Sunday, January 28, 2007

John Stott Interview

I recommend this intriguing interview with John Stott. He has some excellent insights into the evangelical church today, biblical preaching, and pride. Stott's book "Basic Christianity" was very helpful for me as a new adult believer.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Catching Up on Reading

Traveled yesterday by plane, which gave me a chance to catch up on some reading. Recommended information:

Chuck Colson reminds us that the 200th anniversary of British abolition of slavery is coming in March -- but an estimated 27 million people are still in slavery today.

Dennis Prager writes intelligently about judging religions. "I don't judge religions; I judge practitioners."

Nathan Smith points out that there is a political and operative difference between absolute poverty and relative poverty. Government efforts to help the truly poor and helpless (e.g., wipe out malaria) are altogether different than government program designed to reduce the relative gap between those who have more and those who have less (raise the minimum wage).
You Mean That's Not True?

Dinesh D'Souza points out that some commonly accepted "facts" aren't true:

We did not provide weapons to Saddam Hussein or Osama Bin Laden.
The Sunni - Shia conflict is not about religious differences.

Read the whole article here.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Whose Side Are You On?

"The devil doesn't need an advocate. The brave need supporters, not critics." -- Seth Godin

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Two Measuring Systems

I listened to the SOTU speech last night, and the Democratic response by James Webb. Webb acknowledged that by many measures the US economy is very strong. Then he simply stated that his party has other ways of measuring economic strength. (The first measure he listed was the ratio of CEO to worker pay.)

Many political divides can be characterized by different measuring systems.

If you think about Iraq as an war the US launched in one country four years ago, and measure success by absence of US-killing conflict inside that country, then it's unlikely that we will succeed soon.

If you consider the conflicts on the ground in Iraq as part of a much larger, much longer war that we did not begin, but was thrust upon us even before 9-11, an asymmetric war against ideologues whose passionate hatred of the Judeo-Christian values we hold (and the smutty culture we promulgate), then the war in Iraq looks different.

[I hold to the latter view. I think we should learn enough from history (ancient and recent) to know that it's only a question of where and when you want to fight this evil.]

Consider other political divides. Abortion. First Amendment issues. Taxation. Regulations. Responbilities of parents, and schools.

Different measuring systems are used. So the key to engaging in productive dialogue is to help one another understand those measuring systems.

There's another key -- realize that actions and inactions have consequences. Play chess, think more than one move ahead, and remember that we have many, many historical examples to consider.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Swedish Maxim

"There is no bad weather, just bad clothing." -- Hat tip to Seth Godin

It is amazing how with the right clothing, you can be comfortable in some challenging situations -- snow, rain, under water, outer space.

Now meditate on this:

"You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." -- Hat tip to Paul

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Listen to the Navigators

A friend pointed me to the Discipleship Library, a nice audio resource from The Navigators -- you can listen to quite a few talks there from some excellent teachers and leaders.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Dealing with Sexual Failure

John Piper has an outstanding message you need to read today: "How to Deal with the Guilt of Sexual Failure for the Glory of Christ and His Global Cause"

"The great tragedy is not mainly masturbation or fornication or acting like a peeping Tom (or curious Cathy) on the internet. The tragedy is that Satan uses the guilt of these failures to strip you of every radical dream you ever had, or might have, and in its place give you a happy, safe, secure, American life of superficial pleasures until you die in your lakeside rocking chair, wrinkled and useless, leaving a big fat inheritance to your middle-aged children to confirm them in their worldliness.

"1) Theology can conquer biology. Or another way to say it more specifically: Justification can conquer fornication.
2) Trust Christ to the hilt with gutsy guilt."

Read it, and fight on.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Christian "Left" and "Right"

Kevin McCullough has some stern words for the leaders of the so-called Christian Left.

I think he has a good point with this statement: "There is a divide between liberals and conservatives over the relief of poverty, the easing of suffering, and setting the enslaved free. The divide is not the substance however, but rather the methods."

He also speaks to issues of homosexuality and abortion. There is a greater divide on those issues, because there are few "methods" questions to discuss.

I lean in the conservative direction (probably not a surprise to readers of this blog). Part of this is because of the track-record of government vs. private initiatives. The evidence, I believe, is overwhelmingly in favor of private initiatives, except for the constitutionally-mandated "common defense" government spending.
Is Your Church or Favorite Christian Group a Lobbyist That Needs Regulation?

This is alarming information about the proposed Lobbying Reform Bill. Anyone have confirmatory information?
It's Just a Question of WHERE the Fighting Will Occur

David Strom argues that there are two perspectives on the war in Iraq:

"One group looks at the war as being primarily about who rules Iraq. We went to war to evict Saddam Hussein, we stayed in Iraq primarily to replace Hussein with a friendly Democratic regime, and should stay or go largely based upon the probability of success and a judgment about how much we are or should be willing to pay in lives and treasure for that outcome.

"The other group looks at the war in Iraq as not being primarily about who rules Iraq, but instead as the primary battlefront in the so-called “war on terror,” or as I would prefer to call it the war on Islamic fascism. In this view, successfully replacing Saddam Hussein’s tyrannical regime with a Western-leaning Democracy would be a huge blow to Islamic fascist movement, but ultimately winning the “war” in Iraq should rightly be seen as an important step in winning the larger conflict, not as an end in itself."

And here's the best statement in the column: "...Americans do not really have the power to choose war or peace with Islamic fascism; the war has been declared and is going on as we speak. Choosing to leave Iraq will only change where the war is fought, not whether there will be fighting."

Read the whole thing here.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Is Your Intuition Trustworthy?

"How do the two tables compare in size and shape? If you're like most people, the table on the right appears to be more of a square than the one on the left, which looks longer and skinnier. Why bother taking out a ruler to measure the dimensions, since the difference is obvious?
If this is what you think, you're wrong. Your intuition has failed you, as it fails most people who look at this diagram. If you don't believe us, trace the top of either table on a piece of paper. Now line up your tracing over the other table. As you will see, the two surfaces are identical in size and shape!" (Source)
There are natural limits to the human visual interpretation system. We need this kind of humbling to remind us that we may not always be able to trust what we see, and often interpret events incorrectly the first time. And it should help us have grace and peace with one another, understanding that they, too, have limited capabilities to interpret accurately my words, actions, and intentions.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Thought Experiments

Here is a nice thought experiment about the modern nation of Israel. If you could miraculously transplant the people of Israel to New Mexico, what would be the conditions in 10 years. The author correctly extrapolates from recent history -- New Mexico would boom with economic and technical success, and have a low crime rate. The original territory of Israel, however, would likely descend into madness and decay.

It's a product of the mindsets of the people involved.
Understanding Islam, and the Enemy

The WSJ published an excellent article by Peter Wehner outlining the history of Shia and Sunni groups in Islam, and the terrorist groups spawned from them. It's helpful to see how little these groups are interested in national boundaries.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Honor One Another

Our pastor preached out of Romans 12 yesterday, and I wanted to pass along a useful idea.

Many men are competitive. The picture of the Christian life in Romans is that I don't have to compete with others. I can be content with the work Christ is doing in my life, and genuinely happy to be with others without comparing myself to them.

If we want to compete, let's compete on this command: "Honor one another above yourselves."
(Rom 12:10b)

Friday, January 05, 2007

Puzzle or Mystery?

Being a strong Christian leader means developing good thinking skills. (I firmly believe that Christians should be the best thinkers on the planet.)

So I recommend the "Open Secrets" article to you. Malcom Gladwell (of Blink and Tipping Point fame) looks at the Enron case and some WWII intelligence history to help us distinguish puzzles from mysteries.

Puzzles are solved when you get all the pieces. Puzzles -- like the location of Usama bin Laden -- are solvable when you get critical pieces of information and see how they fit together.

Mysteries -- like the Enron financial collapse -- are situations when all the facts are actually in plain sight (years of SEC filings, and company officials giving loads of interviews about what they were doing), but people fail to interpret the facts or make actionable information out of them.

Very readable, good points. Recommended.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Wrapping up 2006

Doug Phillips gives us three important things to do to wrap up 2006:

1. Outline and chronicle the many providences of God
2. Say ‘Thank You’ to Those Who Have Invested in Your Life
3. Forgive those who have wronged you

"Life moves fast. If we don’t take the time to chronicle the providences of God, we forget them. If we don’t take the time to say thank you to those who have invested in our lives, we actually cultivate a spirit of ingratitude in our own hearts. If we don’t stop and make sure that we have a spirit of forgiveness towards others we grow bitter, we lose the capacity to move victoriously into the future, and our prayers are hindered."

You can read the full column.
"We are Legion"

Mark Batterson writes one of the best "I'm going to really focus this year" columns I've ever seen. It's less than 1 page. He has a very helpful insight: "Busyness is laziness."

Read it.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Bible Teaching blog

For those of you who teach the Bible -- in any setting -- check out my other blog, Teach to Change Lives.

Monday, January 01, 2007

The Bible is at the Center of the Culture War

Dennis Prager nails it: the Bible is at the center the culture war. He has a useful insight as well -- we speak of Judeo-Christian values (not theology) because it is the values that are determined by conviction of the divine truth of the Pentateuch. Read the whole column here.
"Reaching the Disconnected Male"

Check out this good article about setting (or improving) your outreach efforts for men.

For several years now I have been asking God for 500 men within sight of our hilltop church building -- knowing their families will follow -- to come under the discipleship of Jesus.