Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Perspective...and Wisdom

Useful insights about perspective, from Clay Collins:

“We desperately lack perspective because we are a society of workaholics, and workaholism is like kryptonite to perspective. … There are no perspective hacks. None. You just have to suck it up, live a little, and wallow in the mud of life. You have to get your hands dirty with this beautiful business of living. You have to question, meditate, and fail often. You simply have to make space for perspective and hope that it will come eventually. You have to spend time in a manner that would seem self-indulgent to most. (Source)

Clay is railing against productivity that leads to workaholism. But he raises an important point that there are no instant shortcuts to perspective.

May I suggest another word for perspective, a biblical word?


We need to live wisely – to think wisely, speak wisely, plan wisely, act wisely. Where do we go for wisdom? The Lord and His Word.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5)

Creating time and space to interact with our Lord and Master – through prayer, study, meditation, service to others – is what leads to wisdom development in us. We can’t force it or hurry it, this is a work of God. We can choose to be more cooperative to God’s ways.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

How Would You Spend $10B?

The Copenhagen Consensus has looked at the economic return on investing large amounts of money into solving various problems -- reduce CO2, healthier foods for children, fight terrorists, prevent malaria, etc.

I don't think anyone argues that we should prioritize our investments of energy, people, and money strictly by projected economic return. But it is useful to go through the analysis, because it uncovers certain biases and assumptions. In short, it's humbling to our pride.

BTW, training and supporting missionaries isn't on their list.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Leadership Checkup

Peter Mead provides great coaching to preachers, and all church leaders, by pointing us back to 1 Peter 5:1-4. Submit yourself to a checkup.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Myths Christians Believe About Wealth and Poverty

Christians need to be good thinkers and good economists -- in order to be good stewards for the Lord. Jay Richards points out eight myths that many Christians believe about economics:

The nirvana myth (contrasting capitalism with an unrealizable ideal rather than with its live alternatives)
The zero-sum game myth (believing that wealth gained in one place always means that wealth was lost someplace else)
The materialist myth (believing that intellect cannot create new wealth)
The greed myth (believing that the essence of capitalism is greed)
The usury myth (believing that charging interest on money is always exploitive)
The piety myth (focusing on our good intentions rather than the unintended consequences of our actions)
The artsy myth (confusing aesthetic judgments with economic arguments)
The freeze frame myth (believing that things always stay the same—for example, assuming population trends will continue indefinitely or treating “rich” and “poor” as static categories

Textbooks for Children in Saudi Arabia

The revised-to-be-less-strident textbooks using in schools in Saudia Arabia and around the world remain plainly hateful. Anne Applebaum writes in the Washington Post about multiple choice questions like this one:

Q. "Is belief true in the following instances:
(a) A man prays but hates those who are virtuous.
(b) A man professes that there is no deity other than God but loves the unbelievers.
(c) A man worships God alone, loves the believers, and hates the unbelievers."

The correct answer, of course, is (c): According to the Wahhabi imams who wrote this textbook, it isn't enough to simply worship God or just to love other believers; it is important to hate unbelievers, too. By the same token, (b) is wrong as well: Even a man who worships God cannot be said to have "true belief" if he also loves unbelievers.

"Unbelievers," in this context, are Christians and Jews. In fact, any child who attends Saudi schools until ninth grade will eventually be taught outright that "Jews and Christians are enemies of believers." They will also be taught that Jews conspire to "gain sole control over the world," that the Christian crusades never ended, and that on Judgment Day "the rocks or the trees" will call out to Muslims to kill Jews.

Stay focused on Jesus, and teach your children the contrasting messages from Scripture: Love your neighbor as yourself. Pray for those who persecute you. Do not return evil for evil.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Using Movies as Conversation-Launchers With Boys

Men, you can use movies as great conversation-launchers with your boys. I enjoyed the latest Batman movie, The Dark Knight. It's a big action film, too dark for younger kids, and does not have a specific religious aspect to the plot. But the characters wrestle with great questions:
  • How much will you sacrifice to protect and save the innocent?
  • How do you combat evil (yes, evil!) without becoming evil? Where do you draw lines that you won't cross?
  • Would you kill others to save yourself, even if you perceived they were "worse" people than you are?
  • What is a man's civic responsibility and how is this related to protecting his family?
The Joker character is completely evil, completely amoral, and the movie makes it clear that you cannot blame his environment for his behavior.

These are great themes to explore with your boys, as you coach them about being a man. With older boys, movies like The Patriot and Saving Private Ryan are helpful for conversation-launching.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Three Interactions to Develop Your Leadership

Perry Noble writes about three levels of interactions to develop our leadership:

Spend time with 'Those Who Are Where We Have Been'
Spend time with 'Those Who Are Currently Where I Am Currently'
Spend time with 'Those Who Are Where I Want To Go'

Good insights into the value of each environment, if we're willing to learn.

There Are Things Far Worse Than Illness

"The art of being sick is not the same as the art of getting well. Some cancer patients recover; some don't. But the ordeal of facing your mortality and feeling your frailty sharpens your perspective about life. You appreciate little things more ferociously. You grasp the mystical power of love. You feel the gravitational pull of faith. And you realize you have received a unique gift – a field of vision others don't have about the power of hope and the limits of fear; a firm set of convictions about what really matters and what does not. You also feel obliged to share these insights – the most important of which is this: There are things far worse than illness – for instance, soullessness."

-- Tony Snow, 2005

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Friday, July 11, 2008

No, We're Not Post-Modern!

William Lane Craig gives us some great thoughts about our modern thinking, which is NOT post-modern. (This is from his great article, "God is Not Dead Yet" in CT. )

"The idea that we live in a postmodern culture is a myth. In fact, a postmodern culture is an impossibility; it would be utterly unlivable. People are not relativistic when it comes to matters of science, engineering, and technology; rather, they are relativistic and pluralistic in matters of religion and ethics. But, of course, that’s not postmodernism; that’s modernism! That’s just old-line verificationism, which held that anything you can’t prove with your five senses is a matter of personal taste. We live in a culture that remains deeply modernist.

Otherwise, how do we make sense of the popularity of the New Atheism? Dawkins and his ilk are indelibly modernist and even scientistic in their approach. On the postmodernist reading of contemporary culture, their books should have fallen like water on a stone. Instead, people lap them up eagerly, convinced that religious belief is folly.

Seen in this light, tailoring our gospel to a postmodern culture is self-defeating. By laying aside our best apologetic weapons of logic and evidence, we ensure modernism’s triumph over us. If the church adopts this course of action, the consequences in the next generation will be catastrophic. Christianity will be reduced to but another voice in a cacophony of competing voices, each sharing its own narrative and none commending itself as the objective truth about reality. Meanwhile, scientific naturalism will continue to shape our culture’s view of how the world really is.

Christians who depreciate natural theology because “no one comes to faith through intellectual arguments” are therefore tragically shortsighted. For the value of natural theology extends far beyond one’s immediate evangelistic contacts. It is the broader task of Christian apologetics, including natural theology, to help create and sustain a cultural milieu in which the gospel can be heard as an intellectually viable option for thinking men and women. It thereby gives people the intellectual permission to believe when their hearts are moved."

HT: Kevin Nelstead at GeoChristian

It's Not Either/Or...

$4 gasoline in the US will drive a lot of change, even in the US Congress. Amidst all the political hem-hawing of this election year, it does look like representatives are more open to drilling and to alternative power. Joseph Petrowkski gives advice to both the Republicans and the Democrats on a both/and strategy, rather than squabbling about an either/or direction.

The demand for electricity isn't going down, either. So we need creative ideas on alternatives.

T.Boone Pickens has some big ideas about building up wind power to replace the use of natural gas-powered electric plants, and then converting cars to run on natural gas. This would, in my opinion, be a nice complement to electric cars, even if batteries can be made more efficient.

I'd like to see more nuclear plants for electricity, but we'll need something else to be operating sooner; it takes 15-20 years or more to build a nuclear power plant and make it operational.

Update: my friend B.R. sent me this article advocating using mass production techniques (and likely employing many laid-off auto workers and others with these skills) to build modularized nuclear power plants in just 40 months.

The Vastness of the Power of the Shed Blood

"Do you see more worth and merit in one drop of Christ's blood to save you, than in all the sins of the world to condemn you?" -- John Bunyan

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

1776 Christians

Mark Batterson cites a list of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and their strong Christian faith:

John Witherspoon was an ordained minister and authored several books of sermons, as well as editing America's first family Bible published in 1791.

Charles Thomson served as Secretary of Congress and was a Biblical scholar. He helped edit the first American translation of the Greek Septuagint into English.

Charles Carroll, the last of the fifty-six signers to pass away at the age of 95 in 1832, wrote out his declaration of faith at the age of eighty-nine. "On the mercy of my Redeemer I rely for my salvation, and on His merits; not on the works I have done in obedience to His precepts."

Another Founding Father, Benjamin Rush, is considered the "Father of American Medicine." He personally trained three thousand medical students. Dr. Rush also founded "The First Day Society" which was the precursor to the Sunday School movement, as well as founding America's first Bible society. It was Benjamin Rush who said the Constitution was "as much the work of Divine Providence as any of the miracles recorded in the Old and New Testament were the effects of divine power."

Francis Hopkinson was a church music director and edited one of the first hymnals printed in America in 1767. He also set 150 psalms to music.

Roger Sherman is the only Founding Father to sign all four of America's Founding documents: the Articles of Association in 1774, the Declaration of Independence in 1776, the Articles of Confederation in 1778, and the U.S. Constitution in 1787. Roger Sherman was also a theologian. He wrote a personal creed that was adopted by his church: "I believe that there is one only living and true God, existing in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, the same in substance, equal in power and glory. That the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are a revelation from God, and a complete rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him."

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Training Your Kids About Media Bias

I believe it's important to train your kids about media bias -- the simple truth is that most journalistic media accounts and other presentations they'll see have some bias. Learning to work through the bias is a key aspect of thinking critically and wisely.

One issue is that it's very difficult to present a complete story. On the evening news, a feature story might take 3-4 minutes. How much of a complex issue can you cover in 3-4 minutes? So the format itself creates bias by imposing limitations. Even in very long newspaper articles, you usually find incomplete representation of all perspectives on a story. So training your children to ask the questions "What didn't they include?" and "Is there another perspective?" is helpful.

Journalism is better at presenting the sensational and the different, than the ordinary and the steady. Frankly, most journalism in free countries is really driven by advertisers looking for audience size and attention. Therefore, help your children understand that the news is not representative of the whole. For example, if there is a plane crash, you can remind everyone in your family that tens of thousands of flights didn't crash today. That's ordinary, and therefore not newsworthy. I bring this up because reading the newspaper or watching the evening news can leave people with the feeling that everything is out of control and spinning badly -- which simply is not true.

The people writing or producing a news story have biases and filters (just like you and me -- they're human). Train your children to consider the point of view in a news story. Gene Veith says this well: "Notice the POINT OF VIEW of a story; that is, not just the ideas as such, but, as in literature, the character through whose mind everything is presented. Who is the “us” and who is the “them”?"

And I think you need to be candid about our own biases and filters. It says something that I have to force myself to read NY Times articles and consider the perspectives presented there, but do not have the same difficulty with the WSJ opinion page.

Our kids are going to have a lot of information thrown at them, and demand quick decisions and allegiance. Therefore give them guidance on evaluating information, and you immediately help them make better decisions.

What tips do you have about helping your kids with media bias?

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Arab and Muslim Are Not the Same Thing

Be responsible for speaking accurately about peoples and religious groups.

Here is a good starter education on Middle East peoples and religious groups.

We Could Use a Few More Studds

Mark Batterson points us to a daring twentieth-century missionary, C.T. Studd, who said

"Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell."

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Christian Meditation

Christian meditation is the practice of focusing our thoughts on the revealed Word of God -- not trying to empty our minds, which is the Eastern meditation strategy.

I recommend this article on meditation by Henry Blackaby. He has a wonderful definition:

"Meditation is that moment when God confronts you with the truth about Himself. It is that moment when you go into the presence of God and let God discuss it with you until you know exactly how to respond to Him, however long it takes."