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 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