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

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 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:

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


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.