Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Emotional Being, Sometimes Thinking

New Harris poll findings:

"The numbers clearly favor the proverbial Big Man Upstairs: 80 percent say they believe in God; among those who attend church weekly, the number is 98 percent. Three-quarters believe in miracles, 73 percent believe in heaven, 71 percent say Jesus is the Son of God and 71 percent believe in angels, the survey found. Seven out of 10 say Jesus Christ rose from the dead and that the Bible is, all or in part, the "Word of God."

More than two-thirds - 68 percent - believe in the "survival of the soul after death" and would describe themselves as religious. About 62 percent think that hell exists, 61 percent believe in the Virgin Birth and 59 percent say the devil exists.

In contrast, fewer than half - 47 percent - said they believe in Darwin's theory of evolution; a third said they did not believe in it while 22 percent were not sure what they thought. A full 40 percent said they believe in creationism, though the question did not elaborate on exactly what that term meant.

Supernatural phenomena of other kinds attract Americans' attention.

Overall, 44 percent of the respondents said they believe in ghosts, 36 percent say UFOs are real while 31 percent believe in both witches and astrology. About a quarter believe in reincarnation, or "that you were once another person," the survey found." (HT: Gene Veith)

As we work with people (and ourselves!) let us remember something important: We are not essentially thinking people who also have emotions; we are mostly emotional beings who sometimes think.

Let me repeat that, so it sinks in: We are not essentially thinking people who also have emotions; we are mostly emotional beings who sometimes think.

Thinking is a discipline and hard work. Over many years we've developed habits of judgments and inconsistent frameworks as substitute for thinking. (It's easier!) This is why Romans 12:1-2 emphasizes renewal of our minds.

As you teach and work with people, it is rare to find someone who is more persuadable through logic than emotion. Most sales people know that we make buying decisions based on the emotional content of the stories we tell ourselves, and then build up rationale after that to justify our decision.



Doing the Right Thing Even When Out of Synch with Power

Carl Trueman, commenting about evangelicals needing to stand on orthodox biblical doctrine, even when out of synch with the culture and power:

"There's the rub for Christian colleges, seminaries, and denominations: the winds of cultural change on this issue are so strong that they will very quickly expose the strength of the commitment to scripture amongst these various groups. My view? When church leaders, faculty, and the movers and shakers of the evangelical world find themselves excluded from the reputable avenues of power and cultural and professional influence and preferment, then we will see what their doctrine of scripture is really like, whether it really is solid, whether it really shapes their lives, their actions, and their priorities. The question is: will those in positions of authority in the schools, colleges, denomination and seminaries have the backbone to do what is necessary? Will they be willing to consider the reproach of Christ greater than the treasures of Egypt? When the invitations to the Larry King Show dry up, to be replaced by those from Jerry Springer, will they hold the line? I wish I had seen more evidence that that was the case and could be more confident about the future. As Don Carson commented recently, American Christians have yet to wake up to the fact that the gospel really is despised by the world. And I would add: in a culture where everyone seems to need to be liked, affirmed and, above all, agreed with, that realization is going to be very hard and challenging for the evangelical establishment to take on board."

Monday, December 22, 2008

Don't Just Memorize a Verse, but Scripture

Follow this interview and watch the videos of Ryan Ferguson, who memorizes long passages of Scripture, including whole books. His process for memorization is quite interesting -- he doesn't concern himself with the specific verse numbers, for example. I like his emphasis on grasping the meaning as he memorizes.

There's reasonable evidence that in the centuries leading up to Jesus' time, pious Jewish boys would routinely memorize Torah, the 1st five books of the Bible. We obviously have pretty low expectations of kids today.

Honoring Heroes

R. Emmett Tyrrell points out that we often laud NFL stars more than military heroes. Read this account of the group of Green Berets in Afghanistan.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

D.A. Carson on Technology

As a Jesus-follower immersed in a world of communication technologies, I appreciated D.A. Carson's insights about technology. He makes a compelling case for watchfulness lest we be pulled too far away from deep reflective time in the Word. He also points out the addictive nature of high-speed communication access to everything from drivel to Gospel:

"Scarcely less important than speed of access is the Internet's sheer intoxicating addictiveness—or, more broadly, we might be better to think of the intoxicating addictiveness of the entire digital world. Many are those who are never quiet, alone, and reflective, who never read material that demands reflection and imagination. The iPods provide the music, the phones constant access to friends, phones and computers tie us to news, video, YouTube, Facebook, and on and on. This is not to demonize tools that are so very useful. Rather, it is to point out the obvious: information does not necessarily spell knowledge, and knowledge does not necessarily spell wisdom, and the incessant demand for unending sensory input from the digital world (says he, as he writes this on a computer for an electronic theological journal) does not guarantee we make good choices. We have the potential to become world citizens, informed about every corner of the globe, but in many western countries the standards of geographical and cross-cultural awareness have seriously declined. We have access to spectacularly useful information, but most of us diddle around on ephemeral blogs and listen to music as enduring as a snowball in a blast furnace. Sometimes we just become burned out by the endless waves of bad news, and decide the best course is to turn the iPod volume up a bit."

Read the whole essay.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Gift Wrapping Tips for Men (humor)

Enjoy a humor break with this hilarious article, "Gift Wrapping Tips for Men."

An excerpt, to whet your appetite:

"If there had been wrapping paper, Matthew would have said so “And lo, the gifts were inside 600 square cubits of paper. And the paper was festooned with pictures of Frosty the Snowman. And Joseph was going to throweth it away, but Mary saideth unto him, she saideth, ‘Holdeth it! That is nice paper! Saveth it for next year!’ And Joseph did rolleth his eyeballs. And the baby Jesus was more interested in the paper than the frankincense.” But these words do not appear in the Bible, which means that the very first Christmas gifts were NOT wrapped. This is because the people giving those gifts had two important characteristics 1. They were wise. 2. They were men."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Quote of the Week

“A fallacy is still a fallacy even it becomes fashionable.” -- GK Chesterton

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Pay Attention to This Media Bias

Newspapers and major network television news is pumping out bad economic news right, left, and center.

Something to consider: Newspapers and mainstream media outlets are themselves experiencing the worst of the current economic situation. Major newspapers (the NY Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Miami Herald, and others) are laying off staff and may declare bankruptcy. Ad buys on television are way down.

There are difficult economic markets right now. Some old business models are failing and may collapse entirely. But the US and world economies are not uniformly bad.

Keep in mind that the main reporting on these events have a personal experience bias that could be shaping the way they are reporting them.

Pack the Right Ammo

Heard this yesterday, loved it: “If you’re going to charge hell with a water pistol, make sure it’s loaded with Living Water.”

Explaining Economics to Your Family

Dads, it's YOUR job to explain economics to your family. That's a leadership role, dude. If you don't, they'll be left to figure it out based on the odd bits they pick up from media sources and school and conversations with friends.

Need some help with this?

Two books that you may want to check out:

Whatever Happened to Penny Candy?
Basic Economics

This stuff is NOT too hard to understand.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Mission, then Men, then Me

I haven't read this book, but I love the title and premise:

The Mission, The Men, and Me

His leadership paradigm is that the mission is most important, then his men, and then himself last of all.

We would do well to emulate this pattern: our mission as Jesus-followers, then our families and communities of faith, and lastly ourselves.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

But What About David and Jonathan?

Professor Gagnon has put out a detailed, 23 page response to the Newsweek article suggesting that the Bible supports homosexual marriage , which has stirred a lot of attention on all sides of this religious and civic issue (see my earlier post on this).

I appreciated the logic and detail of Professor Gagnon's response. I particularly thought the information about the David/Jonathan relationship was helpful.. He writes "Homosexualist interpretations of David and Jonathan mistake non-erotic covenant/kinship language for erotic intimacy." (You'll need to see his article for more details.) This is one of the more common supporting arguments that I encounter about homosexual love being honored in the Bible.

Recommended.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The False Trinity of Noise, Hurry, and Crowds

Mark Driscoll gives us good counsel about the importance of Silence in our spiritual lives. Addicts to "the false trinity of noise, hurry, and crowds" like me will do well to consider the benefits of silence Driscoll identifies , including

hearing from God (1 Kings 19:11–13)
waiting patiently for the Lord to act (
Lamentations 3:25–28)
worshiping God (
Habakkuk 2:20)
knowing God better (
Psalm 46:10)
praying effectively (
Luke 5:16)

Recommended.

Satire on Bailouts

Daniel Henniger's brilliant satire, "The U.S. Says It Will Bail Out Christmas" is worth your reading time. It's very effective, and humbling.

MindMapping Software -- Ramp Up Your Productivity


I'm a fan of mind-mapping software, use it a lot to help me organize my thoughts and plan projects. It's also great for tracking group discussions. My last two books were actually started as elaborate mindmaps, and then I exported the map to a Word outline. There's something empowering about the non-linear format that helps me get a lot of ideas out into usable form.
I paid for MindManager Pro from mindjet.com, because it's worth it to me.
If you'd like to explore Mindmapping software, but aren't ready to spend $ yet, check out these sources:

Wikipedia (compares a bunch of tools, links to all)

Free trial of version 8 (I’m using version 7) of MindManager from Mindjet

I hear good things about FreeMind
There are a number of Youtube videos about Mindmapping if you care to browse those, bur I think a better place to begin is this page at Mindjet.com, "The Power of Visual Thinking," and looking at their gallery of maps.

On Derek Kidner

Derek Kidner recently went home to be with the Lord, at age 95. His commentary on the Psalms and Proverbs has been influential on me. For example, here is his succinct insight about Psalm 127:

"Those children who will be a quiverful are often first a handful."

I absolutely loved reading this excerpt from his funeral oratory. May we all be men of whom others would honor this way!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Responding to Newsweek on Homosexual Marriage

The recent Newsweek article, purportedly a true Biblical response about loving homosexuals and supporting homosexual marriage, is really disturbing.

Men, be prepared to respond in dialogue with proponents of homosexual marriage. Be prepared to help your families think through the issues. This is a key issue of our day.

Go here for a terrific 30 minute video presentation by Professor Robert Gagnon. Great presentation, far better than the usual "lite" presentation.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Event Scheduling Made Simpler

If you're trying to figure when a bunch of people could get together, you might want to try Doodle. Pretty slick.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Praying Hard and Working Hard

Epaphras is an outstanding model of lay leadership. Listen as his mentor, Paul, describes him:

“Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis.” -- Colossians 4:12-13

Three things characterize Epaphras here:

1. He is one of you and a servant of Jesus
2. He is always wrestling in prayer
3. He is working hard

Epaphras is identified with the Colossians, and is a servant of Jesus. There is much to think about here, but I will save that for another time.

Epaphras prays hard. “Wrestling” in prayer is active, and aggressive. It’s not a milquetoast, wimpy attitude of prayer.

I encourage you to use this model prayer for the people around you:

That each would stand firm (not sit weakly) in all (not just some of) the will of God (nothing self-centered)
That each would be mature – solid in the faith, actively growing, using gifts well, discerning between good and evil
That each would be fully assured (in Christ and truth He has revealed, and in His wonderful promises of provision, care, protection, purpose)

Please consider the positive feedback loop: We grow in assurance, and then we become better able to stand firm in all the will of God as mature disciples -- which strengthens our assurance in Christ!

None of us are as yet mature as God means for us to be. And many among us are not yet standing firm, obedient, or fully assured. There is work to be done, progress to be made, and it begins with dedicated prayer for God to transform lives.

Epaphras is working hard (in addition to praying hard) for not only the Colossians, his local congregation, but for two churches in other cities in that region. Leaders must both pray hard and work hard. And the hard work should not only be directed to our immediate family, but should serve the larger work in the kingdom of God. I believe God intends for his people to have disproportionately large impacts for the world.

Let me ask you a few questions:

* How old is Epaphras?
* What was his theological training?
* What was his occupation? Did he get good grades in school?
* Did he have godly parents in a good home? Is he married? Does he have children?
* What did he look like, and sound like?
* How much free time did he have from other responsibilities?

We aren’t told any of these things, because they aren’t relevant. Prayer and hard work are not spiritual gifts – they are for all of us!

If Epaphras had a headstone or grave marker, did they write on it, “He wrestled in prayer and worked hard for us”? Let’s recommit to prayer and work, and leave a wonderful legacy.

A Delightful Madeup Word

Apparently this isn't "real," but it sure if fun.

Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia
Definition: "the fear of long words"

Try saying it out loud to your kids.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

We Have But One Rule Here...

Robert E. Lee became President of Washington College (now Washington & Lee) after the US Civil War. There were only men in the College of course, and President Lee referred to them as "his boys." He took an active interest in their lives and held them to high standards.

Before his arrival there was apparently a thick book of rules. One of his early acts was to throw out this rulebook, and declare "We have but one rule here, and it is that every student must be a gentlemen."

The "boys" soon discovered that being a gentlemen was a very high standard indeed! I suspect some of them wished for the rule book to be returned, because it was probably easier to live up to the letter of the rule book than the ideal of a gentlemen :-)

As we work with our boys, we do well to think about guiding them to become gentlemen. Gentleness is strength under control.

Here is how Lee described a gentleman:

"...the manner in which an individual enjoys certain advantages over others is the test of a true gentlemen. The power which the strong have over the weak, the magistrate over the citizen, the employer over the employed, the educated over the unlettered, the experienced over the confiding, even the clever over the silly -- the forbearing or inoffensive use of all this power or authority, or a total absence from it when the case admits it, will show the gentleman in plain light. The gentleman does not needlessly or unnecessarily remind an offender of a wrong he may committed against him. He can not only forgive, he can forget; and he strives for that nobleness of self and mildness of character which imparts sufficient strength to let the past be the past. A true gentleman of honor feels humbled himself when he cannot help humbling others."

Consider, men, how Lee describes the forgiving and forgetting character of a gentleman the way the Bible tells us about the character of God.

Since we're concerned about shaping our boys into gentlemen, we must first be gentleman ourselves.


Note: My primary source for this is the wonderful biography Robert E. Lee by Emory M. Thomas. An excellent book for husbands, fathers, and leaders!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

How Christiantity Shaped the West

Dinesh D'Souza has an outstanding essay about the role of Christianity in shaping Western history -- moral equality, equal rights, elevating women, abandoning slavery, and political engagement by citizens.

His quick summary of Nietzsche's insight (destroy Christianity and you cannot retain these ideas that are the basis of Western civilization) is excellent.

Recommended. You need this kind of information to help your family understand the war.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

An Encouraging Thought

Sometimes we need visceral encouragement in difficult times.



Frodo: “I wish the ring had never come to me — I wish none of this had ever happened.”
Gandalf: “So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring. In which case, you also were meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.”

Why is Psalm 2 such a favorite for the NT writers, who cited it nine times, matched only by Psalm 110?

"Psalm 2 provides a text-prayer for personally realizing and internalizing, feeling in our gut an din our muscles, the umbridgeable abyss fixed between the ways of this world -- its Herod and Caiaphas and Josephus ways, and also the counter ways pursued by the Pharisees and Essene and Zealot sects -- and the Strong God and His Messiah: 'Don't you know there is a King in Zion?' (Ps 2:6) " -- Eugene Peterson, from The Jesus Way

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What Do the Bumper Stickers in Your Church Parking Lot Say?

Are these bumper stickers in your church parking lot? (Don't miss the extras suggested in the Comments.)

First Thanksgiving Day Proclamation (1777)

Here is the country's first Thanksgiving Day proclamation on Dec. 18, 1777:

"That at one Time and with one Voice, the good People may express the grateful Feelings of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor; and that, together with their sincere Acknowledgments and Offerings, they may join the penitent Confession of their manifold Sins, whereby they had forfeited every Favor; and their humble and earnest Supplication that it may please GOD through the Merits of JESUS CHRIST, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of Remembrance; That it may please him ­graciously to afford his Blessing on the Governments of these States respectively, and prosper the public Council of the whole." -- Henry Laurens, President of the Continental Congress

People just don't write like that anymore!

Eerie Similarity between US and British Economic Situations

KT McFarland, former Deputy Asst. Secretart of Defense points out the eerie similarities of the current US economic situation and what happened in Britain in the 1950's. They chose to nationalize all the major industries, valuing jobs over stronger businesses competitive. It cost them dearly.

To see this short video, go here:


http://www.foxnews.com/video/index.html


Scroll down and under Opinion, select "DefCon3 by KT" and select the video titled "American Economy in Trouble."

I haven't found a way to link directly to the video... there are other KT McFarland videos on YouTube, but not the one above.

Monday, November 24, 2008

What's the Opportunity Today?

In some business "leadership" literature I reviewed at the library, there was a suggestion to wake up each day and answer this question:

"What's the opportunity today? What great thing will I do today?" And then you're supposed to commit to that, getting it done as early as possible in the day.

Not bad counsel, but my heart is restless at the suggestion. I believe that's because the suggestion is focused on me, myself, and I.

Let's put Christ at the center, keeping Him enthroned in our lives. There's a war on, gentlemen. As Voddie Bauchum, Jr. says, "If there's a conflict between Christ and something else, Jesus wins all day, every day, and twice on Sunday!"

Perhaps the question we need to ask each day is

"How will obey my Lord, Master, Teacher, Savior, and Friend today?"

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Ben Hur Gets More Than Water

This scene moves me to tears. Ben Hur prays for God to help him, Jesus tenderly provides him water, and the centurion is powerless in gaze of God incarnate!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Arguments for God's Existence

Thanksgiving is coming up here in the US. It's a time to get together with families. For many of us, we'll again be Christians among not-yet believers.

Suggestion: review this blog post, "Ten Arguments for God's Existence," before the big celebration.

Reagan on "God-fearing" public servants

"So, I tell you there are a great many God-fearing, dedicated, noble men and women in public life, present company included. And, yes, we need your help to keep us ever mindful of the ideas and the principles that brought us into the public arena in the first place. The basis of those ideals and principles is a commitment to freedom and personal liberty that, itself, is grounded in the much deeper realization that freedom prospers only where the blessings of God are avidly sought and humbly accepted.
The American experiment in democracy rests on this insight. Its discovery was the great triumph of our Founding Fathers, voiced by William Penn when he said: "If we will not be governed by God, we must be governed by tyrants." Explaining the inalienable rights of men, Jefferson said, "The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time." And it was George Washington who said that "of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports."

Source: Ronald Reagan's address to the NAE in 1983

Questions about "Emergent" Churches

I've gotten several questions recently like this one: "What do you think about the emergent church movement?"

It's nice to see people excited about God and addressing the culture, trying to reach out to people that "traditional" churches are not reaching. My concern is that at least some of the leading pastors in this "movement" appear to me to be walking away from the clear Gospel message and orthodox theology.

I think Mark Driscoll has some useful insights. Here's a short video where he explains some of the variants of "emerging" churches. He also outlines some of the theological positions of "streams" within the movement in this PDF document.

So there are some positives, and some dangers. My counsel: Guard yourself! Stay true to the Gospel! Depend upon God's grace!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

In David Wells' book “God in the Wasteland: The Reality of Truth in a World of Fading Dreams”, he makes the following observation about modern society:

“It is one of the defining marks of Our Time that God is now weightless. I do not mean by this that he is ethereal but rather that he has become unimportant. He rests upon the world so inconsequentially as not to be noticeable. He has lost his saliency for human life.

Those who assure the pollsters of their belief in God’s existence may nonetheless consider him less interesting than television, his commands less authoritative than their appetites for affluence and influence, his judgment no more awe-inspiring than the evening news, and his truth less compelling than the advertisers’ sweet fog of flattery and lies. That is weightlessness. It is a condition we have assigned him after having nudged him out to the periphery of our secularized life. . . . Weightlessness tells us nothing about God but everything about ourselves, about our condition, about our psychological disposition to exclude God from our reality.”

You can't manage time, only your focus. By focusing more on Jesus, we give Him more weight in our thoughts and questions and actions. It's telling that the word "Remember" is so frequently used as a command in Scripture! We're commanded to do the things which we tend NOT to do naturally.


HT: Matt Capps

Productivity Helps for Guys Under Information Barrage

Guys, I know many of you struggle with the incoming artillery barrage of information -- emails, texts, phone calls, physical mail, blog posts :-), etc.

My friend Matt Perman has some excellent counsel for you on his "What's Best Next?" blog. Check out the detailed guides for processing email, handling multiple email accounts, and connecting personal and organizational productivity.

This is not just GTD rehashed, there are some outstanding original ideas here.

Matt is the senior director of Internet Strategy at DesiringGod.org -- and well-grounded in theology, business, and family matters.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Lost in the Middle -- recommended book

I'm 46. I'm at a point now where I think more about the past, trying to make sense of the story, and thinking about finishing strong.

This book has been extraordinarily helpful for me:

Lost in the Middle: Midlife and the Grace of God
by Paul David Tripp

Tripp ( the author of "Age of Opportunity," about parenting teenagers -- also very good) helped me recognize the grace of God in new ways. Frankly, my definition of Grace was simply too narrow, too selfish.

Complete details below -- HIGHLY recommended. Add this to your library, men.





301681: Lost In The Middle: Midlife and The Grace of GodLost In The Middle: Midlife and The Grace of God

By Paul Tripp / Shepherd Press


The Bible never discusses midlife, just like it never discusses teenagers. Yet the Bible is able to unpack any of life’s experiences because it was written by the One who made them all. Life on this side of glory is hard. This world is a broken place. You will face things in midlife that beat at the borders of your faith, but you do not have to be lost in the middle of your story.

You do not have to be paralyzed by regret, defeated by aging, and discouraged by the passing of your dreams. You do not have to make greater trouble out of the trouble you are already experiencing. This time of life, which can seem like the end of many things, can actually welcome you to a brand new way of living. As is so often the case in your walk with the Lord, this moment of pain is also a moment of grace. Because of this, all of us need to occasionally step back, slow down, and consider where we are going. Lost in the Middle will help you to do just that.

One final word: Although this book is targeted at those who are struggling with the issues of midlife, it has a much broader net than that. Lost in the Middle can help all who are struggling with life in this broken world and have lost their way. The God who seems so distant to you in this moment is actually near and active. Lost in the Middle is written to give you eyes to see him, to see yourself more clearly, and to find the real hope that you need to carry on.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Not "Salvation Then?" but "Salvation Now?"

Earlier this year I taught a series at our church on Salvation. We explored what the Bible teaches us about the nature of salvation -- grace, repentence, forgiveness, new life. We discussed how the biblical picture of salvation is centered on an interactive knowledge of God: He knows us, and we have been enabled to know Him.

Check out these Scripture passages:

Jeremiah 24:7
John 10:14 the knowledge goes both ways
John 17:3 eternal life is knowing the only true God
1 Cor 1:9 called into fellowship with the Lord (not the same word, but the same idea – a personal, interactive relationship with God)
Philippians 3:7-10 surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus, and “I want to know Christ.”
1 John 2:4
Matthew 7:23 -- the “I never knew you” is the same meaning.

We also spent some time examining the historical views of Arminianism and Calvinism. (The Evangelical Free Church of America does not take a position on that debate, so our discussion was to examine the Bible passages and review both positions. I believe it's important to study this, and to have personal convictions, but I will not break fellowship whose views settle differently than mine.)

In the course of that class a number of people wanted to speak with me privately about their own faith history. Several seemed defensive and told me that they had been saved as a child, or long ago. I think the questions around eternal security prompted some concern in their hearts.

After a couple of these conversations, I realized that they were focusing on the past in the wrong way. It's not a question of "I was saved then." You may have been, you might not have been. Our hearts and minds have ways of deceiving us. We simply cannot be sure.

The real issue, if you're reading this, is to ask "Am I saved today? Do I have a life-transforming relationship with Jesus today?"

"Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test." (2 Cor 13:5-6)


When it comes to our salvation, we dare not put our trust in some past experience. We dare not put our trust in head-knowledge or feelings alone. We put our trust in Jesus, and the faithful promises of the Lord.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Time for Mastery

It's been estimated that mastery of a complex craft requires about 10,000 hours of instruction and practice. You can get going, even produce some useful work with fewer hours, but let's accept this estimate.

Let's translate 10,000 hours into years, based on the number of hours you practice each week:

2 hours/week ---> 96.2 years to achieve mastery
10 hours/week---> 19.2 years to achieve mastery
20 hours/week---> 9.6 years to achieve mastery
40 hours/week---> 4.8 years to achieve mastery

Being a husband and father is a complex craft. There are basic skills, some art, and a changing environment (you change, your wife changes, your kids change, the world changes).

How many hours a week are you really working at the husband and father role? I confess there are plenty of weeks when I haven't worked 10 hours at it. Maybe not even 2 hours some weeks.

Should it surprise me that I already have one child out of the house and still haven't mastered being a dad? That I've been married 21 wonderful years and still making foolish mistakes in what I say or do?

No. I'm grateful to be on a continuous learning curve. I strongly suspect that our gracious Lord will continue to draw me forward by keeping the changes coming, because He loves me too much to let me wallow in pride or any thoughts of having "arrived" at some level of mastery.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Concerns about Evangelicals

The GeoChristian points us to Phil Johnson's objections about evangelicals and voting. Outstanding, recommended. My favorite:

"I object to the fact that when the average unbeliever today hears the word evangelical, he thinks of a voting bloc rather than anything spiritual. "

Check the others. Then let's repent and pray.

Life Without Limbs

Need some inspiration? Check out any of these videos for this extraordinary ministry -- a man born without limbs, full of joy. Amazing.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Mayflower Compact

On this day in 1620, a brave band wrote the Mayflower Compact, which in many ways is the precursor to the US Constitution. It is worth remembering the generational impact of living boldly and fearlessly for God's purposes.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

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.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Three Questions to Ask Yourself - and Answer - Every Day

My roommate threw the little green New Testament across the room. It hit me in the head. He spluttered, "If you're going to complain about it, you have to read it! And answer two questions: Who is Jesus? And what are you going to do about that?"

I took Matt at his word, reading the New Testament in three days. I was amazed, this Jesus was real! He was bold and gentle. He was God incarnate. I had thought that the disciples had made up all these stories, but reading them seriously as an adult, I realized this could not be true. (For starters, they would have made themselves look a lot smarter!) I answered Matt's questions, and committed my life to Jesus as my true Savior and Lord.

Those two questions got me started 23 years ago. I still try to ask and answer these two each day:

Who is Jesus?
What will I do about that, today?

And I now recommend a third questions to you:
"Where is your faith?"

This is what Jesus asked His disciples in the boat, after He calmed the storm (see Luke 8:25). After we have started on our walk with Jesus, we still need faith. "Without faith it is impossible to please God..." (Hebrews 11:6) Our faith is neither blind nor vague, but solidly rooted in the Person and promise of Jesus our Lord.

Each day, renew your mind (see Romans 12:1-2) by reminding yourself about Jesus as Savior, Creator, Master, Teacher, Friend, and Lord.

Each day, seek the Lord's guidance about how to love Him and serve Him by loving others and using the abilities He gave you.

Each day, fight against doubt, fear, and pride by putting your faith in Jesus.

Each day, ask and answer these questions:

Who is Jesus?
What will I do about that today?
Where is my faith?

May our gracious Lord glorify His Name in and through you, each day.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Another Peaceful Election

Another peaceful election. And it will be another peaceful transfer of power to President Barack Obama in January. What a remarkable electoral history we share in the US!

May God bless America!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Words, Love, and Worship

If you're teaching from James 3, check out this powerful video.

If you're not teaching from James 3, check out this powerful video.

Six minutes, well worth your time.

Glenn

Ten Cannots

I thought it was interesting that this came from a pastor...and check the date!

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

The Ten Cannots
You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
You cannot help small men by tearing down big men.
You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.
You cannot help the poor man by destroying the rich.
You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income.
You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
You cannot establish security on borrowed money.
You cannot build character and courage by taking away men's initiative and independence.
You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.
-- Rev. William John Henry Boetcker, 1873

Source

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Through the Lens of Decision-Making

My friend Matt Perman has started a blog "What's Best Next" that I'm delighted to recommend to you. His premise is "Making good decisions in life, work, business, and society" -- and he already has some dynamite material on decision-making, individual and group productivity, and thinking correctly about non-profit fund raising and employees.

Recommended. Add this one to your regular list.

Matt is the leader of the group that manages the desiringgod.org site, a great family guy, and a smart cookie. I wish I could hire him!

Friday, October 31, 2008

About Iran

Michael Ledeen shares some useful history about Iran. I've been hearing the word "Islamofascism" for a while now, but didn't realize the full extent of similarities to German and Italian fascist history in the 20th century.

Pray for our Christian brothers and sisters there!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Fun Quote on TV

"Television is an invention that permits you to be entertained in your living room by people you wouldn't have in your house."

-- David Frost

Selfless Defense

If you're interested in apologetics, check out this site:

Selfless Defense

You'll find a large set of short videos you can use -- with accompanying discussion questions, all free. There are also excellent articles (studded with Scripture, written in logic and grace) on multiple topics. Great resources!

These Things Will Still Be True

A friend forwarded this to me in an email, source unattributed. Good reminder!


Top 10 Predictions No Matter Who Wins the Election

1. The Bible will still have all the answers.
2. Prayer will still work.
3. The Holy Spirit will still move.
4. God will still inhabit the praises of His people.
5. There will still be God-anointed preaching.
6. There will still be singing of praise to God.
7. God will still pour out blessings upon His people.
8. There will still be room at the Cross.
9. Jesus will still love you.
10. Jesus will still save the lost when they come to Him AND….

God approves of this message! ISN'T IT GREAT TO KNOW WHO IS REALLY IN CHARGE?

On Dinosaur Footprints

My friend Kevin Nelstead ("the GeoChristian") provides an excellent analysis of the challenges interpreting dinosaur footprint fossils. He gently works through the problems with the "they're all from the flood" explanation. Great pictures.

What I greatly appreciate about Kevin is that he never loses hold of the importance of the Gospel, and reaching more people with the Message entrusted to us, while he works through geology. He's consistently been a terrific example for all of us.

Before You Vote -- Recommended Reading

Folks, before you vote, check out some recommended reading:

This column by Orson Scott Card, "What Really Matters."

John Steele Gordon's analysis of the patterns involved in the banking crisis in 1836, the S&L crisis in the 1980s, and now the Fannie/Freddie debacle.

Judge Napolitano's reminders that the large majority of presidents have ignored the US Constitution (yes, the one they swear to protect).

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Teaching Your Family to be Discerning

No matter where your family or the world is with economic, political, and cultural ups and downs, Dads, we have a responsibility to train our families to be discerning.

Quick tour of the Bible's guidance on discernment:

1. Discernment is a gift from God. See Solomon's story (1 Kings 3:9-11), for example, and Daniel (Daniel 2:21).

2. Discernment also requires our cooperation and study. (multiple references in Proverbs)

3. We need to study God's Word as the standard for righteousness. We need revealed truth, because we cannot rely exclusively upon what our hearts may tell us. Consider Hebrews 5:12-14 (emphasis mine):

"In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil."

Engineers might say discernment is about selecting meaningful, valuable signal from a noisy environment.

Wise fathers are constantly seeking to discern between good and evil, and the best direction to take, thinking methodically about situations (because they are complicated, with multiple stakeholders, perspectives, and factors moving over time, all in a sin-stained world). And one of the avenues to our own growth is that we're coaching our own families in this same practice.

Try talking through situations aloud with your children. Pitch issues to be age appropriate, and build on what you know of your children's learning history. Teenagers should be engaged as intelligent youth -- the label "teen" does not show up in Scripture. You can work through current events, stuff that goes on at school, issues that affect your extended family, almost anything. Go to relevant Bible passages as a source of truth.

Wherever your children are now on the discernment scale, they need your help to get to the next level. Helping them helps you, too.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

ESV Study Bible online

Wonderful resource: the ESV Study Bible contents are online, and searchable, AND...you can store your own notes there. Excellent articles, maps, and diagrams. Recommended.

More on FOCA

Senator Obama has promised to deliver the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) on day 1 of his presidency. Actually, since it is a bill originating in Congress, it's unlikely that he'd have the opportunity to sign it on day 1, so we understand that he's making a figure of speech.

Learn more about the sweeping consequences of FOCA here.

What People Believe

“People don’t believe what you tell them.
They rarely believe what you show them.
They often believe what their friends tell them.
They always believe what they tell themselves.

What leaders do: give people stories they can tell themselves. Stories about the future and about change.”

Seth Godin, in Tribes

Monday, October 20, 2008

Making Progress

I've been raking a lot of leaves up in our yard. The trees are mocking me, dropping leaves on me while I rake, and when my back is turned. Mr. Wind is helping the neighbor's trees to mock me, too, blowing more leaves into our yard :-)

Actually, raking leaves is satisfying work. The weather has been nice, it's good exercise, and you can see your progress. It's difficult to see progress in a lot of the work I do, so the clear before/after progress of raking leaves is a nice change of pace.

It raises the question: "How do I know I'm making progress in my walk with the Lord?"

First off, let's be clear: we are supposed to make progress. (See, for example, Philippians 3:12)

But how do we (or others) see progress over time? What's the evidence that progress has occurred? Some possibilities:

Greater love and compassion for others, especially the un-lovely (worldly view) and lost
Increased commitment to serving others, giving of our time, talents, and money
More patience
Persevering love in the midst of challenges
Increased actions based on faith, rather than sight
More time in prayerful conversation with the Lord
Letting go of distractions and "agendas" more often
Less anxiousness
Less fear
Increased knowledge about the Bible

Consider 2 Peter 1:3-11, emphasis mine:

" 3His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
5For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
10Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

I believe in eternal security. I also believe what v.5 and v.10 tells us -- we need to put forth every effort and be eager to do these things (obedience) to make our calling and election sure.

I encourage you to reflect on your progress. What do you need to do today?

Tribes

Book recommendation: Tribes, by Seth Godin.

The subtitle is "We Need You To Lead Us"

Seth brilliantly analyzes the human behavior for groups of people passionate about a topic, issue, hobby, or business. And he especially focuses on what it takes to effectively lead a tribe -- which is what you are called to be.

It's short, readable, lots of pithy sentences. Perfect even for guys who aren't big on reading.

You'll be marking this book up with your notes. Sometimes you'll nod in agreement. Other times you'll be saying "Ahhh, that's what I need to do."

I will warn you that this is not a recipe book, with 1-2-3 formulas. (Relationships don't work that way, right?) But it will be one of the best business books you could read this year.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Are There Two Irreconcilable Americas?

Dennis Prager posits there there are two irreconcilable Americas, differing completely on their views of what America should be. (He labels them "left" and "right," which is perhaps too simplistic, but makes for simpler writing. I'll leave it to you to decide if it promotes better understanding in a reader.)

Do you agree? (Comments welcomed.)

It's tough to distill it down into simple discussion points, because of systemic factors like:
  • the large range of perspectives of the electorate population
  • the momentum of consequences of past decisions and previous behavior that carry forward for years
  • poor understanding of cause and effect in complex systems like large electorates and even larger economies linked across nations
compounded by sin (greed, lies, injustice, pride).

I could begin to write down the relationships in a series of equations and produce a qualitative system flow diagram, but I can't measure the strength of variables and relationships between factors in the system. That's because I'm part of the system rather than outside of it.

Why am I writing about this? Because men like you need to be leaders. Leaders need to appreciate reality, and help others make increasinly wise decisions over time.

Not Pro-Choice, but Pro-Abortion

A number of Christians I know are supporting Senator Obama. When I ask about their views of Sen. Obama's position on abortion, I hear responses like...

"The president doesn't have much influence on that, really."

"He wants to strengthen the economy and provide more help to reduce unwanted pregnancies."

"McCain is not a real pro-life candidate, either, look at his position on stem-cells."

"The abortion issue is a low priority compared to decisions about the taxes and foreign policy."

"It has no bearing on how he'll make decisions about important issues."

"I'm not a single-issue voter. I'm voting for the smart guy."

Quoting my grandfather: "If you have a belly button, you're entitled to your opinion. That's about all your entitled to."

I do believe a political leader's stance on abortion and his public record speaks to character and values, including how he'll make decisions about other issues. We're judged by how we treat the weakest and most vulnerable. And I do believe the US president has influence on abortion.

If you'd care to examine Senator Obama's actual statements and record on this issue, please read through this article by Robert George, which has many links to sources so you can check through the facts. The man is not consistenly pro-choice, he's actually consistently pro-abortion. As Mr. George writes,

"Barack Obama's America is one in which being human just isn't enough to warrant care and protection. It is an America where the unborn may legitimately be killed without legal restriction, even by the grisly practice of partial-birth abortion. It is an America where a baby who survives abortion is not even entitled to comfort care as she dies on a stainless steel table or in a soiled linen bin. It is a nation in which some members of the human family are regarded as inferior and others superior in fundamental dignity and rights. In Obama's America, public policy would make a mockery of the great constitutional principle of the equal protection of the law. In perhaps the most telling comment made by any candidate in either party in this election year, Senator Obama, when asked by Rick Warren when a baby gets human rights, replied: "that question is above my pay grade." It was a profoundly disingenuous answer: For even at a state senator's pay grade, Obama presumed to answer that question with blind certainty. His unspoken answer then, as now, is chilling: human beings have no rights until infancy - and if they are unwanted survivors of attempted abortions, not even then."

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Patient Instruction

I posted the following on my blog for teachers this morning. It's true for other kinds of relationships as well. -- Glenn

I've received several notes recently from teachers struggling to remain patient with students who don't learn quickly, or seem interested in learning.

"1As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."(Ephesians 4:1-6)

Did you catch the counsel there for teachers? "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love."

When this kind of frustration happens to us, our irritation and anger is surging because of some dimension of our pride. Yes, it may be true that your students are slow to learn. They may be resistant to incorporating the clear lessons from Scripture into their lives. They may seem dull of hearing, or bored, or desiring more entertainment rather than solid food. But the Lord may well have used these circumstances to expose your pride for what it is.

Our response must be the same as God's response to us: patient instruction, faithful perserverance, humility that we, too, need God's great mercy. We continue to love and bear with one another, acknowledging that living in community is hard at times. We wait and pray for the Holy Spirit to do His work in their hearts (and in our hearts!).

Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

Remedial Waiting

A friend is newly unemployed. He is searching for a new position, seeking God's direction. I reminded him about Steve Farrar's experience, which he described as "Remedial Waiting." You show up for Remedial Waiting 101, and you...just....wait. And tomorrow it's the same. God does amazing things in a man's soul during these days.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Honest vs. Candid

There are some expressions in American English which trouble me. For example, you'll hear people say, "To be honest with you..." or "If I'm really honest..."

They do not mean to imply they were lying earlier. Nor is actually possible to be partially honest. But that's what those words actually mean.

In my work I interact frequently with people for whom English is a 2nd or 3rd language. One of these individuals brought this odd use of the word "honest" to my attention. Relaying a previous conversation, she asked me, "Did he lie to me other times, before he said he is speaking honestly?"

So here's what you should say: "Candidly, ...." or "To be frank..."

That's what you really mean. Save the word "honesty" for the important issues of truth and falsehood.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Check the Basis for Rights

Melinda on the Stand to Reason blog points out a concern from the 2nd presidential debate: Senator Obama seems to be saying that health care should be a right for Americans because we can afford it. Here's that part from the transcript, so you can evaluate for yourself:

Brokaw: Quick discussion. Is health care in America a privilege, a right, or a responsibility? (McCain answered first: responsibility)
...Obama: Well, I think it should be a right for every American. In a country as wealthy as ours, for us to have people who are going bankrupt because they can't pay their medical bills -- for my mother to die of cancer at the age of 53 and have to spend the last months of her life in the hospital room arguing with insurance companies because they're saying that this may be a pre-existing condition and they don't have to pay her treatment, there's something fundamentally wrong about that.

Melinda correctly points out the problem with declaring something a right apart from a constitutional basis (emphasis mine):

"The merits of national health care aside, it's the grounding of rights in our country that concerns me. Rights are ground in the Constitution, rights that the government is bound to respect. And those rights are in turn grounded explicitly in the objective source of God, which is why government is bound to respect individual rights. Once we move away from the Constitution as the grounding of rights, the government becomes the granter of those rights, and there is no external obligation then for the government to respect individual rights. And if a right is grounded in our nation's prosperity, does the right go away if the nation is no longer prosperous? Declaring rights apart from the Constitution makes those rights changeable. The government can grant and deny rights. Isn't that the despotism our Constitution was meant to protect citizens from?"

Recovering from "I'm Disgusted"

Our loving God did not leave me in the same state of concern as when I wrote yesterday's post, which I titled "I'm Disgusted." Here's the story:

We had a scheduled fire drill at work. Beautiful sunny October day, blue sky to make your heart melt. As I was taking in a deep breath the verses from Psalm 100 came to mind:

1Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth.
2Serve the LORD with gladness;
Come before Him with joyful singing.
3Know that the LORD Himself is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
4Enter His gates with thanksgiving
And His courts with praise
Give thanks to Him, bless His name.
5For the LORD is good;
His lovingkindness is everlasting
And His faithfulness to all generations. (NAS)

God gave me a reset on perspective. I didn't hear an audible voice, but through His word was reminded that He is good and faithful -- as He has been in the past He will be in our future. And lifting my eyes off the muck and mire, let me remember that He is the Lord and I did not create myself. My task is to worship!

And I might actually look forward to our next scheduled fire drill, too.

Overcoming Limiting Factors

Here is a useful guide for identifying and then overcoming the limiting factors -- for yourself or others. It's important to distinguish the causes of the limitation, then respond appropriately.

Issue: Ability
What They Say: “I don’t know how.”
Needed Response: Teaching: “Let me teach you.”

Issue: Motivation
What They Say: “I don’t want to.”
Needed Response: Point out why it matters: “This will be better.”

Issue: Lack of Mastery
What They Say: “It’s hard.”
Needed Response: Encouragement, Coaching, Modeling: “Keep going.”

Issue: Barrier
What They Say: ““I can’t because…”
Needed Response: Leadership: “How can I help eliminate the obstacle?”

Additional Comments:
▪ Ability is clear. A person lacks a needed skill. I will teach, help you practice, and give you feedback and coaching.
▪ Motivation is tricky. Self-motivation (there really is no other kind) rests on understanding consequences (carrots and sticks). An effective approach is to point out why it matters (to you, to others, and to the person). Modeling, on the other hand, is often used for addressing difficulty (let me show you an easy/easier way).
▪ Lack of Mastery (or Difficulty) is also tricky. A person can have mastered something, but simply finds it very difficult. An example might be a very effective public speaker who is a flaming introvert and for each speaking engagement panics. This person is likely to come to dread public speaking, even though doing it well. Tactics here are encouragement, coaching, and also helping the person to see the importance or impact of his or her actions. See also Modeling.
▪ Barrier is also clear. Leaders provide resources and remove barriers to enable performance.

Final Word of Advice:“Don’t try to solve a person’s problem until you understand why they like having it.” – Glenn Livingston

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

I'm Disgusted

The current political campaign is obnoxious (both Republican and Democrat candidates are telling lies, distorting records -- see factcheck.org for the 2nd debate -- and happily). I cannot vote for Senator Obama out of conscience, and I strongly disagree with his worldview about the role of government. Nothing in my gut is enthusiastic about McCain/Palin -- feels like a vote against Obama/Biden.

I strongly suspect that we're just at the beginning of the beginning on our fiscal challenges. Unfunded entitlement obligations are in the trillions. Federal deficit spending has topped 10 trillion -- and that's when someone is counting Social Security dollars as if they're in a lock-box somewhere, which they aren't. If someone really knows how bad it is, they may not be telling us.

The sport of finger-pointing isn't getting us anywhere. Economically innocent people are getting hurt.

And we appear to be stuck in situations where effectively the same groups of people who made decisions over several decades (sorry, JT, but not everything bad started with the Bush administration) to get us into these messes are the ones we have to rely upon to make things better. Politically viable solutions are likely to fall short.

Have you thought how appealing the AntiChrist figure could look as these circumstances go forward?

I'm disgusted. I'm disheartened.

I agree with my friend Scott: "Is this the best America can present for leadership?"

Now, having not yet contributed to making things better, I'm going to invest time praying.

Unity in the Church

Mark Driscoll outlines church unity based around 5 themes:
  • Theological
  • Relational
  • Philosophical
  • Missional
  • Organizational
Great 5 minute video.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Handling Evil -- 8 and 4

Check out John Piper's excellent counsel about 8 things to do with evil, and 4 things not to do.

I refer you to this in part because almost every conversation I was in yesterday someone expressed anger/frustration/anxiousness about the bank problems and stock market fall. The pattern of history shows that evil follows anger/frustration/anxiousness.

Piper's short list would be the basis for an excellent family devotion.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

20 Resolutions from James

Sinclair Ferguson gives us 20 resolutions from James:

James 1:5 To ask God for wisdom to speak and with a single mind
James 1:9-10 To boast only in exaltation in Christ, & humiliation in world
James 1:13 To set a watch over my mouth
James 1:19 To be constantly quick to hear, slow to speak
James 2:1-4 To learn the gospel way of speaking to poor and the rich
James 2:12 To speak always in the consciousness of the final judgment
James 2:16 To never stand on anyone’s face with my words
James 3:14 To never claim as reality something I do not experience
James 4:1 To resist quarrelsome words in order to mortify a quarrelsome heart
James 4:11 To never speak evil of another
James 4:13 To never boast in what I will accomplish
James 4:15 To always speak as one subject to the providences of God
James 5:9 To never grumble, knowing that the Judge is at the door
James 5:12 To never allow anything but total integrity in my speech
James 5:13 To speak to God in prayer whenever I suffer
James 5:14 To sing praises to God whenever I am cheerful
James 5:14 To ask for the prayers of others when I am sick
James 5:15 To confess it freely whenever I have failed
James 5:15 To pray with and for one another when I am together with others
James 5:19 To speak words of restoration when I see another wander

HT: Between Two Worlds

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Count On It!

Dallas Willard says there are two things you can always count on from government:

1. Government will lie to you.
2. Government will use force on you.

*Note: I have this second-hand from a reliable source.

During this US Presidential election season, it's all too easy for believers to get their hopes and dreams wrapped up in government solutions. "If we can just get the right people in the top spots, all will be well," we tell ourselves.

Fantasy.

We've had Republican leadership in the executive branch for the majority of the past few decades. It hasn't been sufficient to transform the culture by most measures, has it? (I can't quantify how much those men's influence forestalled a worse state of affairs, since we can do the split-test experiment.)

Whom is elected is important, please don't misunderstand my point. I have said in past that while you cannot legislate morality, you can legislate to promote immorality.

My point is that electing the "right" people is not sufficient. It's not even necessary. God has used righteous and unrighteous rulers in the past, all to His ends.

What about you, Dad, Husband, Man of God? Work within your sphere of influence, and be a good citizen. You have a powerful influence within your family and potentially amidst your community and workplace(s). Remember whose you are and actual accordingly -- for suggestions, see Colossians 3.

Put your hope in God, not in princes.

Pray for Christians in Iraq

News today about changes in the provincial representation of minority groups in Iraq -- including Christians.

Pray for positive and disproportionate influence of our brothers and sisters in that county and region!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Honoring Your Wife

I love the way Mark Driscoll honors his wife Grace (Part 1, Part 2). He passionately talks about his love, her strengths, his weaknesses and failures, their marriage strengths as a couple.

Challenge: honor your wife in a similar way. You don't need to write a blog post for the entire Internet. Just sketch out your thoughts, imagine yourself testifying about her before your friends. Write it out.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Joe Carter's Open Letter to the "Religious Right"

Joe Carter, managing editor of Culture11, shares 11 thoughts in an open letter to the “religious right.”

I really appreciated his perspective and recommendations. Excerpts:

“We have ideological enemies (such as Islamic terrorists) and ideological opponents (such as secular liberals). While our ideological opponents want us to lose political debates; our ideological enemies want us to lose our lives. That's a crucial distinction that we should always keep in mind.”

“Cultural reform is needed even more than political reform. As Andrew Fletcher, an 18th century Scottish patriot, once boldly proclaimed, "If one were permitted to make all the ballads one need not care who should make the laws of a nation." Fletcher understood that cultural influence was vastly more important than political power. We once understood this point too. It's time to remind ourselves that, as James Carville might have said, "It's the culture, stupid."

“It is not enough for religious conservatives to simply baptize the conservative agenda; our political beliefs must be derived from our religious worldview. Doing that, however, requires developing such a worldview and knowing how to derive political policy prescriptions from the principles. While the difficulty of the task makes it easier to accept off-the-rack conservatism, we need to be able to tailor our policies from the fabric of our faith.”

“There are those who call us "Christianists" and claim we are attempting to "impose a theocracy" because name-calling and scaremongering are easier than engaging us in debate. But there are also those who makes such claims out of honest ignorance. For example, many of the people who use the term "theocracy" are probably unaware that the largest Protestant denomination in America, Southern Baptists, cannot even tolerate a centralized church government much less a central government controlled by the church. Thinking that a nation full of Southern Baptists wants to establish a theocratic regime is about as absurd as believing anarchists want to create a centralized government. Keep in mind, though, that we live in a country where 34 percent of the population believes in UFOs and ghosts; we shouldn't be surprised to find that Americans will believe just about anything.”

“…we must recognize that America is not a "Christian nation", though we should aspire to be a nation where those of us who are Christians are admired as good and noble citizens. America is not a "shining city on a hill", though we should let our light of freedom be a shining example for the entire world. America is not the "greatest blessing God gave mankind", though it is a great nation worthy of our conditional adoration. Patriotic sentiment has its place but we mustn't let it expand beyond its acceptable borders. We are citizens of both the City of God and the City of Man and must always be careful not to confuse the one for the other.

Check out the whole article. Recommended for sharing!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Assignment: Gratitude!

It seems everywhere we turn there's bad news. Discouraging stuff. Financial institutions failing. Bombs killing innocents. People out of work. Riots. Storms and flooding and fires. Politicians promsing catastrophe of OT proportions if you vote for the other guy. Uncertainty at every turn. "Can you hear the flushing sound? Ka-wooooshhh!" says my neighbor.

Yup, the world is not peaches and cream. There's trouble. People are hurting. I don't seek to diminish this, but Dad, if your kids only hear you talking about this they'll lose sight of the great things of God we experience in Christ. You need to give them perspective, balance, and the tools to think wisely.

Here's an assignment: gratitude!

Why gratitude? Because a thankful heart keeps us right with God, and with one another. "Grateful kids do not commit suicide. Grateful husbands and wives do not get divorced." -- Lee Brower

Try this yourself, right now: Write down 4 things you're thankful for, or accomplishments you're proud of. Make sure two of them are true in the last 24 hours.

Next: Decide how you will cultivate thankfulness in the next 24 hours.

Finally: Think of one good thing that nobody else is recognizing enough, and then communicate it to your family.

I'd like to credit Perry Marshall for whacking me up the head with these ideas.

Yacht Delivery

I'm not sure how many of my readers will ever have a customized yacht delivered to them, but if you do I hope your experience is better than this.

Thoughtful Views on the Emergent Church

If you're confused about all the "emergent" church conversations, and maybe a little concerned about what you're hearing, you aren't alone.

Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church, helpfully talks about four different streams of the emergent movement, based on a 2-x-2 "grid":

Don't Change Change
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Doctrine
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Practice
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Pastor Driscoll argues for retaining orthodox doctrines (consistent with Jude 3), and being willing to change our practices to reach a changing culture. He helpfully warns about the problems that are occur when we abandon doctrines on scripture, Jesus Christ, gender, sin, salvation, the cross, hell, and authority.

Go here to get the 4 page PDF file, titled "A Pastoral Perspective on the Emergent Church." Excellent, concise, worth reading.

Friday, September 12, 2008

House Churches in Iran

We tend to forget that God has His people all over. Pray for the house churches in Iran as they come under more persecution. Imagine what God is doing to use these lights in the darkness and confusion of that country!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Rejecting Absolute Truth

From page 93 of Senator Obama's autobiography, "Audacity of Hope":

“It’s not just absolute power that the Founders sought to prevent. Implicit in its structure, in the very idea of ordered liberty, was a rejection of absolute truth, the infallibility of any idea or ideology or theology or “ism,” any tyrannical consistency that might lock future generations into a single, unalterable course, or drive both majorities and minorities into the cruelties of the Inquisition, the pogrom, the gulag, or the jihad. The Founders may have trusted in God, but true to the Enlightenment spirit, they also trusted in the minds and senses that God had given them. They were suspicious of abstraction and liked asking questions, which is why at every turn in our early history theory yielded to fact and necessity.”

Wrong.

The founders did believe in absolute truth. (Yes, some were deists.) The opening paragraph of the Declaration of Independence rings with absolute truth:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Gene Vieth goes into this in more detail here and here -- recommended.

I do not know Senator McCain's views on absolute truth. That Senator Obama's worldview dismisses absolute truth does not surprise me, but does concern me.

Rumors Flyin', What To Do?

There are plenty of rumors, accusations, and innuendo flying around about all four candidates for President and Vice President.

Candidly, it says a lot about the gossipy-nature of our hearts and minds that we *love* this stuff. We love reading it. We love sharing it. We reward publishers with our attention. A reasonable interpretation of our our behavior is that we like being misinformed!

So what should a godly man do? Check the facts!
What should YOU do? Check the facts!

Here's one site with a good history of reliability: FactCheck.org

You can find out whether Senator Obama's bill fostered sex ed for kindergarteners (McCain's ad is a clear distortion), Governor Palin banned books in the Wasilla library (she didn't), etc.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Christians Attacked in India

Our brothers and sisters in India are suffering from violent attacks, and there are curious gaps in reporting. The hurricane and political election news in the US pretty much swamps out attention for these events. Please pray for them, and for the growth of God's kingdom in India.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

How Husbands and Fathers Should Model Citizenship

One of my friends wrote and asked why I hadn't been blogging about the presidential candidates and exciting conventions. "There's loads of material!" he needlessly pointed out.

Here's the thing: part of me wants to, and I think a wiser, more mature part of me decided not to add redundant thinking and ascerbic commentary. Besides, the focus of this blog is not politics, but about encouraging husbands and fathers.

So in the hope of encouraging husbands and fathers as they model citizenship to others in their family and community, I offer some observations and predictions:

The US economy has many, many parts and interconnections. There is not a single economy, however much people may want to boil it down to a handful of numbers. The US economy is incredibly interwined with the larger global economy.

The falling value of the US dollar relative to many currencies is a symptom. We do not know the full extent of the disease(s), nor are there simple cures.

There is a desperate need for voters to be thinking carefully, and critically about the "facts" presented, their source, how they are presented, and what might be missing. Be particularly careful about statistics. (Mark Twain remarked about the man who had one arm in the icebox and the other in the oven, and on average was comfortable.).

Likewise, work forward from proposals offered, and consider possible consequences. Who benefits and who does not? By what degree? There is no free lunch. What is the timescale for results? I think a primary reason why systems thinking is not taught effectively is that this knowledge framework could undermine a lot of flimsy leadership authority. Oh, and it takes more thinking effort than swallowing sound-bites.

No matter whom is elected, he will be tested by terrorists and foreign powers (especially Iran, Russia, Syria, North Korea, and China). They will want to evaluate the words-deeds match, and how much they can cross lines and get away with it. And I think it will happen soon -- probably while many positions in the executive branch remain unfilled, and foreign power relationships are still being established.

Speaking of positions, whom the president selects as cabinet members and other principals is crucial. There is effectively no forecasting of choices during the campaign itself. There is a little more forecasting about judicial choices.

Nearly all professional politicians are sincere, and believe what they are saying. Sincerity is not a measure of truth.

Whomever is elected will have roughly 1/2 the country upset with him. All the time. That's 150 million people in the US, and more millions around the world. He should be very, very nice to the Secret Service.

Given the challenges and risks, anyone who actually wants to be President has disqualified himself or herself. I'm about half-serious on this.

The United Nations will remain the U.N., irrespective of whom is President. It is a macro-system unto itself. I think they have resolutioned themselves into irrelevancy.

Currently less than half of potential taxpayers in the US pay any federal tax at all. Irrespective of which party controls the executive and legislative branches in 2009, there will likely be increased taxes on a subset of potential taxpayers. As much as I would prefer a flat tax or national sales tax, I believe there is far too much political power invested in our current tax system to be abandoned by the same people whom benefit the most from manipulating it.

The serious breakdown of families across generations opens up an apparent need for more government action. Where husbands and fathers strive to do the right things, honoring God, serving their families and communities, you have progressively less need for government solutions. This strength can endure.

We've been fortunate in many ways that the current US House and Senate have passed very few bills or significant resolutions. It would seem that they have a greater appetite for waiting and positioning for 2009, than actually working through difficult decisions now. Expect gridlock to continue. Even with a filibuster-proof Senate (60 Democratic seats), I think the president will still be challenged to fulfill the big-ticket agendas.

By fall 2009, I predict the total number of issues and challenges and complaints about American politics will be unchanged. Emphasis may have shifted, but not the total. Americans simultaneously expect too much of government and government leaders, and love to complain about shortcomings and inadequacies. It's a near-perfect reinforcing loop. It's sport.

With all our struggles, poor trendlines, up and downs, the U.S. remains a remarkably blessed country. We deserve much judgment, but have received much, much more mercy.

We should be grateful that we serve a sovereign Lord to whom "the nations are like a drop in a bucket" (Is 40:15) We should be good citizens (which means paying attention and making careful voting decisions) and remember the perspective that no government or leader is a substitute for the lordship of Jesus Christ.

P.S. I do like Peggy Noonan's description of how the Democratic and Republican parties take different sympathies:

"Democrats in the end speak most of, and seem to hold the most sympathy for, the beset-upon single mother without medical coverage for her children, and the soldier back from the war who needs more help with post-traumatic stress disorder. They express the most sympathy for the needy, the yearning, the marginalized and unwell. For those, in short, who need more help from the government, meaning from the government's treasury, meaning the money got from taxpayers.
Who happen, also, to be a generally beset-upon group.
Democrats show little expressed sympathy for those who work to make the money the government taxes to help the beset-upon mother and the soldier and the kids. They express little sympathy for the middle-aged woman who owns a small dry cleaner and employs six people and is, actually, day to day, stressed and depressed from the burden of state, local and federal taxes, and regulations, and lawsuits, and meetings with the accountant, and complaints as to insufficient or incorrect efforts to meet guidelines regarding various employee/employer rules and regulations. At Republican conventions they express sympathy for this woman, as they do for those who are entrepreneurial, who start businesses and create jobs and build things. Republicans have, that is, sympathy for taxpayers. But they don't dwell all that much, or show much expressed sympathy for, the sick mother with the uninsured kids, and the soldier with the shot nerves.
Neither party ever gets it quite right, the balance between the taxed and the needy, the suffering of one sort and the suffering of another. You might say that in this both parties are equally cold and equally warm, only to two different classes of citizens."

That fairly sums up a lot about domestic politics, though does not address fundamental differences on foreign policy.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Teach the Jesus Way

If you do any Bible teaching, you might be interested in "Teach the Jesus Way."

Recommended: Wild Goose Chase

Mark Batterson's new book, "Wild Goose Chase: Reclaim the Adventure of Pursuing God" is delightful, accessible, and just the thing God could use to speak to you.

If you aren't yet where you need to be, get this book.
Highly recommended!

Monday, August 18, 2008