underinsured against catostrophic healthcare expenses. I can't point you to reasonable data on this group. Every source I look at has significant biases in their interpretations. So at best we can agree this group is non-zero in size.

The last question I think needs further consideration is the role of government (at federal, state, and community levels) has in healthcare. We can probably agree that certifications and at least some regulation is helpful and appropriate. But I would question the assumption that the government should be involved at all -- where is it in the US Constitution? And I can't find reference to it in my state constitution, either.

I find it stimulating to realize that the very large majority of hospitals were established by churches and religious groups. If a church today were to create a small hospital in some US town...well, the outcry would be long and loud. Consider the reasons why this was applauded (and expected!) in 1900, but would vilified in 2007.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Making a 40 Year Man

I liked this tribute from Michael Reagan to his mom:

I went to my mom and told her I would love her forever if she'd just buy it
for me. "How badly do you want it?" she asked.

When I said, "More than anything else," she said, "Do you want it badly enough to get a job?" I protested that I was only 10 years old and couldn't get a job, but she said that with a bike I could get a paper route. She said, "I will lend you the money and you can pay me back."

I asked her why she was doing this – none of my friends had to work to get a bike. Their parents simply gave them their bikes and everything else they wanted.

She said, "If I give you everything you want, and I can afford to do that, you'll grow up to be a 40-year-old child. I build men, not boys. I want you to grow up to be a 40-year-old man."

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Benefits of the Word

Jess reminds us of the benefits of the Word in this list from Psalm 119. My heart was strengthened by reading through this aloud. Recommended.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Thoughts from Jude

I've been enjoying reading the New Testament in The Message translation. Here is part of Jude, with some thoughts.

" 17-19But remember, dear friends, that the apostles of our Master, Jesus Christ, told us this would happen: "In the last days there will be people who don't take these things seriously anymore. They'll treat them like a joke, and make a religion of their own whims and lusts." These are the ones who split churches, thinking only of themselves. There's nothing to them, no sign of the Spirit!"

I usually think of unchurched people when I heard "don't take these things seriously...treat them like a joke...make a religion of their own whims and lusts." But this description is also about those in our churches! "These are the ones who split churches" because of selfishness.

It would be awful to have written on your tombstone, "There was nothing to him, no sign of the Spirit."
"20-21But you, dear friends, carefully build yourselves up in this most holy faith by praying in the Holy Spirit, staying right at the center of God's love, keeping your arms open and outstretched, ready for the mercy of our Master, Jesus Christ. This is the unending life, the real life!"

It's worship-work to keep my arms outstretched. I always need God's continuing mercy.
" 22-23Go easy on those who hesitate in the faith. Go after those who take the wrong way. Be tender with sinners, but not soft on sin. The sin itself stinks to high heaven."

We are so often guilty of crushing tender shoots "hesitant in the faith." And how often do I "go after" someone on the wrong path, vs. cluck my tongue and say to myself, "too bad he's on the wrong path" ?

Being tender with sinners but not soft on sin -- this is the Jesus way (I think of John 8, the woman caught in adultery and hauled before Jesus). This is not the world's way. Apart from the Holy Spirit working in our Jesus-transformed minds and hearts, we oscillate wildly between celebrating sin and condemning it (mostly in others).
"24-25And now to him who can keep you on your feet, standing tall in his bright presence, fresh and celebrating—to our one God, our only Savior, through Jesus Christ, our Master, be glory, majesty, strength, and rule before all time, and now, and to the end of all time. Yes."

For some reason my mind goes to a running back in football, getting slammed with tacklers, yet somehow keeping his feet and pushing ahead. Jesus can keep me on my feet! And I can be fresh and celebrating in His bright presence, not quaking in fear or despondent.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Realistic Parenting

Worldview shapes how we parent. I recommend everyone check out Tony Woodlief's terrific piece "Don't Suffer the Little Children" for some sound advice. (I can hardly believe this was printed in a mainstream newspaper!)
While some mothers and fathers stubbornly cling to the utopian beliefs of their
childless years, the vision of humans as inherently sinful and selfish resonates
with many of us who are parents. Nobody who's stood between a toddler and the
last cookie should still harbor a belief in the inherent virtue of mankind. An
afternoon at the playground is apt to make one toss out the idealist Rousseau
("man is a compassionate and sensible being") in favor of the more realistic
Hobbes ("all mankind [is in] a perpetual and restless desire for power"). As a
father of four sons, I've signed on to Mr. Sowell's summation of a parent's
duty: "Each new generation born is in effect an invasion of civilization by
little barbarians, who must be civilized before it is too late."

Mr. Woodlief is a Thomas Sowell fan. As your children get older, help them work through the concepts in his exceptionally helpful book, "Basic Economics." You'll give them an education they're unlikely to get in most schools. If you develop a strong Christian worldview (e.g., the basic sinfulness of man), then understand how base human behavior drives economic systems, a lot of other organizational thinking falls into place nicely. Let's raise good citizens of a free country.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Encouraging Men

I'm writing to encourage you...to encourage another brother today!

Drop by
Make a call
Send a car
Send an email

Standing in the gap is hard. Encouragement is fuel, and a reminder that helps us stay focused.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Rosenkrans Book & Bible Outlet Store

My wife and I were nosing about in little Eldora, Iowa recently. We found a Bible bookstore just opposite the county courthouse. What seemed to be a tiny storefront was in fact just the entrance to a series of rooms and hallways packed floor to ceiling with books -- and most at 70% off retail price!

Mr. Rosenkrans gave us a tour of room after room. He and his wife run it all. Their goal is to get good Christian materials into hands of people.

We left with some Christmas presents and a few gems. Their prices make CBD look like a profit machine!

Here is their website:
http://www.showcase.netins.net/web/fdrosen/index.shtml

Frankly, you need to know what you're looking for. They don't have everything on the website, but most things are. If you are looking for a specific Bible or Christian book, check them out. Note that you need to order by phone or email, and they don't take credit cards.

Monday, September 03, 2007

GeoChristian

Kevin has changed his blog (formerly "The World Is Not Flat") to GeoChristian. Update your feed!
Imprecatory Prayers?

Recently, Rev. Drake urged his congregation to pray for God's vengeance against others (including the leaders of Americans United for Separation of Church and State) using Psalm 109 as a model for imprecatory prayer.

I don't know this man, and am sure he is sincere. (Though sincerity is not a test of truth or wisdom.) I would hardly be surprised to find that the media stories are not wholly correct, or there is a context problem.

If I get the opportunity to meet him, I would like to ask him about these verses in Luke 6:

27"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. 30Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. 33And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. 34And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full. 35But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."

Is it right to pray against our enemies?

Let me suggest one approach: pray for what glorifies God most, as He determines.

Our Lord does not need my advice on how to answer that prayer. I can imagine all kinds of ways in the here and now that God should act. But being a created being, finite, with limited perspective, it's unlikely that I'm going to come up with better ideas than the sovereign Lord of the universe.

Yes, I do pray specifically. Yes, I do ask for protection, for divine intervention against evil. Yes, I am learning as a child of God that my Father answers prayer in the best ways.
Some Logical Problems with Gay Marriage In Iowa

It's usually a good story when Iowa makes the news. We have the world's best state fair, plenty of opportunities to see politicians, more corn than any other state in the US, about five hogs per person, and a famous annual bicycle race across the state.

We don't have an NFL, NBA, or MLB team. (Zach Johnson won the Master's this year, which is a big deal.)

But sometimes the news isn't good. Briefly here in Polk County (just Polk County, not the whole state), it was legal for two men to get married.

Most readers of this blog would expect me to argue against gay marriage from biblical grounds. I won't go into that now. Let's instead look at this from a legal and logical perspective.

Polk County District Judge Robert Hanson rule that that a section of the 1998 Iowa State Marriage law is unconstitutional because it stipulates that "only a marriage between a male and a female is valid."

The basic idea of the argument is that this law is discriminatory against one group, and is therefore unconstitutional.

This is not logical. The Marriage Law is equally discriminatory against polygamists, or the man who wants to marry his cow, or his wife and his cow. The state has additional laws which restrict someone from marrying someone who is already married, or their child.

And whatever popular opinion and tepid thinking may say about the evils of discrimination, nearly all law discriminates in one way or another, at least in technical terms. It defines who may or may not legally do some act. Only particular instances of defined discrimination are illegal. So to argue that anything discriminatory must be unconstitutional is not consistent with the state constitution, because the state constitution has loads of discrimination in it.

I suspect the problem is not just one with imprecise language. If people benefit from a law or body of laws, we don't think about it being discriminatory. If a law restricts our preferences we want to someone to declare it unconsitutional, so we can go ahead.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Against Democratism and Republicanism

I'm coming to realize that there are few things more enjoyable than self-righteous anger. We relish in it!

Self-righteous anger is polarizing us into shallow thinking patterns. It warps the powerful (and necessary) processes in our minds that help us categorizing information quickly. Our anger makes it very difficult to have genuine conversations with one another about complex and complicated situations, because anger fuels a narrow focus -- and often on problems and faults, rather than solutions.

This is a problem across many spheres of our lives, but it particularly obvious in the political sphere.

So I was delighted to read "The Partisan Worldview" in the WSJ. Mr. Cost analyzes the partisan views on Karl Rove and Hillary Clinton. He points out that we demonize these individuals out of a morally and philosophilically simplistic (I would say unrealistic) worldview.

Rage and anger need focus and fuel. They flare up highest when we over-simplify things to the ludicrous.

Cost recommends a useful "good faith assumption" approach for assessing public political figures. He writes:

"Rather than an epic struggle of good versus evil (with our side, of course, being the good guys), it starts to look like a conflict between competing interests that is managed by a federated system that is animated by duly constituted elections that are fought over by political actors who do what political actors do: politick."

The purpose of their politicking is to generate a response that reinforces allegience to a political worldview.

Let's be good prayers, thinkers, and judgers.
How to Do a Gut Check

I like Perry Noble's gut check questions:

Am I listening to the voice of God?
Am I taking risks?
Am I understanding how big God is?
Am I surrounding myself with the right people?
Am I giving it my best?

Good for all of us to ask these questions!
It's Fashionable, But Is It Correct?

As a high schooler I devoured the Club of Rome materials (like the book "Limits to Growth") about the eco-tastrophy that would destroy the world for humans by the late 1980s. And I happily sucked up all kinds of information in those Carter-malaise days about the coming implosion of the US.

It was sensational stuff, I thrilled to it.

I've noticed that we as a people just love scandals, dire predictions, and "The glass isn't half-empty, there's no glass!" warnings.

So I was delighted to see Alan Dowd's long article documenting three centuries of warnings about the decline of America. At every stage of our country's existence, there have been people passionately convinced of it's soon-coming demise.

One of the lessons of the history from the Bible is that when God is done with a nation, it collapses quickly, often shockingly. Consider Babylon and Assyria. (Yes, Egypt hung in there a long time.)

So we need to be sober about our need to stay before the Lord. The "declinists" do serve a useful purpose for our nation -- they tend to spur on people to make changes, make a difference.
Climate Trends -- Politics, Trees, Confessions

I've recently found several helpful articles on climate-related issues.

The Patriot Post has updated their comprehensive essay on problems with global warming prognostication. You can read here about updates to the "hottest years in the last century," issues with the input parameters for computer models, a here-to-fore unknown Australian ocean current that's significant, warming on Mars, and the link between ice cream and atmospheric conditions.

I hadn't thought much about trees and carbon sequestration until reading "An Inconvenient Fact" by Patrick Moore (co-founder of GreenPeace). New growth trees should be encouraged if you want to anchor more CO2. I also didn't know that we have (according to a UN report) 100 million more acres of trees now than 10 years ago.

Bret Stephens gives helpful insights into the problems of journalism coverage of these issues, and cites a good question from Bjorn Lomborg about the potential gains of warmer climate.

S. Fred Singer points out that policy consequences will likely be much more harmful than many expect. He also points to some good sources on the natural causes of warming.

Still much to evaluate! I remain concerned about knee-jerk sound-bite discussions in this area.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Calling Christians

"BusinessWeek reports that, over the next ten years, 21 percent of top management and 24 percent of all management jobs across all functions, regions, and industries will become vacant. Add to this trend an aging population, a shrinking workforce, and a growing intolerance for the illegal immigrant population that provides much of the unskilled labor in the United States today, and you have a talent and labor crisis of enormous consequence across all disciplines--from the highly skilled to the completely unskilled."

What a terrific opportunity for Christians in businesses! Secular wisdom is not going to be adequate to bridge to a hopeful future. Loving people the Jesus way will overcome these situations, because it builds real community, trust, and understanding of purpose.
Blogging Ministry

Good advice and counsel here if you are thinking about creating a blog as a ministry.
North Platte Canteen

I have some good friends from Nebraska and pretty consistently tease them about their state, since I live in neighboring Iowa.

And I've been through North Platte several times. It's primary attraction to me was as a gas stop on my way to or from Colorado.

But the next time I go through there I'll probably make a side-trip to visit the site of the North Platte Canteen. Check out this incredible story about volunteer women who served every trainload of WWII soldiers and sailors that stopped there. Servant evangelism, love with skin on.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Ambassador's Creed

Stand to Reason has a very helpful description of an ambassador for Christ:

An ambassador is…
§ Ready. An Ambassador is alert for chances to represent Christ and will not back away from a challenge or an opportunity.
§ Patient. An Ambassador won’t quarrel, but will listen in order to understand, then with gentleness seek to respectfully engage those who disagree.
§ Reasonable. An Ambassador has informed convictions (not just feelings), gives reasons, asks questions, aggressively seeks answers, and will not be stumped by the same challenge twice.
§ Tactical. An Ambassador adapts to each unique person and situation, maneuvering with wisdom to challenge bad thinking, presenting the truth in an understandable and compelling way.
§ Clear. An Ambassador is careful with language, and will not rely on Christian lingo nor gain unfair advantage by resorting to empty rhetoric.
§ Fair. An Ambassador is sympathetic and understanding towards others, and will acknowledge the merits of contrary views.
§ Honest. An Ambassador is careful with the facts and will not misrepresent another’s view, overstate his own case, or understate the demands of the Gospel.
§ Humble. An Ambassador is provisional in his claims, knowing that his understanding of truth is fallible, and will not press a point beyond what his evidence allows.
§ Attractive. An Ambassador will act with grace, kindness, and good manners and will not dishonor Christ in his conduct.
§ Dependent. An Ambassador knows that effectiveness requires joining his best efforts with God’s power.

"We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God." 2 Cor 5:20