Friday, December 31, 2010

Feeling Overwhelmed?

I'm noticing a pattern for myself:

I have so many things I want to do that I'm overwhelmed, and don't get very much of any of them completed. The temptation to "go do something else" (usually not as hard) is very strong.

(I thought I'd share it here in hopes it's a helpful observation for you.)

Here's a hypothesis: I feel the overwhelm because I lack confidence in my planning. I feel the overwhelm because of fears (looking foolish, getting into 'unsafe' territory, fear of failure, etc.). I feel...

Hey, maybe that's at the heart of the issue? I'm focusing too much on my feelings!

What about you?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Defining Spiritual Leadership

Excellent thoughts here from David Murray about spiritual leadership. I've recently been rereading Oswald Sanders' Spiritual Leadership and this hit home as well.

I like Joel Beeke's definition: "Spiritual leadership is moving people by biblical means, in dependency upon the Holy Spirit, to do God's will." Here's my own: "A Christian leader serves God and His people by exemplifying godly character and conduct; by communicating God's Word to everyone with wisdom and love; by excelling in vocational responsibilities; by uniting, equipping and inspiring God's people for worship and works of service; and by preparing them for eternal life." It's a bit of a mouthful and probably still doesn't cover all the bases. Let me expound it a little.

1. He serves God and His people

The Christian leader sees himself primarily as a servant not a ruler. And he is a servant of God first, then of His people.

2. He exemplifies godly character and conduct

The internal life comes first. Without a Christ-like core, everything else will eventually decay and rot. But character does issue in external conduct. Modeling holiness of life is perhaps the most powerful and yet most neglected element of spiritual leadership.

3. He communicates God's Word

Christian leaders read and study God's Word in order to communicate it wisely and lovingly to Christian and non-Christian alike, as opportunity arises. He is concerned to speak God's Word more than his own and to make sure all his own are consistent with God's.

4. He excels in vocational responsibilities

He does not over-spiritualize leadership by thinking that prayer and Bible study will cover a multitude of incompetencies and inefficiencies in everyday life. He recognizes his duty to be organized, to be efficient, to keep appointments, to prepare for meetings, to inspire trust and respect by wise financial stewardship, etc.

5. He unites, equips, and inspires God's people for worship

He unites God's people in thoughtful, orderly, reverent and Word-centered worship. But He also leads and directs worship so that it reaches and inspires the heart and the emotions. Like the Father, he wants worship to be full of Truth and Spirit.

6. He equips and inspires God's people for works of service

While prioritizing worship, he also teaches, trains, organizes, and enables God's people to serve Him, His Church, and His World as their talents and opportunities permit.

7. He prepares God's people for eternal life

Eternity is ever before him. However busy his life or his church's life, however much he and God's people serve here below, the spiritual leader is ever mindful that all this is all-too short preparation for the long world to come.


Monday, December 27, 2010

When Fathers Go to Church...

This study seems consistent with my observation -- when fathers attend church regularly, their adult children are much more likely to be regular worshippers.

Here's an excerpt:

"In short, if a father does not go to church, no matter how faithful his wife’s devotions, only one child in 50 will become a regular worshipper. If a father does go regularly, regardless of the practice of the mother, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will become churchgoers (regular and irregular). If a father goes but irregularly to church, regardless of his wife’s devotion, between a half and two-thirds of their offspring will find themselves coming to church regularly or occasionally.

A non-practicing mother with a regular father will see a minimum of two-thirds of her children ending up at church. In contrast, a non-practicing father with a regular mother will see two-thirds of his children never darken the church door. If his wife is similarly negligent that figure rises to 80 percent!

The results are shocking, but they should not be surprising. They are about as politically incorrect as it is possible to be; but they simply confirm what psychologists, criminologists, educationalists, and traditional Christians know. You cannot buck the biology of the created order. Father’s influence, from the determination of a child’s sex by the implantation of his seed to the funerary rites surrounding his passing, is out of all proportion to his allotted, and severely diminished role, in Western liberal society."

Read the whole essay.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Fathers and Sons

The first part of this video is from the terrific film "Secondhand Lions"

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Kill Kids by Destroying Their Imagination

Haven't read it, but the theme sounds excellent. Dad's need to pay attention to these issues for our children and grandchildren.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Studying Books -- the New Old Mantra

New mantra for men: it's not enough to read. You must study.

I wrote earlier this week lamenting that men weren't readers. Ok. I'm not going to whine or cajole or plead. I will call you to a high standard, and challenge you to step up to your God-given responsibilities and challenges.

Simply passing your eyeballs over the pages of a book will not do. Invest yourself into books (that are worth it) and study, in order to strengthen your mind and thinking.

Some suggestions for study:

1. Select good book, challenging books -- the ones that help you become a better man, husband, father, leader.

2. Write the month and date you start reading a book inside the cover. You'll be amazed when you come back to books later and see how God brought that into your life at that time for a reason.

3. Read in 2 or 3 books at a time. You're less likely to get bored, and the cross-fertilization of ideas and disciplines will turbocharge your learning.

4. Write in your books. Really mark 'em up, make 'em yours. Studying means reading with pen in hand and interacting with the text.

5. Plan to pass along the best material you find, with an explanation of why you recommend it. This forces you to summarize the key ideas and place the book in the context of other books, topics, etc.

Study, men.

I have a whole course on learning faster, if you're interested.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

3 Steps Forward -- Fit in Hard Thinking in Your Busy Schedule

I know you're scrambling, busy with MANY things going simultaneously. It's difficult to write, create, think clearly about complex problems, and complete projects.

Here's a three-step process towards being more fruitful (meaning, creating value for yourself and others):

1. Print off this article:
"Getting Creative Things Done: How to Fit Hard Thinking Into a Busy Schedule"

2. Read it, study it.

3. Get your calendar out and start implementing this strategy.

Start on step 1 now.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Lion Chaser's Manifesto

I have this on my bathroom mirror and read it regularly. I commend it to you!

Lion Chaser's Manifesto

Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. Grab life by the mane. Set God-sized goals. Pursue God-ordained passions. Go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention. Keep asking questions. Keep making mistakes. Keep seeking God. Stop pointing out problems and become part of the solution. Stop repeating the past and start creating the future. Stop playing it safe and start taking risks. Expand your horizons. Accumulate experiences. Consider the lilies. Enjoy the journey. Find every excuse you can to celebrate everything you can. Live like today is the first day and last day of your life. Don't let what's wrong with you keep you from worshiping what's right with God. Burn sinful bridges. Blaze a new trail. Criticize by creating. Worry less about what people think and more about what God thinks. Don't try to be who you're not. Be yourself. Laugh at yourself. Quit holding out. Quit holding back. Quit running away.

Chase the lion.

(Mark Batterson)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Men, But Not Readers

"The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the one who cant read them." - Mark Twain

Why is that so few men read books?

There are lists of recommended books (here's one from The "art of manliness" website -- takes a while to load all the pictures...hmmm... maybe that tells us something about men?).

Perhaps we're too easily distracted by things which are less work than reading.

Perhaps we think we've done all our reading in school.

Perhaps we're just lazy.

My counsel: buck the trends, be a man who reads.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Parenting: Preparation, Persistence, and Prayer

I recommend Rebecca Hagelin's short article, "The Myth of Experts." We dads (less so than moms) are inundated with how-to information on parenting from 'experts,' with the net effect that our confidence in how to parent is being rattled left and right.

An excerpt:

"It takes three basic stones to build the foundation for raising a child of character —preparation, persistence, and prayer.

First, prepare for the journey of raising a child (or if you are starting late, a teen) by having a vision for him or her. My young friend’s parenting confusion, like so many parents I hear from, stems from the dizzying number of child-rearing theories thrown at her that have one thing in common: mom isn’t good or smart enough to figure it out herself. The first step is simple: shut out the experts and focus on the kind of young woman you want your daughter to become. Keeping that vision in mind, it becomes much easier to know who should be shaping her heart and what type of relationships will give her life meaning. Our vision for the adults our children will become offers a coherent set of principles and values that will guide our childrearing.

Secondly, be persistent in holding onto that vision no matter what the culture throws at you. Part of never giving up means finding allies in the battle. Identify others you trust – mentors, if you will – who have been there before; and people in your faith group who will enforce what you are teaching at home. Surround yourself with people who understand that it is God who chose you to be the father of that particular son.

Third, but most importantly, pray for your child and for your own wisdom in parenting. A humble heart before our God opens our ears to hear His guidance. Pray for a heart that will love unconditionally—and then practice the virtues that express that love: generosity, patience, kindness, forgiveness."

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

If You Could Get Some Leadership Coaching...

I believe God is calling me to do more to develop the next generations of leaders. I'm curious for your input: if the best possible leadership coaching were available to you on an ongoing basis,

What would you learn more about?
How would you like to interact?
What would be different than your current situation?

Comment or email me, I'm very interested to hear your thoughts on this.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Don't Make This Choice

Men, I have a gut-level truth for you to process today:

We choose to procrastinate.

No one makes us procrastinate. No circumstances compel us to procrastinate. There's no one else to blame. We get to make choices in how to spend our time, our energy, and the focus of our thinking.

If you procrastinate, it's because you choose to.

Don't like it? Make a different choice.

Friday, December 03, 2010

A New Definition for M & M's

I recommend this talk about effective work, from Jason Fried. (And his book, Re-work.) Prepare to be jolted. You'll find a whole new definition for M & Ms.

Why do I post this on a blog for husbands and fathers? First, most of you are working in some environment where you experience interruptions. Second, you're in leadership roles -- and leaders need to always be thinking about effectiveness. Third, this might spark some thoughts about how you manage your family time and relationships.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

How Jesus Dealt with Legalists Outside the Kingdom

One of the great persistent dangers for the Church is legalism. In several letters, Paul dealt with legalism inside the churches. Here let's look at a time when Jesus dealt with rabbinical legalism.

1 Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”

3 Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother' and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ 5 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ 6 they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:

8 “‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
9 They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.”

10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”

12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”

13 He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. 14 Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” (Matt 15:1-13, emphasis added)

This quote from Isaiah 19:13 is an excellent summary of legalism, isn't it?

8 “‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
9 They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.”

God wants our words to be authentic expression of love from our hearts, which are (through His power) close to Him. And we are not to teach "merely human rules," but the commandments of God.

Jesus commandment to the disciples is simple: "Leave them" (the ESV has it "Let them alone"). Don't seek them out for confrontation. Don't follow them. Don't participate with them, but leave them behind as we follow Jesus.

Please note that Jesus didn't go after the Pharisees unless they came to him first and confronted Him. He didn't campaign against them or seek them out. And I believe the disciples got the instruction clearly because we never see the disciples going after the rabbinical leaders to confront them.

(By the way, verse 12 has to be one of the funniest verses in the Bible.)

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Add this new word to your vocabulary: ignorarrogance.

"ig·nor·ar·ro·gance: [ ig-ner-ar-uh-guhns] –noun– offensive display of superiority or self-importance due to one’s lack of knowledge, learning, information, etc.

•Arrogance is being 90% right and 100% certain.
•Ignorarrogance is being 90% oblivious and 100% certain."

HT: Alan Danielson

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

For my brothers and sisters in the US, Happy Thanksgiving! If you're not in the US, I hope that you, too, will take some time to express your gratitude to God today.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Leadship Trends

If you read this blog, you're probably in a leadership role -- family, church, community, workplace.

There are some very exciting trends in church and business leadership. I keep up with dozens of blogs on leadership and management and innovation, and read 2-3 books per week. I push myself to learn more so that I can be a better leader and help others more.

If you'd like to skip a lot of the books and blogs and get the executive summary, check out this Steve Denning article, The Death-- and Reinvention of Management. This has the gist of a whole bunch of recent books and blogs. I believe God is doing something wonderful in these days!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Keeping Up with Blogs

I'm occasionally asked how I keep up with so many blogs and authors. RSS feeds are wonderful things! Instead of me clicking through to a long list of websites, I set up the feed so that every time something new is available, it's provided to me at one place.

To do this you need an RSS feed reader tool. Google Reader works very well. Michael Hyatt wrote up a nice how-to article explaining how to set it up. Easy, free, effective!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Refresh Your Bible Reading Plan

This is the time of year when I have the highest likelihood of getting off my Bible reading plans.

So just a word of encouragement: rededicate yourself to this life-giving discipline of systematic reading, study, and meditation on God's Word.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Family Devotions Resource

Dads, this looks like a terrific resource for short family devotions. Comes well-recommended.

"I Will Pray For You"

We're pretty good at saying to one another "I will pray for you."

Let's be real: our batting average is poor. We say that much more than we do it. And since we know that about ourselves, at times when other people say this to us, we think "maybe."

But Jesus is our faithful advocate:

"Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us." (Romans 8:34)

You can count in Jesus praying for you! This is a good way to encourage our own hearts and our families.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Africa is a BIG Continent!

I love maps. I have a big world map over my office desk and enjoy using it to ponder and pray. Many people fail to understand the size of the African continent -- check out this representation to help you get it!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I Missed Reformation Day!

I completely forgot to blog about Reformation Day (Oct 30), but recommend this short video clip from the film Luther for your enjoyment. How would you handle yourself in this situation?

One more thing -- I rather doubt Luther spoke this quietly!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

How Scientific News Gets Distorted

I've long been troubled by the poor reporting on scientific studies by various news outlets. There is far too much truth in this cartoon!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Books I Re-Read

I recently mentioned that some books are on my "re-read regularly" list, because they are so influential and deep that I continue to gain wisdom and insight from them over a period of years.

Here are some of those books (in no particular order) which I heartily recommend to you:
  • Spiritual Leadership (J. Oswald Sanders)
  • Life Together (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)
  • In Search of Guidance (Dallas Willard)
  • A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life (William Law)
  • Celebration of Discipline (Richard Foster)
  • Knowing God (J. Packer)
  • With Christ in the School of Prayer (Andrew Murray)
  • The Pursuit of God (A. W. Tozer)
  • Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices (Thomas Brooks)
  • Thoughts for Young Men (J. C. Ryle)
I honestly don't read a lot of fiction, but I do have two titles on my re-read list:
  • The Lord of the Rings (J.R.R.Tolkien). I've read this every year since 1978.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia (C.S. Lewis). Great messages for children of all ages!
What's on your list?

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Some Books You Read and Re-Read

There are a number of classic books that are worth reading, re-reading, devouring, and drawing upon again and again.

One of those books for me is Oswald Sander's Spiritual Leadership. If you check the Amazon review site you'll see why it's on the must-read list. If you haven't read this book, get it in your reading pile soon -- you'll be blessed. If you have, dust it off and find some new insights.

Next post: I'll share some more of my "re-read regularly" list. Some books have been very influential in my thinking at a critical point in time, but I don't go back to them. The ones I go back to are those which speak to me in new and refreshing ways as I get older and gain more experience.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Who Are You Mentoring?

Men, here's a short exercise for you: get a sheet of paper, and write down a list of younger men and peers that you are influencing. Who asks you questions? Who hangs around you? Whom do you help with projects, or just engage in conversation?

Two more questions:
(1) Whom do I need to invest in more?
(2) What can I do [today, or in the next week] to more intentionally mentor someone on this list?

Bonus question: What can I do to add more men to my list?

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Operation World

Recommended resource: New version of Operation World (The Definitive Prayer Guide to Every Nation).

Dad's, this is great for meal time with your family. Teach the family a little bit about new countries, and give them a world perspective.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Use Stories and Logic

If you want to influence people, you must use stories and logic. God has wired us to respond powerfully to stories, drama, hints, and discovery. But he also wants us to think wisely, including using logic carefully.

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." Philippians 4:8

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Halloween Thought

I encourage you to develop strong convictions about "secular" holidays like Halloween. If you believe your family should not participate or celebrate, lead your family appropriately. If you don't object to sending your children around in costumes to "plunder the Egyptians" of their candy, lead your family appropriately.

One thought I had last night (which was the official "Beggar's Night" in our community): Many of the darkened Christian homes were missing opportunities to connect with neighbors and be seen as a warm, loving adult by the children.

Again, I know families that have strong no-Halloween convictions, and I respect that. I'm not going to break fellowship with them over a disputable matter like Halloween.

The Debt We Owe Hebrew Scribes

You will encounter people who are concerned about the authenticity of the Bible. There are many articles explaining why today's Bible accurately reflects the original texts. But this information from Parchment and Pen was new to me:

Tradition tells us the Hebrew people were meticulous copyists of Scripture. Scribes were so aware of their task they would go to great lengths to make sure their hand-written copy of Scripture was free from error. Hebrew scribes were bound to the following rules:

1. They could only use clean animal skins, both to write on, and even to bind manuscripts.
2. Each column of writing could have no less than forty-eight, and no more than sixty lines.
3. The ink must be black, and of a special recipe.
4. They must verbalize each word aloud while they were writing.
5. They must wipe the pen and wash their entire bodies every time before writing God’s name.
6. There must be a review within thirty days, and if as many as three pages required corrections, the entire manuscript had to be redone.
7. The letters, words, and paragraphs had to be counted, and the document became invalid if two letters touched each other. The middle paragraph, word and letter must correspond to those of the original document.
8. The documents could be stored only in sacred places (synagogues, etc.).


Wow! He goes on to tell the story of some famous manuscripts, including the Dead Sea Scrolls. Recommended! Let this information add to your confidence level!

One more thought to ponder: the scribes carefully copied everything over the centuries --even those things which probably made no sense to them at all.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

I Hadn't Thought About Ironing Boards This Way

Of course many things we consider ordinary and natural wouldn't pass muster with today's mentality. The FDA would ban nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine consumption if these were new products.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Ready to Steer the World?

I love this little poem by Shel Silverstein:

God says to me with a kind of smile,
"Hey how would you like to be God awhile
And steer the world?"
"Okay," says I, "I'll give it a try.
Where do I set?
How much do I get?
What time is lunch?
When can I quit?"
"Gimme back that wheel," says God.
"I don't think you're quite ready yet."

One key thing we MUST work at, dads, is helping our families get past entitlement thinking. We don't deserve things. We are children of grace. We should seek and accept responsibilities without asking questions about "what's in it for me?" This is maturity.

And it must start with me and you.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Repost: What Fathers Should Teach Their Sons

What Fathers Should Teach Their Sons -- it's been amazing to see how this has been picked up by others and used. I trust it will be helpful to you, also.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Encouragement for Dads

For all you dads:

Stand firm.
Love deeply, and sacrificially.
The days are long, but the years are short.

God is doing important work in you and through you.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


You know that wonderful promise in Luke 17 where Jesus says "if you have faith as small as a mustard seed"? This devotion isn't about that. It's about what Jesus told his disciples right after that. Listen closely:

7"Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, 'Come along now and sit down to eat'? 8Would he not rather say, 'Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink'? 9Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.' " (Luke 17:7-10)

These verses aren't covered in many sermons, I suspect, because they're…well…uncomfortable.
"Unworthy servants" and "only doing our duty"- that's how Jesus says we should realistically view ourselves.

But wait, perhaps you're thinking of that phrase we love to quote, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" That's what we are, right? Good and faithful, not unworthy.

Let's look at that Luke 19 passage again, carefully:

15"He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it. 16"The first one came and said, 'Sir, your mina has earned ten more.' 17" 'Well done, my good servant!' his master replied. 'Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.' (Luke 19:15-17)

The parallel passage is from Matthew 25:
"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'

Think carefully, now. There is no conflict between being unworthy and being a good servant. We are unworthy, because we don't deserve the grace that our Lord shows us by calling us to be servants. With His help (see John 15:5 - we don't do anything apart from Him), we accomplish amazing things, but they are simply our duty. We're following His commands.

There is a key message that we as individuals and we as a church need to hear in Luke 19:17: the reward for accomplishment for Christ is greater responsibility! "Take charge of ten cities" is a much larger responsibility than being a steward of a mina (which was about 3 months' wages).

As I have read and reread the New Testament I have noticed that there is something missing. No where does Jesus ever tell someone that their current level of service is fine and they can just coast, slide comfortably the rest of the way. Jesus recognizes good service and rewards it, but short of heaven we will continue to have increasing opportunities for service - which is the grand adventure of following Christ!

I believe God has already planned great things for us to accomplish in His strength and by His sovereign direction. (See Ephesians 2:10) God loves us far too much to let us sit on our past accomplishments, or wallow in our current state of sanctification. There are larger and greater steps that we will take to fulfill the Great Commission, our standing orders.

It's become popular today to challenge a person, saying "Man up!" My challenge to us is that we say - with joy, entering our Master's happiness, doing our duty - "Servant up!"

May God bless you, and bless us, for the glory of Jesus.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Leading to Change the Status Quo

If you're reading this God has put you in position to lead, to change the status quo, to create movements that change the world. There are some terrific insights in this 17 min video from Seth Godin. As you watch it think about your God-given talents and opportunities. (Bonus learning: study how Seth presents ideas and challenges -- this is not your typical boring PowerPoint!)

I recommend Seth's book on Tribes, too.

Three questions Seth poses for you:

1. Who are you upsetting? If you aren’t upsetting someone, you aren’t changing the status quo.
2. Who are you connecting? Connecting with other like minded people.
3. Who are you leading? Tribes are leadership led, not management led.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Defining Love -- a Child's Approach

We have a lot to learn from children! A group of children were once asked, "What does 'love' mean?" Listen to some of their answers:

Rebekah, 8, said, "When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time—even when his hands got arthritis, too. That's love."
Billy, 4, said, "When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth."
Bobby, 7, says, "Love is what's in the room at Christmas, if you stop opening presents and listen."
Nikka, 6, says, "If you want to learn to love better, you should start with someone you hate."
Tommy, 6, says, "Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well."
Cindy, 8, says, "During my piano recital, I was on a stage, and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me, and I saw my daddy waving and smiling. He was the only one doing that. And I wasn't scared anymore."
Jessica, 8, says, "You really shouldn't say 'I love you' unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot."

What would your kids say about love?


Monday, October 11, 2010

How the Truth Sets You Free

Note: This is from a short devotion I did recently. I've been helping some people who are fond of quoting "the truth will set you free" understand the real context for that statement from Jesus -- Glenn

31To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

33They answered him, "We are Abraham's descendants[a] and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?"

34Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37I know you are Abraham's descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38I am telling you what I have seen in the Father's presence, and you do what you have heard from your father."

39"Abraham is our father," they answered.

"If you were Abraham's children," said Jesus, "then you would[c] do the things Abraham did. 40As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things.

John 8:31-40 (NIV)

Putting “the truth will set you free” in its biblical context:

“to the Jews who believed him” (v31)

“if you hold to my teachings” (v31)

Those things come before: “THEN, you will know the truth” (v32)

Obedience issues!

They go back to their default state in v33: “we’re children of Abraham” (under the Abrahamic covenant)

Saying they have never been slaves is fantasy, revisionist history: They have been slaves – under Egypt, conquered by the Assyrians and the Babylonians, now effectively slaves under the Roman Empire. This is why they were eagerly anticipating a political Messiah!

But Jesus takes them to the real issue: slavery to sin in v34. One’s political situation is irrelevant to this heart issue.

There is no path to freedom apart from Christ (v36).

Abraham believed God (Genesis 15:6) – literally Abram Amen JHWH in the Hebrew.

Plenty of people in the world misunderstand the phrase “the truth will set you free.” Let’s help our congregation and the people in our sphere of influence to understand the real context of truth and freedom – centered in Christ.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Answering Pro-Choice Arguments about Abortion

Long-time readers of this blog know that I consistently advocate for clear and wise thinking. That's why I highly recommend you check out Stand to Reason's excellent blog post "Answer Every Defense for Abortion."

Smart, straightforward, clear, wise, and easy to put into practice. Recommended.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Boys and Reading and Videogames

Do your boys read books?

What books do they read?

Thomas Spence writes a nice column deploring the state of boys' reading. Except for homeschooled boys, they read much less (and less well) than girls. He provides a strong recommendation:

"The secret to raising boys who read, I submit, is pretty simple—keep electronic media, especially video games and recreational Internet, under control (that is to say, almost completely absent). Then fill your shelves with good books."

For most families, there will be some videogames and TV and Internet. In fact, it's important in a way to help your kids learn discipline around media while they are at home with you. Put serious limits on the videogames, and know what your boys are playing. Your boys will be better men because of it.

Dads, I know this is tough -- your kids love videogames, and they're addictive. Do not leave this discipline to mom. YOU have to be rigorous on it. And don't expect your boys to say, "Oh, thanks, Dad, saving me from my addictive tendencies towards videogames." I'm not writing this as a dad who always succeeded and did this right, either, ok? I know how challenging this is.

Make sure your boys have good books to read. Biographies of great men are good. History, written well, is captivating stuff. Challenging novels with deep characters in difficult places. These teach boys that life will be an adventure, and the difficulties are worth it.

I have another strong recommendation: make sure your kids see YOU reading books. Talk with your boys about what you're learning. The Bible should be first and foremost, but read other books as well.

If you have ideas on how to restrain videogame time, and good books to recommend, comment away to help us all.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Hanging from a Cable, Reaching Out to Save Lives

This event happened in Des Moines last year. A woman was caught in the backflow below a low dam. Construction workers were building a pedestrian bridge nearby, and quickly lowered one of their men from a crane on a steel cable down to her. He successfully rescued her from certain death, was hailed a hero, and the photographer won a Pulitzer. The only sad part of the story was that the woman's husband did not survive.

This is a great picture of how God is using you in rescue missions, reaching out to desperate, hurting, lonely people. We're safely secured by God's love, far stronger than any steel cable and chest harness, and can fearlessly reach out to those He has put in our sphere of influence. You and I are operating in God's rescue mission -- just yards and heartbeats from hell.

Let us be fearless! There is something far better than a Pulitzer in our future: to hear our Master say, "Well done!"

Sunday, October 03, 2010

A 10 Question Devotion Opportunity

Perry Noble writes up a list of 10 Personal Growth Questions -- this would be a great devotion with your family, dad! (#9 hit me between the eyes!)


#1 – Am I reading my Bible for information or transformation? (James 1:22-25)

#2 – Am I allowing people or circumstances to steal the joy that Jesus promised to me? (John 10:10)

#3 – Is there anything in my life that God is consistently dealing with that I am trying to ignore? (Ezekiel 14:1-5)

#4 – Who are the people in my life that God has placed around me for the purpose of me sharing Christ with them and/or inviting them to church? (II Corinthians 5:16-21)

#5 – Is there anyone I need to apologize to? (Ephesians 4:25:27)

#6 – Is there anyone I need to forgive? (Ephesians 4:32)

#7 – Is there a sin I need to confess to others and ask for help? (James 5:16)

#8 – Am I fully utilizing the gifts and abilities that God has blessed me with…or am I simply choosing to waste my life? (I Peter 4:10)

#9 – Do I know more lines from the movies that I love than verse from the Bible that I read? (Psalm 119:11)

#10 – Is there anything going on in my life privately that, if it became public, would cause me and/or the body of Christ to be embarrassed? (I John 1:9, James 5:16)

Friday, October 01, 2010

Managing Work and Home from...Home

I know a number of my readers are working from home. And nearly all of us need to use computers with Internet access for ministry, but we're easily distracted. I heartily recommend this article for some ideas: Take Back Your Free Time

I'm going to try setting up virtual desktops, for example -- I know about these, but didn't think to apply them this way!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Power of Video -- and Face-to-Face

I share this with you because leaders need to understand communication, and how to persuade people. We live in a fast-moving technological age, and just in the past few years online video has e-x-p-l-o-d-e-d. Chris Anderson, an extremely influential thinker and speaker (Wired, the idea of the Long Tail, TED) talks about these issues in this video below.

But don't miss the last half of the video, where Chris talks about face-to-face communication. This is where Christians, I believe, really have the opportunity to shine!

P.S. the presentation is done with Prezi, a tool I think you'll see used more and more as an alternative to PowerPoint.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Did You Expect It Would Be Easy?

I think I've heard the phrase, "It's so hard" about twenty times in the past two weeks - sometimes in my head, mostly though from brothers and sisters struggling with issues. [Insert whiny voice here: "It's so hard."]

Let's learn to preach to ourselves when we need it, men.

You didn't seriously think it would always be easy, did you?

We're men. God gives us big assignments, big responsibilities, more-than-we-can-do-in-our-own-strength opportunities. We weren't bought at a price (see 1 Cor 6:19-20) for piddly little stuff, guys!

I spoke some time ago with a retired military man, a good man. He told me that he came very close to collapsing mentally and emotionally during boot camp. His DI got in his face, so close that spit hit him as he shouted, "G*** D**** it, you took an oath! Don't you quit on me now!" And that singular thought "I took an oath" got him through boot camp and many tough situations after that. I love that story!

Two steps:

1. Buck up and do it. Take it. Endure it. Rejoice in it! You're God's man and He is with you!
2. Link arms with a brother and encourage one another. "But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." (Heb 3:13)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

How to Use a Curfew Clock for Teenagers

(I originally posted this in Sept 2009 -- had some requests, thought I'd repost it. -- Glenn)

Problem: you've set a curfew for your teenager(s) to be home, but are having trouble staying up that late yourself, or don't sleep well on the couch while you're waiting. You'd go to bed, but you're concerned that your son or daughter be home on time and ok.

Solution: set up a curfew clock.

Here's the system we used with great success:

Attach an extension cord to a 2nd alarm clock in your bedroom. Run the extension cord out under your bedroom door and plug into a hallway outlet. Set the alarm clock for the curfew time, and go to bed when you need to.

Your teenager needs to get home in time to pull the plug on the alarm clock. If the alarm doesn't go off, your kids are home and safe, and you keep sleeping. If the alarm goes off, you know they're late and make a phone call. The alarm clock is an arbitrary judge of curfew time.

Overall this worked extremely well for us, particularly since I'm an early riser and turn into a pumpkin about the time my kids hit their second wind!

I know one variation on this scheme -- put the alarm clock by the entryway to the house. That wouldn't work as well in our home because I'd sleep through the alarm. Making the kids come all the way into the house, and upstairs means they're really home.

Some limitations to think through:

1. You won't have the opportunity to talk with your kids when they get home. For many kids, this is a very good time to talk with parents.

2. You have to have enough trust that your teenager doesn't race home, pull the plug on the clock, and then head out of the house again. (This was never an issue for us, but I know some parents would be concerned about this.)

3. This doesn't enforce a going-to-sleep time, just a time to be home.

I encourage you to give this system a try.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Husbands, Create a Monthly Celebration Time

Yesterday was our "lunaversary." My wife and I had our first date on a 22nd, got engaged on a 22nd, and were married on August 22nd, 1987. So every month, on the 22nd, we celebrate our "lunaversary." (Yes, we made up that word.)

Most months it's nothing big at all, just a recognition in the morning that it's our special day.

I encourage you to create some monthly ritual like this with your beloved wife, too. It will help! Remember, there are only two kinds of marriages: those being worked on, and those which aren't.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Biblical Framework for...Politics?

I've been working on a biblical framework for Christian views of government and political action on and off, for several months. This is the approach I use to systematically apply the principles and practices from the Bible to complex situations. (I wrote an ebook on how to create biblical frameworks if you're interested -- it's an important skill, especially for leaders and teachers.)

And then I heard that Wayne Grudem, a serious scholar whose work I've respected, especially his Systematic Theology, had a new book on this topic.

Wayne Grudem's Politics According to the Bible is subtitled "A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture." That's a huge claim, and after reading through this thick book (691 pages, including an excellent index), I think Grudem delivers on his promise.

I recommend this book to you. My thoughts on its strengths and and a few concerns, too:

The first three chapters in themselves are worth the price of the book (including the time to read it!). Grudem carefully describes "Five wrong views about Christians and government," "A better solution: significant Christian influence on government," and "Biblical principles concerning government." Like other books he's written, the arguments are cogent, firm but gentle-spirited, and begin with Scripture.

He fearlessly tackles specific issues, with contemporary events (this book was finished in Feb 2010): abortion, marriage, family, economics, environment, national defense, foreign policy, freedom of speech and religion. No fluff here. The subject index is excellent, by the way, and you're likely to use it. In some ways this book reminds me of Richard Baxter's A Christian Directory, a monumental effort to help families apply Scripture to every day situations large and small.

The writing style encourages you to think along and process information carefully. It's writing that fosters reflection, rather than being consistently preaching. (Don't misunderstand me, Grudem makes direct statements. He's not wishy-washy at all. But he writes in a way that won't shut off dialogue in your head, even if you're not completely agreeing with some part of his argument.)

The biblical principles are applied across many areas of political concern. Grudem pulls in multiple principles as a means of threading through complex situations. I didn't find an example where Grudem was inconsistent in how principles were applied.

Now, some concerns.

Many (probably most) of my Democrat or liberal-leaning friends are going to be infuriated if they read this book. With few exceptions, Grudem comes down towards conservative and libertarian perspectives. I suspect that my friends who are concerned about the environment will be disappointed in Grudem's heavy reliance on some work by Bjorn Lomborg, a respected but not universally-heralded scientist and statistician.

I hope that Grudem's approach (first, identify the biblical principles that apply, then apply them using logic and data) will keep these friends engaged. But if you consider the people who have written positive reviews, they're not the folks most respected by the political left. Still, I recommend the book for it's value and opportunity to promote careful thinking and dialogue.

The other concern that I have is for my conservative and libertarian brothers and sisters. It's a waste if they say, "See, the great Wayne Grudem has 'proven' our ideas are biblical," and don't understand his thought process working forward from Scripture. Grudem challenges a number of bad ideas about Christianity and the political right.

Am I going to finish my biblical framework? Probably not, though I won't throw out my notes. Politics According to the Bible does it better than I could have.

Note: The Amazon links above are not an affiliate link, I'm not going to earn a commission if you purchase the book.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Powerful Strategy to Counter Lust

Men, I heartly encourage you to read John Piper's strategy of looking up at the sky, getting a natural view of God's glory, as a counter to lust. Excellent advice!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Saturday, September 11, 2010

On Koran Burning

I've had several questions lately about this pastor in Florida holding a Koran-burning event. People have a vague memory of somebody in the Bible burning scrolls about magic.

Let's look at that event, which took place in Ephesus:

"Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power." (Acts 19:18-20)

Please note that these are new believers who -- as part of their repentance from evil they themselves had participated in -- brought their own scrolls (books) and burned them as a testimony in public. And the result was that the word of Jesus spreads.

This is completely different than what the Florida pastor plans. So you cannot use this Acts passage as justification.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Wordle This!

I used Wordle to create a graphic from this blog. Enjoy!

Man Crisis!

Challenging message for men. I love the question about 4:15 -- "Why do I have a bigger dream for your church and your city than you do?"

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

How are You Doing with Eye Contact?

Let's work on something, shall we? Eye contact.

I went through the last week mindful about eye contact. I was amazed how many people speaking with me didn't make or hold eye contact well.

What's worse, I was amazed at how badly I was making and holding eye contact.

Let's be more mindful of this. We'll be better influencers and listeners and leaders if we're making better eye contact.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

"I Should Have Died"

I think every adult I've asked can tell me at least one story of a time when, by all normal expectations, they should have died, but didn't. The truck swerved at the last second and missed you. Falling off the roof of the house but landing without serious injury. The axe missing by an inch. Being delayed and not getting to go to the WTC on Sept 11 as planned. The mysterious illness and sudden, complete recovery.

Some people call this phenomenon luck. Luck lacks power under the sovereignty of God.

Of course who knows how many times you might have died and were completely unaware of God's providential care.

I don't advocate being stupid and foolish. (Wear your seatbelt!) But let us also worship God all the more as we grow in our understanding of His sovereign grace protecting us as long as He has purpose for us being here. Every breath is grace from God, and apart from Him we can do nothing. And let us live boldly and fearlessly before God!

Friday, September 03, 2010

Are You Creative? Want Some Help?

John Cleese shares some excellent insights about the creative unconscious, the problem of interruptions, and how to foster creativity. Husbands, fathers -- our challenges demand we pursue creative ideas!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Two History Books for You

My friends know I enjoy history and reading history. I think it's crucial for men today be students of history, at least enough to understand our place in it. Unfortunately, most schools do a poor job of teaching history to our kids.

Here are two books I strongly recommend:

The Guns of August (by Barbara Tuchman)

This is the story of the first month of WW I, very carefully documented, written in an exciting fashion without being fiction or using imaginary information. This book really helped fill out some gaps in my understanding of the 20th century. If you read this you'll understand much more about how the Germans, French, British, and Russians thought and planned, and the limitations of diplomacy. You'll see how the horrible losses of the Russian army set the stage for Lenin and the revolution; you'll see why Chamberlain was so eager to avoid another war with Germany in the events leading up to WW II; you'll understand why the French and British negotiated such a harsh settlement at Versailles; you'll understand the European views on the United States at that time. Amazing story, all true, mostly tragic and sad. Much to learn from!

A War Like No Other (by Victor Davis Hanson)

This is the story and analysis of the Peloponnesian war, where the Athenians and Spartans practically destroyed the best of Greece over 30 years. This a readable, understandable book, much more accessible than Thucydides and the other Greek historians. Hanson describes terrific lessons that should be understood today.

This war changed everything in Greece -- politics, military strategy, economics, foreign alliances, balance of power in the Mediterranean, and the practice of democracy. You'll be amazed at how contemporary the problems and situations were. It is no accident that military and political scholars continue to study the Peloponnesian war.

I recommend you put both books on your reading list. No fluff here, no easy reading, but you'll be terrifically blessed from the material.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Life Lessons from Gordon Dean

Harvey Mackay recently published a column about Gordon Dean, who worked for Presidents Roosevelt and Truman in several capacities. Here are the nine life lessons he recorded for himself -- good counsel to review.

1. Never lose your capacity for enthusiasm.
2. Never lose your capacity for indignation.
3. Never judge people -- don't type them too quickly. But in a pinch never first assume that a man is bad; first assume that he is good and that, at worst, he is in the gray area between bad and good.
4. Never be impressed by wealth alone or thrown by poverty.
5. If you can't be generous when it's hard to be, you won't be when it's easy.
6. The greatest builder of confidence is the ability to do something -- almost anything -- well.
7. When confidence comes, then strive for humility; you aren't as good as all that.
8. The way to become truly useful is to seek the best that other brains have to offer. Use them to supplement your own, and be prepared to give credit to them when they have helped.
9. The greatest tragedies in the world and personal events stem from misunderstandings. So communicate!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Christian Use of Digital Media

The folks at HeadHeartHands recently released a downloadable movie and study guide (not free, but not expensive) to help you think about Christian use of digital media. I have not seen it yet, but the outline looks very encouraging:

Part 1: Four Biblical Principles
Part 2: Three Possible Responses
Part 3: Seven Step Training Program
Part 4: The Seven Steps Applied to Facebook.

The seven step training program lays out seven practical steps to train our children how to use the Internet in a disciplined and discerning way.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Christian Discipleship Is Not Taoist

I loved the TV series "Kung Fu" when I was in high school. It was so cool to watch Kwai Chang Caine take out the bad guys, help the oppressed, and enlighten everyone. It was fun to fantasize that you had that kind of skill and power to take on the bad guys! Practically every episode ends with Caine slowing walking off to his next adventure. The fact that Caine's character never settled down surely made it easier for the script writers.
Caine is a practicing Taoist -- seeking his path from day to day, no planning, very few possessions, no permanent attachments, little or no intentionality beyond systematic meditation to clear his mind. Tao means "the way."

I was a practicing Taoist for a time in college. There is a certain kind of beauty in the ideals, but there is no power to succeed. I think my experience is more typical than most proponents of Taoism would prefer to admit -- I found that I had to systematically lie to myself to paper over the holes and disappointments and frustrations.
Christian discipleship is highly intentional. It's not about finding the way -- Jesus IS the way (John 14:6). We don't clear our mind to empty it, we fill it with biblically-consistent thoughts about Jesus (see Deut 6:6-7 for starters). We don't have a fuzzy, vague, evolving sense of our historical roots -- we have the written testimony of the Bible and early church history.
What can you do today to be more intentional in your discipleship?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Why I Recommend a BWCA Experience with Your Sons

My son Matt and I enjoyed another canoeing trip in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) along the Minnesota/Canada border. We went in 2007 and were really looking forward to getting back there. We were NOT disappointed. This is a huge area of wilderness and we've hardly seen even 1% of it. We saw a fisher, bald eagles, loons and other ducks, and plenty of Northern pike and smallmouth bass.

Here is a short video where I captured some scenes -- this doesn't do justice to the experience, but will give you a taste.

Dads, I seriously recommend you consider a BWCA experience with your son(s). Let me give you some reasons why:

* It's a real wilderness experience -- which changes your perspective, is beautiful, and soul-nourishing. You and your boys will experience God is ways completely new from city and surburbia and farm. I think wilderness brings out something deep in a man's heart.

* It's a physically shared experience. You'll accomplish things together, and have those common stories of accomplishment. You'll be depending on one another.

* Disconnecting from all the distractions and comforts of your regular life will be freeing. (Until you experience this you won't understand it.) Your boys will find out new things about you, themselves, and God when they're unplugged.

* The isolation is powerful. Human beings are the strangers and outsiders in the BWCA. You'll have some interesting prayer times in this humbling environment.

* You and your boys will have HOURS of conversation time. The best quality time of conversation comes when you create great quantities of time. Dads, your boys need this kind of time to learn from you. And you will learn new things about your boys. This is a great gift for your relationship.

Now, let's be realistic, too. This is a seriously physical trip. You and your boy(s) need to be able to paddle and handle camping in primitive sites, operating in an isolated situation. You'll be moving a canoe and perhaps 160-200 pounds of gear and food across portages.

(Got daughters? You can do a BWCA trip with them, too, but perhaps not as physical a route or as long.)

My other recommendation is to work with an outfitter. I personally recommend the great folks at North Country -- they not only provide the equipment and food, but the advice and information you need for a great experience. They make all the logistics, and guard you from the myriad of things which could make your experience miserable. I have nothing but high praise for their operation.

Put this on your list, men, for your sake as well as your boys.

Spiritual Constipation

Got your attention?

There is a very curious phenomenon where guys are "consuming" church and reading and listening and reading...but their service level (output) is pretty low. I'm not talking about a rhythm of ministry when a man has been working and serving, and then needs to take a Sabbath rest. I'm talking about the man who serves very little at any time.

If you eat and eat and eat, and nothing comes out the other end, you have constipation. It's painful. Your alimentary canal is not working as it was designed.

Spiritual constipation may not be immediately painful, but you will plateau in your spiritual growth. You're full up, and aren't going to be able to grow until you begin to act and use what you already have. I'm very impressed with the ministry described in Acts. People began their discipleship walk with Jesus -- including serving others -- with not a lot of experience or specific knowledge. They learned as they served.

Avoid constipation, guys. Assess what's going in (some of you may need to adjust that!) and what's going out.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Will Computers Help Us Live Forever?

Ray Kurzweil is a very smart man, and has written extensively about his confidence that computers and medical technology (e.g., nanobots that will repair human tissue) will effectively allow humans to live forever.

A few thoughts on this idea:

1. This is a sad idea. Given the frustrations of life, and the grinding nature of sin in human relationships -- irrespective of the perfection of the human body and our thinking capacity -- I suspect such "eternal" life would be a Faustian bargain. There is no way these technologies address our fundamental problems of being.

2. This is an arrogant idea. There is a Creator, and He is sovereign over all our steps. One car accident, one tornado, one slippery kitchen floor... there are damages to the human body that cannot be overcome by technological repairs.

3. May our Lord save us from situations where we are tempted to sin because we have technological options that far outstrip our wisdom.

4. I can hear Thomas a Kempis speaking: "What good is it to live long if we do not live well?" (from The Imitation of the Christ)

5. We have not learned the lessons from the Tower of Babel. I'm certainly in favor of medical advances to help people. But we have a strong tendency to pursue these things because we want to become gods.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Special Assignment

I like how Eugene Peterson translated Colossians 1:1

"I, Paul, have been sent on special assignment by Christ as part of God's master plan."

You and I have been given special assignments, too. Think about that. Pray about it.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Good Presidential Quote

"We do not need more intellectual power, we need more moral power. We do not need more knowledge, we need more character. We do not need more government, we need more culture. We do not need more law, we need more religion. We do not need more of the things that are seen, we need more of the things that are unseen. If the foundation be firm, the foundation will stand." -- Calvin Coolidge

May all our presidents, governors, congressmen, and even appointed officials believe this, as well as have the guts to say it!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Holding Hands High

You probably remember the story about Aaron and Hur holding up Moses’ hands all day so that Joshua and the Israelites would defeat the Amalekites in battle. Here’s the passage to read:

“Amalek came and fought Israel at Rephidim. Moses ordered Joshua: "Select some men for us and go out and fight Amalek. Tomorrow I will take my stand on top of the hill holding God's staff." Joshua did what Moses ordered in order to fight Amalek. And Moses, Aaron, and Hur went to the top of the hill. It turned out that whenever Moses raised his hands, Israel was winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, Amalek was winning. But Moses' hands got tired. So they got a stone and set it under him. He sat on it and Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on each side. So his hands remained steady until the sun went down. Joshua defeated Amalek and its army in battle.
(Exodus 17:8-13)

Think about this a bit – how tired do you think Aaron and Hur were after a few hours of holding up Moses’ hands? No stone to sit on for them! I suspect they were excited about the victory, but their whole bodies probably ached when they lay down to sleep that night. (Plus, these men weren’t 18 year-old who wouldn’t “feel it” the next day, or three.)

Also, how much did Moses’ arms and shoulders ache from being held high? Try this – hold your hands over your head for five minutes.

I imagine that all three of them were praying for an end to the battle, for victory sooner than later!

The Lord frequently calls men to support one another, in prayer, in action. But everyone’s arms may get weary and sore. Everyone may be excited about the end result, but there was plenty of discomfort getting us there. Stay the course when you’re in the fight with a brother. Don’t listen to the whiny committee in your head telling you to stop holding the other person up.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

How A Man of Christ Loves Others

Thomas Brooks' dedicatory to his wonderful book, Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices, ends with strong words of encouragement, purpose, and request for prayer. This book belongs in your library, but should be well-used. Study this (don't get hung up on the style of English, this is from 1652), and see how a man of Christ loves others.

"My desires to you are, That you would make it your business to study Christ, his word, your own hearts, Satan's plots, and eternity, more than ever; That ye would endeavor more to be inwardly sincere than outwardly glorious; to live, than to have a name to live; That ye would labor with all your might to be thankful under mercies, and faithful in your places, and humble under divine appearances, and fruitful under precious ordinances; That as your means and mercies are greater than others', so your account before God may not prove a worse than others'; That ye would pray for me, who am not worthy to be named among the saints, that I may be a precious instrument in the hand of Christ to bring in many souls unto him, and to build up those that are brought in in their most holy faith; and 'that utterance may be given to me, that I may make known all the will of God' (Eph. 6. r9); that I may be sincere, faithful, frequent, fervent and constant in the work of the Lord, and that my labor be not in vain in the Lord; that my labors may be accepted in the Lord and his saints, and I may daily see the travail of my soul.
But, above all, pray for me, that I may more and more find the power and sweet of those Things upon my own heart, that I give out to you and others; that my soul may be so visited with strength from on high, that I may live up fully and constantly to those truths that I hold forth to the world; and that I may be both in life and doctrine 'a burning and a shining light,' that so, when the Lord Jesus shall appear, 'I may receive a crown of glory which he shall give to me in that day, and not only to me, but to all that love his appearing.' (John 5. 35 and 2 Tim. 1. 8).
For a close, remember this, that your life is short, your duties many, your assistance great, and your reward sure; therefore faint not, hold on and hold up, in ways of well-doing, and heaven shall make amends for all.
I shall now take leave of you, when my heart hath by my hand subscribed, that I am,
Your loving pastor under Christ, according to all pastoral affections and engagements in our dearest Lord, THOMAS BROOKS "

Monday, August 09, 2010

We Need to Pray!

I keep a file of quotes and articles about prayer, and review it from time to time. My heart needs to be encouraged and reminded about prayer, or else I grow cool and slack. Here are two quotes that should warm your heart. Walking in the path Christ lays out for Christian husbands and fathers means lots of prayer!

"What the church needs today is not more or better machinery, not new organizations, or more novel methods; but men whom the Holy Spirit can use-- men of prayer, men mighty in prayer." – E.M. Bounds

"Prayer is not overcoming God's reluctance, but laying hold of His willingness." – Martin Luther

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Grounding rituals

(Originally published in December 2004)

I enjoy a few rituals that remind me of God's faithfulness and that I'm part of His plan (see Ephesians 1:3-14).

I look in on my kids when I get up, and listen for their breathing.

I smell my Bible and run my hands over the paper.

I look at the stars when I retrieve the newspaper in the morning. They are massive and blazing hot, though I see only pinpricks of light. Walking back up the driveway, Polaris, the North Star that doesn't change, is right over our house.

I pray as I enter my workplace, asking the Lord to open my eyes to opportunities for helping others. My computer password is selected to remind me that it's not about me.

Holding hands while we pray at dinner -- I imagine the warm love of Christ connecting our family.

What kind of rituals do you have? What rituals would help you? Have you explained any of this to your kids?

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Digital World --- and Ministry

Even though most readers of this blog will have lived through this period, you'll still probably be amazed at the raw numbers for the growth in the digital world between 2000 and 2010.

What could 2010 to 2020 bring?

The key question is still about ministry in the Lord's Name in our culture. What does this look like for you? How can you help your children develop the right skills? [Making friends and developing relationships is still the key -- just more avenues for connection and (hopefully!) communication.]

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Marvel at the Nudibranch

God's creation, even marred from the Fall and groaning for redemption, is truly beautiful and amazing. Check out this gallery of pictures of nudibranches.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Truth As Ballast

Ballast weight in a sailboat keeps the boat from capsizing in a strong wind, and manageable to sail. The overall weight and placement of ballast dramatically changes the performance of the ship in easy seas and rough seas. In times past sailors would use rocks or sand as ballast, stowing them below decks to lower the effective center of gravity. Modern ships use lead, concrete, or water.

I would argue that men as leaders need serious ballast -- and this ballast must be truth. Rightly configured truth keeps us from capsizing in difficult circumstances. Truth used the right way affects our center of gravity.

Example truths that should be ballast for you as a man:

* All leadership roles are stewardship under God's authority. You will be held accountable. (Dan 4:25, 32)

* God has made you competent for the tasks He has given you. (2 Cor 3:6)

* Our Lord is ever-present, ever-available, and mighty to save. (Matt 28:20)

* History is His story. View your daily decisions with eternity in perspective.

Can you think of others?

Get these truths deep down in your heart.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Republishing Some Posts

For the next couple of weeks I'll be republishing a number of posts from 2004-2006 that I think will bless you.

On Self-Control, a Most Needful Attribute of Your Christian Character

We have a love-hate relationship with self-control. We admire it, want it, understand its value. We hate that it makes us wait, causes us to restrain our lusts and passions, and puts others first.

Self-control is a spiritual gift that must be cultivated; self-control is a discipline which must be learned and practiced. Here is what I wrote in my counsel to fathers, "What Fathers Should Teach Their Sons":

"Be Self-controlled. It's instructive that Titus was advised to mentor young men to develop self-control. (Titus 2:6) Self-control is not in-born. It is a spiritual gift (Galatians 5:23) but must be cultivated. Every son has to learn self-control - of his body and his mouth. Some of this is modeled, and some can be explained, but in the end all self-control is learned through practice and corrective feedback. Men master themselves in order to achieve greater purposes. Exercising self-control quashes selfishness.

Everyone reading this has opportunities to practice leadership, in smaller and greater roles. Leaders take responsibility for results -- and this won't happen without self-control. Why? Because leading others demands self-leadership, perhaps the most difficult form of leadership.

Two quotes to ponder in light of the tremendous need for self-control:

"There are a thousand excuses for failure but never a good reason." (Mark Twain)

"Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anyone else expects of you. Never excuse yourself. Never pity yourself. Be a hard master to yourself and lenient to everyone else." (Henry Ward Beecher)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

How Kids Perceive Dating and Marriage

A friend shared this with me recently, and I pass it along to you for the humor -- and the curiously insightful understanding kids have about adult relationships.

1. HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHOM TO MARRY? (written by kids)
You got to find somebody who likes the same stuff. Like, if you like sports, she should like it that you like sports, and she should keep the chips and dip coming. -- Alan, age 10
-No person really decides before they grow up whom they're going to marry. God decides it all way before, and you get to find out later who you're stuck with. -- Kristen, age 10

Twenty-three is the best age because you know the person FOREVER by then. -- Camille, age 10

You might have to guess, based on whether they seem to be yelling at the same kids. -- Derrick, age 8

Both don't want any more kids. -- Lori, age 8

-Dates are for having fun, and people should use them to get to know each other. Even boys have something to say if you listen long enough. -- Lynnette, age 8
-On the first date, they just tell each other lies and that usually gets them interested enough to go for a second date. -- Martin, age 10

-When they're rich. -- Pam, age 7
-The law says you have to be eighteen, so I wouldn't want to mess with that. - Curt, age 7
-The rule goes like this: If you kiss someone, then you should marry them and have kids with them. It's the right thing to do. - Howard, age 8

It's better for girls to be single but not for boys. Boys need someone to clean up after them. -- Anita, age 9

There sure would be a lot of kids to explain, wouldn't there? -- Kelvin, age 8

Tell your wife that she looks pretty, even if she looks like a dump truck. -- Ricky, age 10

(You can find this, and similar lists, in many places in the Internet, so I don't know whom to credit.)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Shepherd Your Children Individually

Here's something I wish I had known about (and actually done) with my kids when they were small: a steady pattern of one-on-one discipling time with each of them, each week. Brian Croft outlines a practical strategy for this in his article "How Can I Make Sure I Am Individually Shepherding My Children?"

An excerpt, explaining how we structures his time with his four children:

"1) Monday through Thursday each child gets a day and on his or her appointed day stays up 30 – 45 minutes later than their siblings to meet with me before bedtime. I thought they would be excited about it for a few times, but then grow bored with it. Not so. Years later, they look forward to that time more than anything, which provides a natural accountability when you are tired from the day and are tempted to skip for that evening.

2) We read the passage I am preaching for that week, discuss it a bit, then we read a chapter from a book they have chosen to read. At the end, I take time to ask them how they are doing and how I can pray for them. This is a great way to see how they are really doing and teach them what are good things to be praying for others. Then, I pray for them and take them to bed."

Highly recommended!