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

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Interactive Bible Map Mashup

Very cool: a Google maps mashup with a Bible atlas, linking place names and Scripture. You can zoom in and out, toggle between satellite (very good for getting a sense of geography), line maps, or a hybrid. Slick stuff.

Try looking at

Genesis 28 to learn about Bethel
Joshua 12 -- listing all the kings Israel defeated
Micah 1 -- Jerusalem, Samaria, and a host of smaller cities
Luke 10 -- Sodom, Bethsaida, etc.

Click on either the city name in the text, or the colored "popsicles" on the map display to get details about the locations, and where they are referenced in the Bible.

This free tool is in beta, and they continue to add features. May the Lord bless their ministry to all of us!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

I'd Like More Than $3 Worth

This cut me deeply. It's a quote from D.A. Carson's book, Basics for Believers.

* * * *
I would like to buy about three dollars worth of gospel, please.

Not too much – just enough to make me happy, but not so much that I get addicted.

I don’t want so much gospel that I learn to really hate covetousness and lust. I certainly don’t want so much that I start to love my enemies, cherish self-denial, and contemplate missionary service in some alien culture.

I want ecstasy, not repentance; I want transcendence, not transformation.

I would like to be cherished by some nice, forgiving, broad-minded people, but I myself don’t want to love those from different races – especially if they smell.

I would like enough gospel to make my family secure and my children well behaved, but not so much that I find my ambitions redirected or my giving too greatly enlarged.

I would like about three dollars worth of the gospel, please.
Going Out of Our Comfort Zone

"Pearls, truffles, and diamonds are found in hard to reach and mucky areas." -- Lisa Haneberg

Let's push ourselves to go out of our comfort zones to connect people to Christ. Let us be men who -- with spiritual insight -- see diamonds in gravel, pearls in slime, and truffles in bogs. With God, we have His perfect love to drive out fear.
Praying for Our Children

Amy Scott (mother of five children under 9) gives us a terrific list of Scripture-based prompts on how to pray for our children. Recommended.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

628,992,000 Seconds

20 years
240 months
1040 weeks
7,280 days
174,720 hours
10,483,200 minutes
628,992,000 seconds

That's how long Cathy and I have been married today. I'm an incredibly blessed man!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Scientists Create Life (well, they're trying)

Biologists are trying to create a functioning cell by adding DNA and appropriate proteins, enzymes, metabolites into synthetic cell membranes. They're putting their faith in a reductionist view that life is a meta-property that emerges from the right combination of starting materials.

I have considerable respect for the scientific acumen of Jack Stozak and some of the other scientists working on this. It might even work in some limited way, though I'm skeptical.

Note, too, that they starting with very sophisticated preassembled molecules. The synthetic cell membranes spontaneously assemble because of the properties of the lipids involved. But everything else -- DNA, enzymes, ATP, etc -- are themselves complex molecules.

So if it works at all it proves that you know some minimal set of components needed, and under very careful conditions you can simulate "life." Things work as they are designed to work.

Reminds me of this joke:

One day a group of scientists got together and decided that man had come a long way and no longer needed God. So they picked one scientist to go and tell Him that they were done with Him.
The scientist walked up to God and said, "God, we've decided that we no longer need you. We're to the point that we can clone people and do many miraculous things, so why don't you just go on and get lost."
God listened very patiently and kindly to the man and after the scientist was done talking, God said, "Very well, how about this, let's say we have a man making contest." To which the scientist replied, "OK, great!"
But God added, "Now, we're going to do this just like I did back in the old days with Adam."
The scientist said, "Sure, no problem" and bent down and grabbed himself a handful of dirt.
God just looked at him and said, "No, no, no. You go get your own dirt!"

Friday, August 17, 2007

Weekly World News Coming to an End

It's Friday, we need a little humor. The Weekly World News is coming to an end. I used to see their black and white newspaper in the check out lines at supermarkets. No one had more outrageous headlines and stories. Here's a recent one:


And you can read about the discovery of a map God made for Moses that he apparently left behind in their hurry to escape Egypt. :-)

If you'd like to see a compendium of headlines, check here.
Name of God is Precious

So a Roman Catholic bishop in the Netherlands suggests that Christians and Jews use the name Allah when we refer to God, to promote interfaith understanding and acceptance.

I think the bishop's name is Pol Pot. Oh wait, his name is actually Tiny Muskens, but I'm sure he's ok if we call him other names so we can all feel better together.

The Name of God is precious. It's hard to read the Bible and miss that.

In Christ we will love others, even those who (now) curse our Lord and curse us. God continues to grant them opportunity to repent. But let us not for one microsecond think that God's name isn't precious and holy, because He is generous to good and evil and desires to see everyone come to Him.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Exciting Ourselves into Jaded Cynicism

Dennis Prager does a biopsy on the cancer of our entertainment-focused culture:

“Today’s young people have the ability to experience excitement more than any generation in history. Outside of school, excitement is available almost 24/7. MTV is exciting (MTV has done far more damage to this generation than has the tobacco industry); video games are exciting... The list of exciting things many children experience is as long as there are hours in the day. But all this excitement is actually inhibiting our children’s ability to enjoy life and therefore be happy. All this excitement renders young people jaded, not happy... All this excitement in their lives bodes poorly for the future happiness of millions of American children. Real life, let alone daily life, will seem so boring to them that they will not be able to enjoy it. And more than a few of them will opt for lives of constant excitement, often in ways destructive to themselves and others. The solutions are as simple to offer as they may be difficult to enforce. Limit the amount of excitement in your children’s lives: the amount of video games, the amount of non-serious television, the amount of music whose only aim is to excite. If they are bored, they will have to remedy that boredom by playing with friends, finding a hobby, talking to a family member, walking the dog, doing chores, reading a book or magazine, learning a musical instrument or foreign language, memorizing state capitals, writing a story or just their thoughts, exercising or playing a sport, or just thinking. The younger the age from which children are deprived of superficial excitement, the longer they will remain innocent—i.e., not jaded—and capable of real happiness.”

Of course, this is true for children of all ages. It's not only children who need to step back from this and learn how to be happy. We have a lot of entertainment-fixated adults (and they can vote).

It has to begin with us, men. Let's be disciplined, and self-controlled in our lives, so that we can pray and lead.
God Hates Laziness

Perry Noble points out that God hates our laziness -- in our daily effort to stay in step with the Spirit, in our family relationships, in our finances, in our use of the talents and gifts He has granted us, and in our mission as the Church. Zing!

Perry Noble challenges me in many good ways, and I recommend you add his blog to your reading list.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Get a Look INSIDE "Lasting Student Ministry"

I highly recommend Scott Aughtmon's book, Lasting Student Ministry. I got his permission to make a video that explains why I recommend it, and gives you a peek INSIDE the book. Go here to check out.

If you're not focused on student ministry, this book is still valuable for you - the principles and suggestions apply to all kinds of effective ministry, and it's an excellent gift for a youth pastor in your church.
Leading and Living Generously

"It wasn't so long ago that we ourselves were stupid and stubborn, dupes of sin, ordered every which way by our glands, going around with a chip on our shoulder, hated and hating back. But when God, our kind and loving Savior God, stepped in, he saved us from all that. It was all his doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously. God's gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives. And there's more life to come—an eternity of life! You can count on this."

Titus 3:3-8
Tyranny of "News"

We were visiting a relative's home for several days recently. They have a satellite dish, so there were opportunities to see cable news channels. (We don't carry cable at our home.) It's amazing how many times they repeated stories, and leaped on every new scrap of information - however small or even irrelevant! I guess when you have to fill up a 24/7/365 pipeline, being discriminating is counterproductive. This scenario probably accelerates the problem of journalism becoming an opinion-fest, rather than reporting facts as facts and clearly designating opinions as opinions.

This environment does not create clear thinking, good perspective on what's truly significant or newsworthy, or solid citizenship. (That's my opinion, but I do believe it's a fact.)

Free speech? Certainly. But it should drive us, dads, to become better at discernment ourselves - and likewise coaching our families.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Living Generously

It's tough running for President. Every action and word (spoken or unspoken) is scrutinized by people searching for even the slightest opportunity to slam you. [Consider John Edwards' demands that other Democratic candidates return $ from Rupert Murdoch's organizations, with the almost immediate reaction in the media about his earning $800K from that organization who is the parent company of his book publisher.]

People who study our conversations say that most of us spend a large amount of our speech trying to explain what we've already said.

We judge others by their actions/words (which we experience and interpret, however poorly), and ourselves by our intentions.

Several things come to mind as a ponder this situation.

First, it's good to scrutinize presidential candidates. It's a huge, challenging, important role. I think our process is cruel and exhausting, but does eliminate some men and women who are not qualified.

Second, our Lord is not fooled. He knows not only every word and deed, but even our motivations. He knows we are weak, and loves us generously anyway.

Third, how we use our freedom is important: "You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other." (Galatians 5:13-15)

I'm touched by God's commands for us to live generously with others, as He has been generous with us. (See Matthew 5:48 and Matthew 10:5, for example) Do we call out lies and hypocrisy? Yes, because we help one another, and as a city/state/nation/world we take stands against evil. But living generously means doing this is a way that does not intend to destroy a person, even a presidential candidate.