Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Children Learning About God Through Parents

John Piper writes beautifully and passionately about how children learn about the Universe before they know there is one -- through their parents. Let us take these things to heart, men!

Countering the "Church of Oprah"

There's an increasing amount of news about the "Church of Oprah" -- the popular talk-show host has been pushing a spiritual perspective for years now, but it seems to be snowballing into a much larger part of her message.

Here's the deal: it's not new stuff, just new presentation.

The "Church of Oprah" pushes "New Age" ideas about the "law of attraction," the concept that the Universe is set up to give you what you want. You just need to "attract" it to yourself with the right kind of intentions. (This idea was pushed hard recently in the movie, The Secret.) There is no sin, only bad intentionality. And there is no personal God, just a vast, amorphous consciousness.

Sometimes this message is wrapped up in a guise that this is what Jesus taught, really, his true message. I have to believe this is a marketing effort to wrap tripe in a velvet box by association with a famous religious person, while hoping their audience never actually reads the New Testament.

It's important that you and your family are prepared to speak to these teachings. Here's a good starting point for your education.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Good Counsel From The FamilyMan!

I encourage all you men to sign up for "Familyman Weekly", at www.familymanweb.com Great stuff, and frankly, it's usually hilarious. (Few things are as helpful as humor to get your message across -- get their chest heaving, and you slip it in between their ribs.)

I received this message yesterday:

"Hey Dad, You know one of the great things about traveling around in an RV is that it is good for my marriage---eventually. Unfortunately, it takes about three weeks out on the road before it gets to that point. During the first couple of weeks there is a lot of stress, tears, and frustration. I'm totally focused on the RV, leaving little room for talking, sharing, or close time with my wife. I get snappy and feel exhausted. As the early weeks pass, I get LESS sensitive---and my wife gets MORE sensitive. In fact, at the start of this past week, my wife didn't like me too much. She said I didn't care about how she felt. Truth was, I didn't. I just wanted her to buck up and take it like a trooper so that's how I was treating her. After a couple of weeks of insensitivity, I said I was sorry---but that didn't solve anything. "I need you to resolve this," she said one night in tears. "I thought I did. I said I was sorry, what more is there to resolve? I was insensitive and so I'm sorry. There, I said it again. So lets move on." She was unmoved by my logic and began to tell me how she just needed to talk about it. "Oh no," I thought, "not the---I just need to talk about it some more comment." I just don't get it. I should by now, but I don't. I like the quickly ask forgiveness and move on approach. Pretending it's resolved is so much easier than 'talking about it.' But since my approach wasn't working, I thought I'd give it a try and said, "So what are you feeling?"
You know what? It worked. We talked about how she felt, how I had been an insensitive clod (what's new), and then---we held each other and all was right with the world---almost. I'd like to say everything is back to normal, but my wife still needs me to keep talking (go figure). Now I know some husbands would ask, "Why does it always have to be us who resolve it?" I know what they mean, but instead of lamenting the fact that it's hard being married to a woman, I say, "Bring it on!" because I'm 'da husband. So, Dad, if your wife is acting a little "non-manish" and needs something resolved, then grab the bull by the horns and ask, "So what are you feeling?"After all, you 'da husband!
Todd "

As I said, good stuff. Sign up at www.familymanweb.com

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Getting Unstuck

I run another blog for Bible Teachers, called Teach to Change Lives, and posted advice about getting unstuck there. My two counterintuitive strategies will help you in many difficult situations, not just preparing lessons.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

More on Greenland Ice and Climate Data

Patrick Michaels, Professor of Environmental Studies at the U. of Virginia, provides some background data about the problems with the typical presentation of Greenland ice sheet melting, and the way temperate data is collected and calibrated.

I'm all for stewardship of the Lord's creation. There is little doubt that human impact changes the planet. (See the excellent book 1491 for an amazing account of how much native American people's changed the landscape in North America through burning, and even transformed the soil of the Amazon and created large orchards of fruit trees.)

The reason I highlight climate change stories on this blog are because we are expected to be good stewards, and it is a complex subject. There are plenty of scare stories available today, but relatively few people promoting data analysis. The political and economic consequences of legislation around climate change are ENORMOUS. And the reality of our relatively poor ability to connect cause and effect (as a species, I mean, we're just bad interpreters) should keep us humble. Therefore, let us proceed rationally, with careful thought and balancing many points of data.

By the way, if any read can point me to some reasonable model or data that suggests lowering carbon emissions ("greenhouse gas") will cause climate cooling, or even slow temperature increases, I'd be genuinely interested to see it. So far all I have found is correlation arguments about temperate and "greenhouse gas" emissions.

US Federal Budget Realities

Excellent excerpts from Where Does the Money Go? available at SmartChristian's blog:

Explaining the difference between deficit and debt
US government's primary source of revenue (43.4% individual income taxes, 34.8% Social Security taxes)
The six primary areas the US Federal government spends money -- 46% for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; 8.5% for interest on debt; 19.7% on defense; 31.9% on non-defense discretionary
How the Social Security tax money is handled (hint: they're not building up an account)
The scale of the federal debt ($9 trillion, 25% held by foreign groups)

Recommended reading for every citizen.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

One Man At A Time

Tony Woodlief spotlights the weakness of the "we need more jobs and more education" answer to the crumbling social blights seen across America today:

Does anyone really think that the hundreds of thousands of children born in the worst urban areas without fathers in their lives are deprived of this
necessity because these men can't find work? Is it the presence of a job that
makes a man live up to his responsibilities? Is it a college degree?

No, it's moral backbone, and there's no program that will implant one
where it is absent. And so the cycle is now in a self-fueling frenzy — boys grow
up without men to guide them, and girls grow up desperate for male attention,
and when they meet, a new crop of neglected children is produced.

Better jobs wouldn't hurt, nor better schools, nor perhaps even
programs designed to promote responsible parenting. But this madness will end
one life at a time, one man at a time, each willing to set aside his excuses and
enter the daily grind that is parenting.

I'm still sorting out, in my own life, what it means to be a man. But
I'm certain that you can't be one if you're not willing to care for your
children. You can kill the enemy in war, score forty points a game, become CEO
of your company — but none of it will make you a man. There are a great many
fathers in our country, but significantly fewer men. And given an illegitimacy
rate nationwide that is approaching 40 percent, and one closer to 90 percent in
the inner cities, this ought to be a topic every pastor covers on a regular

'Nuff said.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Responding to Advocates of "Gay Biblical Interpretation"

Michael Spenser provides some helpful, thoughtful, and non-angry responses to a person who interprets Scripture to support loving homosexual behavior.

He gently points out some problems in interpretation, and that at least part of the strength of the gay argument is arguing from reason and life experience, rather than biblical hermeneutics.

To go along with the scriptural intrepretation, Mr. Spencer writes, would require evangelicals to endorse:
1) That God creates homosexuality as “good.”2) That Old Testament prohibitions
on homosexual sexual acts be rejected on the basis of the interpretation of
texts on slavery, etc. The controlling hermeneutic of the topics is so different
that this methodology can’t be sustained.3) That homosexual behavior is not
included in the Biblical descriptions of sexual sin.4) That Jesus was silent on
the specific subject of homosexuality, etc. and therefore, the Bible gives tacit
approval to homosexual relationships.5) That the supposed pagan cultural norm of
“consenting adult homosexuality” is to be preferred over against the obvious
Jewish prohibition of all same sex sexual behavior.6) Same sex
relationships among Biblical characters.

I appreciate Mr. Spencer pointing out a fundamental issue that I believe is central: sexuality is a reflection of God's nature and is mapped into creation before culture becomes a factor.

I recommend the whole article, and check out the comments. I hope this article (and the related posts) will help move good dialogue forward.

Spiritual Toddlers

If you have to deal with people much in church settings -- and this is ministry -- then you know that we're all on a growth curve.

Amy points out that we're all spiritual toddlers:

"I often equate Christians with two-year-olds, not because I’m hypercritical or can’t think up another example but because it is true. We want what we want and we want it now. And if we do a good deed, we want an M & M. I know this because I know me. "

Growing up in the Lord is about obedience.

More Surge, Not Less

Michael Yon is a reporter who has been embedded in military units in Iraq and Afghanistan since December 2004. Check out his observations of how much has changed in Iraq in the past 14 months.

"Over the past 15 months, we have proved that we can win this war. We stand now at the moment of truth. Victory – and a democracy in the Arab world – is within our grasp. But it could yet slip away if our leaders remain transfixed by the war we almost lost, rather than focusing on the war we are winning today."

Snow in April

Snowing again here in Iowa today. The robins are looking confused! They're forecasting warmer temperatures next week.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Muslims Converting to Christianity in Record Numbers

Our Lord is working! See this about muslims converting to Christianity in record numbers in the middle east, Africa, Pakistan, and Russia.

Just as in China, these growing communities of faith in Jesus can change the direction of an entire nation! Jesus-transforms lives, and this will be seen in a culture.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Darwinism Inadequate - and an Insight for Dialogue

Amy Hall at STR helps make the case that Darwinism is an inadequate explanation, and has some comments about Ben Stein's new movie Expelled. (More properly said, this is a response to naturalism.)

Tossed in here is a critical insight for effective dialogue on issues like evolution vs. creation, or race, or economics: "On contentious issues you never want to distract people from the main point because they will follow the distraction every time."

So don't throw distractions up, even if you think they're buttressing your primary statements. Get through the primary point first. If they toss up a distraction, simply say, "Yes, and that is a separate point. Let's come back to that next, after we talk through this one." [Meeting facilitators will recognize this as the "parking lot" technique.]

My big struggle is that I love to win arguments and zing people -- and sometimes that ends dialogue before it can lead to changed perspectives.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

What Do Homosexuals Hear From Evangelicals?

Michael Spenser (aka "the internet monk") has posted very helpful comments about what gays and lesbians hear from evangelicals and others in the Church. I think he handles this complex situation with godly tenderness without violating the clear teaching from Scripture about sexual sin.

It's a Loud Time, Not a Quiet Time!

I was delighted to see this guest post by David Powlison: "Should We Really Call It a 'Quiet Time'?"

Key idea: "prayer is verbal because it is relational," so pray out loud most of the time!

Try this, it can change your prayer life enormously. This also fits well with what psychological research has shown: we remember much more about what we say. Our brain is more engaged when we're talking.


Engage in Politics and Honor Christ

Dr. Andrew Jackson gives 10 excellent guidelines for engaging in politics without losing your soul. (I would prefer say, "and honor Christ.")

Good discussion material with friends and family!

Pregnancy as a Consequence, Not Punishment

Senator Obama made these comments in response to a townmeeting question in Pennsylvania:

"Look, I got two daughters — 9 years old and 6 years old," he said. "I am going to teach them first about values and morals, but if they make a mistake, I don't want them punished with a baby. I don't want them punished with an STD at age 16, so it doesn't make sense to not give them information."

[Note: I haven't located a full transcript to get the broader context, but here's a left-favoring blog post that fills in some more details. ]

Melinda at STR addresses the mindset that pregnancy would be punishment (rather than an expected consequence of intercourse).

US voters should have some very clear distinctions between candidates in the presidential election this fall: abortion, foreign policy, taxes, role of the federal government in "helping" people.