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.


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)


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, 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, "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.

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.