Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Heavens Declare

"The new Wide Field Camera 3 aboard the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has taken the deepest image yet of the Universe in near-infrared light. The faintest and reddest objects in the image are likely the oldest galaxies ever identified, having formed between only 600–900 million years after the Big Bang. The image shows thousands of galaxies, some more than 12 billion years old. The field view of this image would fit behind a grain of sand held at arm's length against the sky. Almost every dot in this photo is an entire galaxy of stars and who knows what fascinating undiscovered mysteries.

Astronomers use this photo to estimate the number of galaxies in the known universe by counting the visible galaxies shown and multiplying the number of such photos it would take to make a composite of the entire sky. Their calculations estimate that the observable universe contains about 100 billion galaxies."

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. -- Psalm 19:1

Sunday, December 27, 2009

5 Steps for Translating Goals into Achievement

The New year is coming up, and so our thoughts turn to goals and resolutions. Writing out goals isn't that difficult (though sometimes we don't even do that much!). The question becomes "What will I do this year so that I actually achieve worthwhile things?"

Last year I heard about this five-step process, which helped me quite a bit, and so I pass it along to you. I didn't achieve everything I had hoped for, but it was a much closer match than some years!

Step 1. Write down clear goals, and read them frequently (daily, or at least weekly). I'm presuming these will be God-honoring objectives.

Step 2. Identify a powerful Why for each goal. (Examples: I'm exercising regularly because I want to be more fit and better able to handle my God-given roles. I will study Hebrews this year because I want to be prepared to teach through it in early 2010.)

Step 3. Review my actions weekly and make sure they're aligned with achieving the goals I set out. Minimize and where possible eliminate actions that work contrary to the goals.

Step 4. Track progress towards achievement. Make notes in your journal, check off tasks, record milestones.

Step 5. Publicly report to someone or some others about your goals (at the beginning of the year) and your progress (through the year). Give them permission to ask about progress.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Christian Meaning of the "Twelve Days of Christmas"

There is a controversial view that the "Twelve Days of Christmas" have a Christian origin:

1. The "true Love" is God. The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, whose birthday we celebrate on December 25, the first day of Christmas. In the song, Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge that feigns injury to decoy predators from her helpless nestlings, recalling the expression of Christ's sadness over the fate of Jerusalem: "Jerusalem! Jerusalem! How often would I have sheltered you under my wings, as a hen does her chicks, but you would not have it so . . . ." (Luke 13:34)
2. Turtle Doves refers to the Old and New Testaments
3. French Hens refers to faith, hope, and love
4. Calling Birds refers to the Four Gospels or the Four Evangelists
5. Golden Rings refers to the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6. Geese A-laying refers to the six days of creation
7. Swans A-swimming refers to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading, and compassion
8. Maids A-milking refers to the eight beatitudes
9. Ladies Dancing refers to the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10. Lords A-leaping refers to the ten commandments
11. Pipers Piping refers to the eleven faithful apostles
12. Drummers Drumming refers to the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed"

I think it's most likely that the song was originally more secular, and then someone has reverse-engineered Christian symbolism into the lyrics. Still it's a fun way to think about it!

Yes, You Can Laugh in Church

I've seen a number of funny moments in church, but nothing quite like this!

In no way to do I mean to suggest Baptism is anything but a serious event, a wonderful public moment of an inward reality.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to you and yours! May your day be blessed as you celebrate with family and friends -- and above all, the body of Christ.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Something Old to Say about Healthcare Legislation

Several readers have asked me to comment on the health care legislation before the US Congress.

I have strong opinions (mixed with a high level of disgust), but nothing new to say that you cannot find on other blogs and opinion sites.

Let me remind us of something said early in our nation's history: "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. ... Statesmen may plan and speculate for Liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free Constitution, is pure Virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People, in a greater Measure than they have it now, They may change their Rulers, and the forms of Government, but they will not obtain a lasting Liberty." -- John Adams

Christian Perspective on Alcohol

I'd like to write plainly about alcohol, and how Christians handle the issues around alcohol. These are tough issues, but I believe the Bible gives us good counsel that we can follow.

The Bible is clear that drunkenness is a sin (Rom 13:13, 1 Cor 5:11, 1 Cor 6:10, Gal 5:21, Eph 5:18). But there are multiple occasions in the Bible where people are drinking wine and no sin is evident. After three days of wedding celebration in Cana (John 2:1-11) - and we know they would have already drunk plenty of wine at that point - Jesus converts water into some especially good wine for them to enjoy. (Can you imagine your pastor thinking, "Yup, what these people need is…more wine!" ? ) This was his first miracle, and it was sufficient that some disciples put their faith in him based on it.

Some Christians have made the argument that Jesus and the disciples weren't drinking real wine. The idea that the wine in the Bible is non-alcoholic isn't reasonable. I can believe that much of the wine produced in that era was relatively low in alcohol by today's standards. Almost certainly wine was often diluted with water. The technology to create non-alcoholic beer, wine, etc. came much later than the biblical eras.

There is no question that alcohol is frequently abused, and the effects can be devastating to individuals and relationships. The testimony of history is clear. The destructive effects should be an easy sign to steer clear of drunkenness and be aware of how your drinking affects others (even if you don't become drunk).

I think churches should be very careful about serving alcohol, out of sensitivity to those who should not be drinking. It's not a good testimony to put beer or wine in front of alcoholics or children who should not be drinking.

There are many different cultural contexts for alcohol around the world. I have acquaintances in France who have been drinking wine since they were young children. It's simply part of meals and celebrations. They aren't getting drunk. John Wesley directed Methodists to abstain from alcohol - which was a perfectly reasonable thing for the Church to do as a testimony against the prevailing culture in England where alcoholism perhaps exceeded 60% of the English population and people were dying in the streets.

Most of the challenges in the Church come when we confuse personal convictions or cultural-based expectations and legalistically extend them as the measure by which to judge others inside and outside the Church.

Let me illustrate this with my own example. I don't drink any alcohol myself. I'm a teetotaler. I grew up in a region where people made excellent moonshine (corn liquor, also known as Everclear), and drank occasionally until I decided one day in college that I didn't need this anymore. I made a personal conviction that I wasn't going to drink alcohol. I believe God has confirmed that for me multiple times since then. But I don't judge others by that standard.

Don't miss my key point: Distinguish between a personal conviction and a rule that you apply to others. It's important and good to develop your own strong convictions. Do not take a legalist approach to judging others based on your personal conviction.

So, if you have a personal conviction on No Alcohol, don't use that to judge the "righteousness" of believers or not-yet-believers if they choose to drink alcohol.

And if you're using your freedom in Christ to enjoy a glass of wine with a meal, don't use that freedom to look down on teetotalers.

I do believe parents are responsible for protecting kids from inappropriate exposure to alcohol. Follow the laws in your country and region (see Romans 13 about living under authority). Train your children to think correctly about issues like alcohol consumption.

Preserving Freedom in Christ and Care Not to Harm Others

In Christ we have great liberty and freedom (Galatians 5:1), but we must be careful not to put stumbling blocks in front of others (1 Cor 8:9). I have met several youth pastors who feel perfect freedom in Christ to enjoy a beer. But they don't drink because their ministry to youth would be harmed. That's an example of not using our freedom in Christ because we might cause harm to others.
Sidebar: Biology Lesson on Alcohol Metabolism

Even casual observers note that some people "handle" drinking with fewer effects than others. You might think the ability to drink a lot is developed over time. Actually, your capacity for alcohol consumption is mostly genetic. There are two key enzymes involved in alcohol metabolism: alcohol dehydrogenase and acetaldehyde reductase. And there is genetic variation from person to person in the level those enzymes operate at. For example, the Irish and Bavarians and some other people groups have very efficient alcohol metabolism; some of these individuals can drink amounts that would put most people unconscious. American Indians have extremely inefficient alcohol metabolism; it doesn't take a lot of alcohol for them to experience the "buzz," and the effects are slow to wear off because the ethanol stays in their system longer. So there is genetic variation in alcohol metabolism.

Question: Who created that genetic variation? Answer: God did. Why do you judge your neighbor or your brother for having genetic variation that God created?

Another bit of biology: there is only weak-at-best evidence that alcoholism is a genetic trait. It does seem to run in families, but it is difficult scientifically to rule out environment effects. I think it's fair to say that the vulnerability to alcohol abuse may be genetic.

Christian maturity means standing on our freedom in Christ, but not using personal convictions as a legalistic standard for others (including other believers). Romans 14:4 is instructive here: "Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand."

I hope this sparks some helpful discussion and insights for you. I look forward to hearing your perspective in the comments.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Fruitful Preparation…And the Best is Yet to Come

Have you considered how much preparation Paul experienced before his missionary journeys? He was a highly trained Pharisee, the "best of the best of the best," and had dedicated his whole life to the study of the Scriptures. Let's review his next 17 years of preparation:

Saul is converted in Damascus (Acts 9) and almost immediately begins preaching in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God (Acts 9:20). Three years later (see Galatians 1:18 about this timing) Barnabas introduces him to the apostles in Jerusalem (Acts 9:27), and then…Paul is sent off to his home (Tarsus) because he stirred up deadly passion after debating with some Grecian Jews (Acts 9:30). Shipping Saul out of town must have diffused the tension, because the next verse tells us that church enjoyed a time of peace. Paul returns for a visit to Jerusalem fourteen years later, with Titus (Galatians 2:1-2). Some time later, Barnabas asks Paul to join him in Antioch and help the new church there (Acts 11:25-26). It's after all this that the Holy Spirit begins sending Paul out on his three missionary journeys.

We can infer three lessons from this period of ministry and preparation time:

1.He was alone during the three years in Arabia, and that likely was an important part of his preparation. Paul was not being taught by other men (Galatians 1:16), but receiving instruction from the Lord. I imagine he reviewed every part of the Pentateuch, Psalms, and haftarah (comprising what we call the Old Testament) and seeing it anew in the reality of Jesus as the Messiah, Jesus as fully God and fully man, and Jesus as his Lord and Savior. I also suspect it was during this time that Paul learned to discern and hear the voice of God.

2.At some point during the 14 year period Saul changes his name to Paul. Name changes are significant! Paul was a new creation in Christ (2 Cor 5:17), and now has a new name.

3.Paul wasn't just practicing preaching in a room by himself, he was preaching and teaching among Jewish and Gentile audiences. His ministry had some success: Titus, a Greek Gentile, is an early convert who later becomes a key pastor. And people clearly testify that Paul was preaching about Jesus the Messiah. But we have no recorded letters from Paul during this period. There are no other stories about converts or miracles or establishing churches.

I believe there are two key applications for us today:

1.God doesn't shortchange on preparation for ministry (and neither should we). This chronology spans more than 17 years, and God's greatest work through Paul was yet to come.

2.God is so amazingly powerful that even ministry training is fruitful for His Kingdom.

I encourage you to think about your own situation in light of God's development program for Paul. God has used many people to invest in you for years: your parents, teachers, pastors, employers, friends, even your children. And He is calling you to invest generously in others, patiently helping instruct and develop them.

Understand this: God's best ministry through you is likely still in the future.

So let us go forward today in thankful confidence that our loving Lord is developing and training us for ministry in His Name, using all kinds of people and opportunities and experiences.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Creating Fractal Pictures

I've been fascinated by fractal images since the late 1980s. I spent lots of time writing software to produce Mandelbrot images in those days, utterly amazed at their beauty. There are actually many real-world objects with fractal properties.

I recently learned about the Apophysis software, and have been experimenting with it. The image you see here was my first real creation with it.

Here's one person who uses fractal images for backgrounds in worship.

If you have creative kids, this would be a fun program for them to play with.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Bible Reading Plan

My observation is that people who read the Bible best are people who have a PLAN to read it systematically.

Your bible might have a reading plan in it; check. Or you may have one from somewhere that you liked and want to use again -- great!

If nothing else, start with this read the Bible in a year plan.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Media Player Device

Check out this future media player that's reportedly coming from Time, Inc. in 2010:

There's no much here feature-wise that hasn't been done on a cell phone or tablet PC, but it would still be impressive as a magazine/book/whatever reader. The touch interface would be a natural. It's interesting that almost everyone who handles my Kindle tries to manipulate the page by touching the screen, rather than using the side buttons.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Redneck Christmas Lights

Growing up in West Virginia, I really appreciated the humor in this one!

HT: Familyman -- you should get their free newsletter, Dad, if you don't already.

Check Out This Elevator Button

Mentor Like Jesus

I recently read a remarkable book by Regi Campbell titled “Mentor Like Jesus.”

For some months now I’ve felt an increasing burden to help some of our 20’s and 30’s men by sharing things which took me 25 years to learn. I’ve been doodling with ideas about various seminar approaches that might work. And I’ve been only partially satisfied with the one-on-one mentoring that I’m doing with a few men.

So the book title “Mentor Like Jesus” definitely caught my attention! And I’m really interested in the approach that Regi Campbell outlines.

Here are some of his key ideas:

“More time spent with fewer people equals greater Kingdom impact.” Campbell spends a year with just eight guys.

Mentor men in groups. The group learning and positive peer pressure is very powerful. But these aren’t huge groups.

Don’t take volunteers. You select them. Campbell picks men not for past accomplishment but for potential, men he thinks he can help. There is a lot of prayer

Have high expectations. Campbell invites men to apply, then selects 8 from there. Each man sign a covenant that he’ll meet 3 hours each month with the group, and be there unless God prevents him. They read a book a month, plus do homework assignments. They get candid feedback. Campbell visits with them at their workplace once during the year. They have 2 extra times where their wives are included. They have high expectations for prayer.

Make it a multiplication ministry. Part of Campbell’s covenant is that each man will one day, when God says it’s time, mentor 8 others using the same approach. Five “generations” of this results in > 1 million men mentored.

The mentor sets the curriculum. It’s not about what the mentees want to cover, but what the mentor can mentor. Campbell covers very specific topics on being a godly man, husband, and father. He covers communication, how to handle money and possessions, how to discern God’s direction, how to apply Scripture (they memorize many verses together), how to serve others. (Side note: Campbell hints at what he does but does not provide a specific “follow this pattern” curriculum. Each mentor has strengths and experiences he should teach from.)

They’re doing life together. The mentor needs to be transparent as well.

It’s intense, but time-bound. One year. The relationships will go forward, but the training is time-bound. Time limits keep your intensity and focus high.

I would encourage you to think about this approach. I see this as a complementary approach to small groups and adult Sunday School times and typical men's Bible studies. Something similar might work well for women, too. I’m already thinking about how I might run a group like this in 2010.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Concerns about Parallel Thinking of Warmists and Totalitarians

I appreciated Bret Stephens' insights in his column "The Totalities of Copenhagen."

He draws some parallels in thinking between totalitarians and the views of some global warming alarmists:
  • Revolutionary fervor
  • Utopianism
  • Antihumanism
  • Intolerance
  • Monocausism
  • Indifference to evidence
  • Grandiosity
Worth reading and thinking about. Let us remember that men have sinful hearts and we must take steps to guard against sin in our institutions.

Please note: I respect a number of people I've met and read who come at the global warming data from a Christian stewardship perspective, and I do not think they fall into very many of these totalitarian mindsets. The amount of atmospheric CO2 is higher now than at any time we can measure from the past. There are solar radiation cycles which appear to have some inpacts on the earth's temperature (and other planets in our solar system). By at least some measures the Earth is warmer than in the recent past. A warmer earth means we must adapt to some changes (e.g., rising sea levels). Are CO2 levels and temperate related as cause and effect? What should be done by individuals, institutions, and nations? Those are open questions!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Creating a Church Culture of Manly Men

I liked Ray Ortlund's three suggestions for creating a church culture of manly love of brothers for one another:

“Outdo one another in showing honor”
“Bear with one another”
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths but only such as is good for building up”

My additional thought: when brothers love other brothers this way, our wives and sisters in Christ respond positively, too!

Read the whole article, it's not long.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Be a Scofflaw on the "Law" of Attraction

Periodically I'm asked what I think about "The Secret," the "Law of Attraction," and Napoleon Hill's "Think and Grow Rich." The basic idea is that the universe is your servant, and responds to your deepest thoughts. If you think the right way ("magnetically") about wealth, for example, the impersonal universe responds by delivering money to you. This magical thinking is an enormously popular idea with multiple incarnations in human history -- and fundamentally it's a religious idea.

I don't believe this religion squares with Scripture at all. Our thoughts our important, but our thoughts have no control over our environment, and the universe is not impersonal!

In fact, this kind of magical thinking is fundamentally narcissism. (Definition: inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity.)

Sam Vaknin has written this about the narcissism of "magical thinking":

"Magical thinking is one of the hallmarks not only of pathological narcissism, but of a panoply of mental health disorders, including a few personality disorders, most notably the SCHIZOTYPAL personality disorder.

Magical thinking postulates that one is able to exert influence over other people, inanimate objects, and events, merely by projecting one's thoughts. Infants get over this worldview at age 3. Narcissists and other mentally disordered people don't.

The Law of Attraction teaches us that we are responsible for our actions and cognitions and should bear their consequences (which is a good, mature principle of action). But, it also claims that our thoughts translate into real-life events. We are, therefore, to blame for everything that is happening around us, to us, and to others, merely by mutely thinking about it! This is an onerous and terrifying burden to bear. It is the exact opposite of empowerment!

The Law of Attraction is also a fallacious organizing principle: we cannot always tell good from bad, because we cannot see into the future. Some events are blessings in disguise; the fortuitous or serendipitous character and the utility of some occurrences and people becomes known only much later in life; too much of a good thing (wealth, fame, even happiness) is frequently counter-productive.

The dichotomous, black and white view of the world, propagated by the Law of Attraction ("good" vs. "evil" or "bad") is considered a pathology in its own right: it is a defense mechanism known as "splitting" which characterizes early childhood (ages 6 months to 1 year) and vanishes in healthy adults."


So my counsel is to be a scofflaw of the "Law" of Attraction. Put aside childish notions about how the world works, and teach your children to do likewise.

(Giving credit where credit is due: The link between magical thinking and narcissism came from a personal newsletter of Perry Marshall.)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Kids Say the Most Fun Things

One of my subscribers sent these to me. Enjoy!

A little boy was overheard praying:
'Lord, if you can't make me a better boy, don't worry about it.
I'm having a real good time like I am.'


After the christening of his baby brother in church,
Jason sobbed all the way home in the back seat of the car.
His father asked him three times what was wrong.
Finally, the boy replied,
'That preacher said he wanted us brought up in a Christian home,
and I wanted to stay with you guys.'


One particular four-year-old prayed,
'And forgive us our trash baskets
as we forgive those who put trash in our baskets.'


A Sunday school teacher asked her children as they
were on the way to church service,
'And why is it necessary to be quiet in church?'
One bright little girl replied,
'Because people are sleeping.'


A mother was preparing pancakes for her sons, Kevin 5, and Ryan 3.
The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake.
Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson.
'If Jesus were sitting here, He would say,
'Let my brother have the first pancake, I can wait.'
Kevin turned to his younger brother and said,
' Ryan , you be Jesus !'


A father was at the beach with his children
when the four-year-old son ran up to him,
grabbed his hand, and led him to the shore
where a seagull lay dead in the sand.
'Daddy, what happened to him?' the son asked.
'He died and went to Heaven,' the Dad replied.
The boy thought a moment and then said,
'Did God throw him back down?'

A wife invited some people to dinner.
At the table, she turned to their six-year-old daughter and said,
'Would you like to say the blessing?'
'I wouldn't know what to say,' the girl replied.
'Just say what you hear Mommy say,' the wife answered.
The daughter bowed her head and said,
'Lord, why on earth did I invite all these people to dinner?'

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

13 Ways to Bless a Missionary Without Paying for Postage

Excellent ideas for your family to use: "Thirteen Ways to Bless Missionaries Without Paying for Postage."

I especially like these two creative ideas:
  • Purchase an iTunes gift card for them. Have it sent to you and email them the account number.
  • Get friends and family together to create a holiday video greeting for them using Google Video or YouTube. Include lots of people you know they miss.

Read the whole list, see what you and your family can do.

How Not To Get Ready for a Dinner Date

This gets my vote for best five minutes of physical comedy of all time!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Don't Ask Government Programs to Transform Lives

I hope that Christians will see government programs in proper perspective, and not put inappropriate hope in the ability of a government program to transform lives. I'm not opposed to all government programs, by the way, nor do I believe that private enterprise always has the answers to every civic problem. My concern is when Christians think more highly of government programs than they ought.

Star Parker has a nice column about the popular movie "Blind Side" -- underscoring individual love, personal responsibility, and the grace of God expressed to a homeless 15 year old through a Christian couple. She correctly points out that all the solutions that worked in this story are in stark contrast to typical government program efforts.

(Hey, if you've seen this movie, let me know what you thought of it.)

Monday, December 07, 2009

Following the News

Men, one of the most important things you can do to help yourself and your family is become discerning about the news and how it is reported to you. Do not let your children be at the mercy of whomever is controlling the sound bites of the day!

An inevitable bias is the amount of ink or time allotted to communicate a story. A feature story on the CBS Evening News might be 4 minutes long. How completely can you cover multiple angles and perspectives on a complex story in 4 minutes? In the print world, how many people read a full-length story, vs. just accept the headline and move on?

A practical strategy which has helped me in the last two years is to check (where news stories are assembled from thousands of feeds by computer software). For important stories, check multiple sources with predictable biases so you have a fuller, more complete picture. For example, checking the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the San Jose Mercury Press, and Fox News reports will give you more balance and breadth than if you only ever read the Fox News report.

The other strategy I recommend is reading the Bible before you read the news.

Two events are not getting broad spectrum news coverage, that I believe are significant, but seem to be less important to most media sources than the latest poll figures for minor politicians.

First, the coming courts martial of three Navy SEALS who captured a long-wanted terrorist but are facing trial because the terrorist claims the SEALS gave him a fat lip. Since when do we prosecute our own soldiers for fighting and capturing the enemy, and in this case, bringing him back alive? This sets a horrible precedent. I'm amazed that there has been so little news coverage.

Second, the controversy over the emails and software from the University of East Anglia climate research group. It's not clear whether the information was hacked or leaked. But now that it's been made public, there is clear evidence that researchers manipulated data to make it fit global warming expectations, modified software models to shape projections, and covered up or squelched data and researchers who didn't necessarily agree with their perspectives. This is bad science. Considering the amount of money and impact that cap-n-trade bills and Copenhagen agreements will mean, I think it's at the level of fraud. It seriously undermines public confidence in scientists and will make it much more difficult to do effective climate research in the future. And how much is this story being reported on CBS, ABC, and NBC? No coverage at all before the UN announced they would launch an investigation, and precious little since then.

So do not limit your news intake to one source.

Trillions...of Computer Nodes

Trillions from MAYAnMAYA on Vimeo.

Not trying to visualize trillions of deficit dollars here, but the likely future where computer chips are embedded into so many devices that humans are part of a digital ecology. This is the world your children are growing into. We're navigating new technological space. Remember, it's not just that technology is changing rapidly -- the rate of change is increasing.

It's important to help our families adapt to the technological changes. It's simultaneously important to help them understand that the fundamental problems of human relationships (with God, with one another, with Creation) do not change. This is why the Gospel is timeless.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

"Christmas Lights Are Not the Gospel"

I recently received an email asking me to comment about keeping Christ in Christmas. Perhaps you can identify with him:

"Could you write
about keeping the focus of Christmas on Christ when you have
young children? This is something my family and I have struggled
with in light of not only the commercialization of the holidays, but
also the visual images (colored lights, trees, etc.) and the
predominance of secular movies and specials on TV.
I know, we could just turn off the TV, but we try to be as selective
as possible without being on a strict blackout. Would appreciate
your thoughts and practical suggestions."

First off, kudos to parents who have some concern about what their children take in, and want to help them interpret things well. This is part of our responsibility as parents, to train them to be discerning.

I think the real issue is to stay focused on Jesus year round. To be clear, I mean the biblical Jesus, not a watered-down pale and powerful imitation jesus that isn't the I AM, doesn't deal with sin, and can't save souls.

Let's separate this into a family issue (how to help our children understand), and the adults fighting the secularization and commercialization of Christmas (should I boycott Wal-mart if they don't say "Merry Christmas?").

On the family front, it's all about the dialogue you have in your home. Over years. With children individually and as a family. It's important to help your children understand the real story of Incarnation -- especially the why. Help them connect Christ's incarnation with his crucifixion and his resurrection. The secular/commercialization keeps Christmas separate from Easter, and therefore emasculates the power from the story.

It's also critical for parents to stress the giving side of Christmas traditions. This counters the selfishness inside us all that wants the focus to be on the getting.

Is it ok to watch Rudolph and laugh? Is it ok that the kids learn secular music like Frosty the Snowman? I say yes. They won't be able to connect with the culture God's called them to reach unless they understand these cultural touchpoints.

The key is to help your family understand the Gospel (which we need every day!) and also to understand that there are all kinds of traditions and practices that have sprung up around Christmas that are NOT the Gospel. Many of our cherished Christmas decorations (e.g., trees and wreaths) go back to Victorian England. Rudolph and Frosty are creations of the 20th century. Santa Claus has connections to Saint Nicholas (there are multiple possible stories), but the red-suited Santa at the North Pole with elves and sleigh is 20th century. December 25th is a date co-opted from another religion.

As your children get older you can do more to help them understand that these secular Christmas elements are a hollow shell compared to the beauty of the real Gospel, the real story of God Incarnate who came to die for you, and who conquered death. Yes, they're shiny and entertaining and attractive. But they're like cotton candy compared to the steak and potatoes of the Gospel, unsatisfying and teeth-rotting. And this understanding leads us to praise God for opening our eyes and hearts to His truth, and to pray that He would draw many others to Himself and save them, too.

Now, on to the adult "battle" against the secularization and commercialization of Christmas.

Satan has always been working against a correct understanding of the Gospel, including Christmas. He hates God and hates people made in the image of God. He is the real enemy here, and we're given instructions in how to fight against his crummy schemes (see Ephesians 6 and 1 Peter 5:9) -- standing firm on truth, prayer, faith.

I don't see anywhere in the Bible that we should expect not-yet-believers to preach the Gospel, tell Biblical stories correctly, or speak about Jesus if they don't want to. They're blind! They lack understanding! They're spiritually dead! So I'm not bothered if someone says, "Happy Holidays." It may create an opportunity to gently instruct someone. I don't need to freak out if a mall has Santa's sleigh and stuffed reindeer rather than a Nativity scene. It's an reminder to intercede for people. I am not interested in signing petitions or boycotting stores over these issues. Let's look for opportunities to love people, especially the hard-to-love.

Joke: Did you hear they're canceling nativity scenes in Washington, D.C.? Can't find three wise men.

In the US we're privileged people and should work to preserve our constitutional freedom of religion. Christians should not be people who put others down. Our nation has never been perfect on religious freedom, nor do I expect it to be. Not everything was ideal in the 1950s, or in any decade. I believe in Christians logically, calming invoking Constitutional rights and sharing from our history. But whining and wheedling and childish behavior should not be in our repertoire. I am not sure if our constitutional freedoms will always continue, but I am sure in our freedom in Christ -- including our freedom as we suffer.

Candidly, I fear the situation where we're relying upon civic and government institutions to get the Christian story right. That's the job of the Church, which is comprised of Christ-alive & transformed believing individuals.

Along these lines, please read Allen Murray's short article, "Christmas Lights Are Not the Gospel."

Dissecting the "New" Gospel

Kevin de Young absolutely nails it -- with grace and truth -- in his article about the "new" gospel, which is not a life-transforming message at all.

Read it. A couple of times. You won't be disappointed. You're probably going to be challenged.

Friday, December 04, 2009

In Christ All Things Are Held Together

Being a Ph.D. Molecular Biologist, I love the story of laminin. Louie Giglio tells it well. (If you're pressed for time, start watching at the 3 minute mark.)

Tiger and the Consequences of Sin

I highly recommend you read Hunting Tiger Woods, an excellent article by C.J. Mahaney. His key points:

Though Tiger Wood would like to deal with his problems privately, apart from media hounds, his real need is for a Savior. Because "Tiger is being hunted by something more menacing than journalists. Tiger’s real enemy is his sin, and that’s an enemy much more difficult to discern and one that can’t be managed in our own strength. It’s an enemy that never sleeps."

Christians should not be seeking the entertainment and morbid fascination of this story, but praying for Tiger and his family.

We should pay attention to our own situations! Any "secret sins" that we hope no one discovers? Anything we need to confess?

Read the whole article here. But act on what you read!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Strategy: Help Boys Become Christian Men

Vern Poythress back in 1999 published a great article which I recommend to you: "How I Have Helped My Boys Become Christian Men." Print it off, mark it up, and take steps today to make things better with your son (or boys within your sphere of influence).

I like his idea of transitioning a boy from "Master" (12 and under) to "Mister" at age 13.

How to Lose An Argument Online

Seth Godin's counsel in "How to Lose an Argument Online" is worth reviewing:

  1. Have an argument. Once you start an argument, not a discussion, you've already lost. Think about it: have you ever changed your mind because someone online started yelling at you? They might get you to shut up, but it's unlikely they've actually changed your opinion.
  2. Forget the pitfalls of Godwin's law. Any time you mention Hitler or even Communist China or Bill O'Reilly, you've lost.
  3. Use faulty analogies. If someone is trying to make a point about, say, health care, try to make an analogy to something conceptually unrelated, like the space shuttle program, and you've lost.
  4. Question motives. The best way to get someone annoyed and then have them ignore you is to bypass any thoughtful discussion of facts and instead question what's in it for the person on the other end. Make assumptions about their motivations and lose their respect.
  5. Act anonymously. What are the chances that heckled comments from the bleachers will have an impact?
  6. Threaten to take action in another venue. Insist that this will come back to haunt the other person. Guarantee you will spread the word or stop purchasing.
  7. Bring up the slippery slope. Actually, the slope isn't that slippery. People don't end up marrying dogs, becoming cannibals or harvesting organs because of changes in organization, technology or law.
  8. Go to the edges. This is a variant of the slippery slope, in which you bring up extremes at either end of whatever spectrum is being discussed.

So, what works?

Earn a reputation. Have a conversation. Ask questions. Describe possible outcomes of a point of view. Make connections. Give the other person the benefit of the doubt. Align objectives then describe a better outcome. Show up. Smile.


Where possible, I recommend dialogue in person rather than online. The amount of information you exchange is so much greater (i.e., tone, inflection, body language -- which don't carry over online well) that you're more likely to generate good results.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Jake and the USC

"As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5While I am in the world, I am the light of the world." (John 9:1-4)

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Repost: What Fathers Should Teach Their Sons

Some of my newer readers missed this, so I wanted to bring it to people's attention:

It's been curious to see how much email I've gotten about this essay, but only one comment. (Hint: I'd welcome more comments. What did I miss? What do you recommend?)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Want to See Change? Are You Willing to Do This?

"What sacrifices will you make for the change you want to see?"

That's the question I've been asking lately - for myself, my family, my ministry for Christ, for neighbors and nations. I want to see more people I know entering the Kingdom of God and serving joyfully for Christ. I want to increase the number of people competent to teach God's Word to others. I want my children to be strong in the Lord. I want our marriage to honor the Lord. I want to be a wiser leader and better steeped in Scripture. I want our church to grow by conversion and be an equipping center for sending people to neighbors and nations. I want to lose fat and build muscle so I can serve others better.

There are many changes I want to see. But positive changes require sacrifice. I will have to give up something that I kind of like, secretly enjoy, or even something that's been very effective in the past, in order to see the changes I want to see.

Much of my day-to-day life is built on mindsets, habits, and practices that I've held for months and years, and those routines are generally what produce the results I see. I have habits for studying the Word and for prayer, and routines about when and what I eat, how much I sleep, how I interact with my family and friends, how I spend money, what I do for entertainment. I'm not completely on autopilot, but I do have a many functional habits, rituals, and routines.

This is true for churches as well as individuals. We have treasured mindsets, habits, practices and routines that drive much of our time and energy. Routines and predictability give us comfort and give us strong foundations, up to a point. When they become the focus rather than God, they're idols. They're deadweight that pulls us down. Jesus is life, not rituals.

I'm not saying everything is bad and must be sacrificed! When we plateau and stop growing, then we need to seriously ask what needs to be sacrificed to grow again. If we want to see different results - positive changes - then we must wisely discern what mindsets, habits, practices, and routines need to be different. In short, we have to address the question "What sacrifices will you make for the change you want to see?"

We're weak people, of course. We tend to exploit two strategies to shortcut this question and avoid making sacrifices.

(1) First, we rationalize that the change we desire isn't going to happen anyway, or for a very long time, or is just not realistic for the near future. So we don't need to change anything about the way we live.

(2) Second, we displace the need for change on someone else. "I'm fine, I don't need to make any painful changes - it's those other people who need to change. Then everything would get better."

Be mature. Don't allow either of these to derail you from a tremendous growth opportunity, and drawing closer to God in obedience.

(If I haven't made you uncomfortable yet, please go back to the beginning and reread.)

Let me help you unpack your thinking.

Mindsets. How do you think about yourself? How you think about your spouse and children and extended family? How do you think about God's call on your life? What do your behaviors tell you about how you really think about people and situations?

Habits. Is there something mindless and useless that takes up more than a few moments of your week that needs to be sacrificed, however enjoyable? What are some habits that you know do not help you or help others? What are some positive habits that may still be a distraction from the desired change you seek?

Practices. What's the good thing which is the enemy of the best thing? Is there a constructive shakeup to the order in which you do things? What habits contribute to "numbed autopilot stumble along through life" behavior rather than dynamic growth in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ?

Routines. What are our conventional schedules and programs which keep up busy enough to have no margin for creating and developing new ministry areas? What are the "sacred" things in our church life which have a big "Don't Touch" label - and why? What would it take to hear equal parts criticism and "Wow!" responses?

Working through this takes humility and prayer.

Let's push ahead for Christ's sake!

The Church in China

China is a large, diverse, important nation in world history. There have only been a few decades in their several thousand year history when they have not been the superpower in Asia. Today the government is Communist but practices an form of economic openness.

When you hear news about China, I encourage you to think about the story behind the story. My Chinese friends remind me that the government will do business with other nations, but it is not about friendship. There are layers of complexity and fear and greed that drive decisions.

One of the most important stories behind the story is what God is doing in China. The Wall Street Journal had a recent opinion article describing house churches in China (perhaps 100 million believers strong). One of my Christian Chinese friends believes it is a "race of sorts" between the Communist government and the power of the Gospel. As I wrote earlier, "Marxists fear religion -- and Christianity in particular -- because it's a competitor for moral transcendence and gives people heart-satisfying reasons to abandon their fears."

May the Lord bless His Church in China!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Hugging Kids

Here's a great picture!

Hey, Dad! How are you doing with hugs for your kids?

Do your kids see your affection for your beloved wife on a daily basis?

Go out there and give extra hugs today.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving Day for those of you in the US!

It's a good day to review some of our history. This is a useful, short article about the Puritans in New England.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Use This Framework for Dealing with Abortion Questions

Here's a helpful framework for dealing with abortion questions. Recommended!

Alan Shlemon recently gave a defense of the pro-life position at Central Michigan University and he focused on just two claims:

(1) the unborn is a distinct, living, and whole human being from the moment of conception;

(2) abortion is discrimination: it disqualifies a group of human beings (the unborn) from being valuable because of an arbitrary quality or characteristic.

He then fielded objections from the audience. The vast majority of objections against the pro-life view, he says, come in one of two forms.

They either assume the unborn is not a human being.

Or, they disqualify the unborn from being a valuable human being based on an arbitrary quality or characteristic.

When I hear a defense for abortion, I figure out which category it falls in.

Then, I can show them the misstep by appealing to one of the two claims I defended in my opening remarks.

The simplicity of this is excellent, and principled.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Here's a Song to Get Stuck in Your Heart

I want songs like this to be stuck in my heart.

The Key Math Insight From 1931 That You'd Probably Never Heard Of

You may never had heard of one of the three most important discoveries of the 20th century: Godel's Incompleteness Theorem.

In effect, Godel transformed the Liar's Paradox ("This sentence is false.") into math. He humbled a lot of great mathematical minds in the process!

So why am I writing this on a blog for husbands and fathers? Several reasons:

1. Godel's Theorem reminds us of our limitations and humbles us.

2. Though the math won't interest many of you, the historic significance and critical shift in mathematics and philosophy changed our world.

3. Godel's Theorem provides a framework for understanding the role of God and the universe, of harmonizing science and faith.

Perry Marshall has a terrific article using Godel's Theorem of Incompleteness to explain why God is a conscious Person outside the systems of the universe. Highly recommended.

Now you'll have something very impressive to speak about at the dinner table tonight! :-)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Why I Don't Blog or Twitter About My Family

People sometimes ask me to share more about my wife and family (meaning, write in emails and blog posts and on Twitter). I think these requests are sincere. I'm a real person with a real family. People want to know more about my world.

I don't say more online about my beloved wife or my children (or my extended family) for two primary reasons:

1. I want to shelter and protect them.

Though I've had no death threats recently, nor am I doubtful of God's ability to protect my family, I am mindful that there is evil in this world. Why should I give out information about them to people who might use that information to misuse it? I'm amazed that people publish information online that shouts out "Hey, I'm traveling from now until then, and my wife and little kids are home all alone without me."

2. Writing about them makes it harder to be in close, trust relationships with them.

It's a major withdrawal from the "trust" account if I speak about them without their permission, even in the midst of our church "family." Writing online would require an even larger withdrawal!

So I'm as transparent about my life as I can be with a large online audience, but that transparency fades to black when it comes to my close friends and family members.

Twitter, Blogs as Influence Tools

I've heard a bunch of people say things about blogs and Twitter like "Waste of time, I don't get much out of it."

No doubt that much time can be wasted. But since most of the people reading this are called to be leaders, I want to challenge you:

It's a mistake to focus on what you get from blogs and Twitter and Facebook (and...). Instead, focus on the people you're serving! These are tools for influencing others -- encouraging, coaching, teaching, rebuking, helping others!

Michael Hyatt says that Twitter is a leadership amplifier. All communications media amplify your leadership ability (or inability).

The personal benefit of blogging and Twitter is increased clarity that results from the discipline of writing things down. And that clarity of thinking in turn benefits others!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

How To Be A Content Producer

Many of you are called upon to produce content on a regular basis -- sermons, devotionals, lessons, articles, etc. I'm actually happiest when I'm preparing new information to share, whether through my teaching ministry, my blogs, emails and conversations with friends, or coaching materials for Bible teachers worldwide. But everyone who is called upon to be a regular content producer can hit some dry spells, and feels challenged to keep up with demand.

Here are a few thoughts on how to be a great and regular content producer.

1. You must be a world-class content consumer and a good thinker. Take in material from a broad spectrum on a regular basis. Since there is nothing new under the sun, a lot of content production is about synthesizing information across disciplines, finding new ways to express ideas, and solving problems people experience. That requires thinking, which is distinct from input. (A common error is to confuse having more input with actually thinking about a topic or issue in depth.)

2. Your motivation needs to be serving others. The only sustainable driver for a content producer is the strong desire to serve an audience.

3. Produce regularly, and share what's best. I recommend you write daily. Record audios and presentations. Push yourself even when you feel dry. Produce potentially share-able information consistently. Then...share what's best. Not everything you produce will be good to share -- but you won't get to the quality you want unless you push yourself on quantity first. The hardest thing is the first draft. The real work of writing comes in editing and reworking.

4. Use feedback. You probably won't get as much constructive feedback as you'd like, but use what comes. What did people respond to? What pricked them into action? What puzzled them and left them more confused? Paying attention to these things helps you sharpen the quality of your product, and also gives you new ideas about what to write/speak about in the future!

P.S. If you'd like to be much better at #1, check out Keys to Accelerated Learning.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Undermining Trust in Authority

One of the characteristics of our age (and probably true of youth for several thousand years) is deep mistrust of authority.

People don't trust leaders, institutions, or authority figures. Curiously, there's usually a simultaneous craving for good and great figures and heroes.

I'm still meditating on this situation, mulling over it like a cow working on her cud. But one insight has come to me that I will pass on:

Satan fuels this mistrust of human authority figures because it spills over to how people think about the goodness and greatness and truth-worthiness of God.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Heel..And Experience Joy

I recently saw a lady trying to walk her energetic puppy, who was running, rolling, sniffing, and constantly straining against the leash -- everywhere except by her. She was pleading in frustration, and yanking hard on the leash. The puppy was either trying to pull her along as he sprinted out front, or refused to come to her when he wanted to sniff longer around a tree. Neither she nor the puppy looked the least bit happy.

A few minutes later I saw a man walking with a mature German Sheppard. What first caught my eye was the absence of a leash (we have a leash law in our town.) But then I noticed that no leash was needed. The dog heeled beautifully, perfectly keeping pace with the man, and joyfully kept his attention either on his master or looking straight ahead. The man spoke quietly to him. The deep affection between them was obvious. I watched them enjoying their walk together until they turned the corner out of sight.

A dog heeling next to his master is a curious picture of the joy of the Christian life.

I thought about how many times I’ve acted like that puppy: running ahead of God, sniffing after things that are of no account to Him, barking in frustration when pulling at the end of the tether, choking myself in resistance to God’s direction. Puppies are absolutely convinced they know better than people where we should be going, how fast, and when to take diversions. You and I have behaved like that with our loving Father in heaven, haven’t we?

Contrast that with the joy that we can experience when we walk with our Father, by His side, looking frequently to Him, submitting to His pace and direction. No straining. We respond to gentle words. The biggest satisfaction is simply being with our Lord and Master, Teacher, and Friend.

Our ability to joyfully live the life God has for us is utterly dependent on our close connection with God and obedience to His direction. Jesus told us we can do nothing without him: “Apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) Our relationship with Christ is designed to be like the relationships in the Trinity: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.” (John 5:19-20)

What can you do today to experience joy as you walk well with God, as you are enabled by the Holy Spirit?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Toughest Par 3

I've played some golf, like to watch it on TV. But you don't have to be a golf fan to enjoy reading about the world's highest and longest par 3 hole.

No Photoshopping, this is for real. You have to take a helicopter to reach the tee. I'm not sure I could stand that close to the edge and swing!

Celebrating the Mayflower Compact

Today in 1620 the new citizens of a new land signed the landmark agreement we call the Mayflower Compact. It is as amazing and distinctive as it is brief. (Compare the bloat of our current legislative agreements and legal contracts!)

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.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Real Men See the Evidence of God's Grace

This is an excellent counter-strategy to discouragement: keep notes about the evidence of God's grace.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Enduring Appeal of Marxism

"Part of the genius of Marxism, and a reason for its enduring appeal, is that it feeds man's neurotic fear of social catastrophe while providing an avenue for moral transcendence." -- Bret Stephens

Marxists fear religion -- and Christianity in particular -- because it's a competitor for moral transcendence and gives people heart-satisfying reasons to abandon their fears.

20th Anniversary Celebration

Let us rejoice with our brothers and sisters and friends in Germany as they celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Wall coming down!

This is arguably one of the most significant events in the 20th century, certainly within my lifetime. I can still remember watching the news coverage of people chipping on it and singing happily. My father had taken a short bus tour of the East German side of Berlin only a few years before, said it was one of the most depressing sites he'd ever seen.

I find it curious that it's not getting as much attention here in the US as I would have expected, given the prominent US role in freeing people in Eastern Europe. Perhaps we're distracted with domestic issues. Perhaps it's preferable to celebrate Nazi defeats more than Communist defeats.

I hope and pray that lessons of what it took to bring down Russian communism and its satellite empires is not forgotten.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Prayerlessness = Unbelief ...And How to Remedy It

Take a few moments and reflect on Kevin de Young's recent blog post on prayerlessness as unbelief.

Excerpts to whet your appetite:

"There may be many reasons for our prayerlessness—time management, busyness, lack of concentration—but most fundamentally, we ask not because we think we need not. or we think God can give not. Deep down we feel secure when we have money in the bank, a healthy report from the doctor, and powerful people on our side. We do not trust in God alone. Prayerlessness is an expression of our meager confidence in God’s ability to provide and of our strong confidence in our ability to take care of ourselves without God’s help."

"You don’t need to work and work at discipline nearly as much as you need faith. You don’t need an ordered life to enable prayer, you need a messy life to drive you to prayer. You don’t need to have everything in order before you can pray. You need to know you’re disordered so you will pray. You don’t need your life to be fixed up. You need a broken heart."

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Seeing Jesus as our Manly King

I've written before about Jesus not being a Breck girl, and the problems for some men when we portray an incomplete picture of Jesus.

So I really liked this short video from Pastor Mark Driscoll about how we sing to the Warrior King.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

What is RSS and Why

Advices for Parenting the "Terrible Threes"

I liked this advice from Ron Edmondson:

Here is my advice for surviving the terrible threes:

Suffer through it! Most likely, it will not last long,, perhaps not even a whole year, and there is hope on the other side.

Be consistent - This is not the time to give in to the child’s outbursts. This is the time to consistently follow through with prescribed discipline.

Keep loving - As much as your child tries your patience, continue to always exhibit love to your child, even during discipline.

Experiment – Use different discipline methods until you find one that works for this stage of the child’s life.

Remember you are the adult – Sometimes when the child is showing his or her worse side it is tempting to show yours. Keep your cool. Be mature. Handle these days firmly, but calmly. Remember you are modeling behavior for your child.

Teach your child – This phase can be a great opportunity to teach your child how to respond to disappointment and frustration.

Don’t be afraid to share your situation with others. Often parents are embarrassed because of their children’s behavior during this stage of life so they hide the struggle; not realizing that so many other parents experience the same with their children. The biggest surprise at this stage of your child’s life may be when you discover you are not unique in this struggle.

By the way, these work in most other phases of a child’s life also.

Frightening Stats on "Christian" Kids

Our CE Director recently attended the D6 Conference, and reported this information to the pastors and elders at our church. I'd encourage every dad and every church leader to look through these -- then repent, ask God for specific direction, and pray for strength to lead our children well.
"Children are living in a state of crisis!" George Barna September 25, 2009
" Moral foundation is formed by age 9.
" Spiritual foundation by age 13; no significant spiritual change by any other age groups.
" 69% of youth say they know all or most of the Bible stories and themes.
" Most parents say kids are incapable of making important moral and spiritual decisions until age 13 or 14.
" Kids are getting less than one hour per week of spiritual experience.
" 87% of parents are satisfied with what the church does.
" 2% of 13 year olds have a Biblical world view.
" Only 1 of 3 thirteen year olds is born again.
" 4 of 5 thirteen year olds don't know what worship is.
" Most never experience God's presence
" Biblical knowledge is embarrassing.
" 20% of students who were highly churched as teens remained spiritually active by age 29. - Barna / Missions Frontier

Darren Whitehead, Next Gen Ministries, Willow Creek Church
" Church kids not much different than world.
" 60-80% leaves the church. Whitehead
" Church kids have shallow Biblical knowledge. Whitehead

"The majority of self identified unbelievers in this country are former church kids. Perhaps for the first time in church history those most inclined toward belief - our own children - are walking away from the faith at an alarming rate." Unchristian by David Kinnaman

"Only 17% of the 1009 adults participated in family devotions with any degree of regularity. Shift by Bryan Hanes p. 43. Copyright 2009.

What will the next generation look like?
" Builders: born 1927-1945, 65% Bible based believers
" Boomers: born 1946-1964, 35% Bible based believers
" Buster: born 1965-1983, 16% Bible based believers
" Bridgers: born 1984 or later, 4% Bible based believers

While many today might classify themselves as believers, only 4% of this next generation would affirm themselves as Bible-believing Christians!" Battle Cry for a Generation by Ron Luce

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

30 year anniversary of Iranian Embassy Hostage Crisis

It's hard to believe it's been 30 years since Iranians stormed the US embassy in Tehran. Here's an interesting slideshow of the events.

Thinking Clearly about HSAs

My friend Matt Perman has an excellent post on health-savings accounts and practical ideas that can and will work for improving health insurance. Highly recommended if you're as frustrated as I am about the paucity of clear thinking on the whole health care debate.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Christians Making the World Better

There is a lot of suffering and pain and sadness in this world. It's a broken system, and nothing short of the Lord Jesus' return will fully heal it.

Yet God works through His people today and the world is better because of His love and mercy and grace and power.

If I had a special magnet and could remove all the evidences of God's grace at work today, what would be left? Nothing you'd want to see or experience for long.

10 Million Words

I’m regularly challenged by Tim Challies’ observations and writing. He has a new year-long blog project: read and review every non-fiction book on the NYTimes bestseller list! What a terrific way to assess US Culture through the lens of what’s selling. It’s called 10 Million Words and worth your time.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

I Lost My RSS Feed List!

My computer hard drive died recently. I didn't have a complete backup, so I lost some information. I've been slowly adding back applications I need on a replacement drive. It's been an unsettling transition, moreso than I expected.

One of the things I lost was my list of RSS feeds. I had a list of about 75-80 blogs that I monitored regularly using RSS. I didn't have a backup.

At first I thought, "No problem, I remember most of them."

Reality: I remember some of them, but not all because I trusted the computer system to bring information from new blog posts to my attention.

My next thought: "Ok, I'll just gradually add them back as I remember them. That will be good since I'll only remember the most valuable ones."

Reality: I am slowly remembering good ones. Yesterday I remembered another blog when the author emailed me -- how could I have forgotten his blog!

Growing realization: I was far too content to swallow a fire hose of incoming data streams without enough discrimination.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Sensing the Mood, and the Helix of History

I read a number of political blogs and columns on a regular basis, trying to be discerning about understanding the times and what we should do (see: men of Issachar) in order to lead our families well.

There is so much distressing news that it's not safe to read these things until you've spent time in the Word and are well-connected with our Lord.

I don't share much of what I read here on this blog because I fear I will discourage you more than encourage you. Two opinion pieces in the WSJ yesterday did seem worth relaying to you.

Peggy Noonan has a keen insight about the disheartened mindset of key leaders outside of Washington:

"The biggest threat to America right now is not government spending, huge deficits, foreign ownership of our debt, world terrorism, two wars, potential epidemics or nuts with nukes. The biggest long-term threat is that people are becoming and have become disheartened, that this condition is reaching critical mass, and that it afflicts most broadly and deeply those members of the American leadership class who are not in Washington, most especially those in business."

She points out that increasingly people doubt the problems we're facing can be solved. And at the same time many people in government roles do not seem to understand that what is good and strong about the US can be harmed.

I think this is spot-on analysis, and recommend the article to you. Like so many opinion pieces, Ms. Noonan does not provide a prescription or solution.

I have commented to a number of friends that it may be a painful and good thing if Americans recognized the limits of government "solutions." But it's hard to see a way out. There have been desperate times in our history before (1790s, the 1860s, the 1930s, the 1970s) when citizens believed the end of the US was near.

Victor Davis Hanson points out some similarities between the challenges President Obama has "inherited" and what President Truman inherited. I believe it's important to study history not because history precisely repeats itself, but because news is pretty much the same things happening to different people. Time is not circular, but I could argue it feels helical to us. We're on the same side of the helix as in the past, and so events look similar. History is available to us to study and learn from (if we will.)