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.