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:

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 -- 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.


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


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 site, a great family guy, and a smart cookie. I wish I could hire him!