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.