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, 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?


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 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.