Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Power of Stories for Our Kids

G.K. Chesterton (author of many wonderful essays and novels) wrote:

"Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist.
Children already know that dragons exist.
Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed."

I encourage you dads and granddads to make sure your children and grandchildren (and any children within your sphere of influence) are told stories about standing strong against evil. When children hear example after example of the struggle and fight against what is wrong, their hearts and minds are sharpened for the real fight they must shoulder in the future.

Need an idea? The Chronicles of Narnia series is great for boys and girls.

Don't limit yourself to fiction and history, though these should be rich sources for you. Tell stories from your past or a relative's past. Help them understand a story that's still being written -- your own story.

The dragons can be killed. It may well require great sacrifice, but the dragons can be killed.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Book Recommendation: Everyone Communicates, Few Connect

Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: What the Most Effective People Do Differently

I don’t often recommend John Maxwell books. It’s hard to know what he wrote and what someone on his staff wrote, and he has so many stories and illustrations and quotes from others (which he attributes appropriately) that some books don’t have a lot of original content. I also think he’s a better speaker than writer.

I do recommend the last half of this book for the ideas and practices on connecting with people. This is a significant issue for Bible teachers. Skim the 1st half to get the basic principles, which won’t be a surprise to you. There are still lots of stories and anecdotes and quotes from others, but I didn’t find this to be distracting here. For teachers, I particularly recommend pp. 199-228, the chapter titled “Connectors Inspire People.” His basic formula is

What they know + What they see + What they feel = Inspiration

Inspiration leads to actionable changes as individuals and groups. You want to teach the Bible to change lives, right? Get this book, study it, and start incorporating some of the ideas and suggestions here.

Note: this is not an affiliate link, and I will not earn any money from this recommendation.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

How I Get a Lot Read...and Retain It

I read 2-3 books/week, plus lots of other material. (See my Keys to Accelerated Learning training if you're interested in details.)

For reading books, I follow a process very much like the one outlined on this printable bookmark. Get it, develop some good reading habits, and watch your comprehension and retention soar!

"Intellectuals" Get Away With This, But Don't You Do It

"One of the surprising privileges of intellectuals is that they are free to be scandalously asinine without harming their reputation." -- Eric Hoffer

Here's a nice example from Paul Erlich: "The battle to feed humanity is over. In the 1970s, the world will undergo famines. Hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. Population control is the only answer." (1968, The Population Bomb") Ehrlich also predicted the earth's then-5 billion population would starve back to 2 billion people by 2025. In 1969, Dr. Ehrlich warned Britain's Institute of Biology, "If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000."

Sounds like pretty poor analysis and prediction, doesn't it? Erlich has won at least 16 awards, including the prestigious 1980 Crafoord Prize in Sweden. HT: Walter Williams

As Christians I believe we should be the best thinkers on the planet. We should work hard at inquiry and discovery, analysis, dialogue, review.

But we need to do this with great humility. Consider this from Paul's letter to the "wise" Corinthians:

18For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written:

"I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate."

20Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength. (1 Cor 1:18-25)

And don't expect to win any earthly awards in the process, brothers. Focus on heavenly rewards that are promised to you, not on the boasting of men.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Proverbs 3 = Mini-guide to Life

Pastor Tim Keller has a wonderful blog post about the importance of what we read in Proverbs 3. He says it's a mini-guide to life.

"There are five things that comprise a wise, godly life. They function both as means to becoming wise and godly as well as signs that you are growing into such a life:

1. Put your heart's deepest trust in God and his grace. Every day remind yourself of his unconditioned, covenantal love for you. Do not instead put your hopes in idols or in your own performance.

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all your heart (Prov 3:3-5a)

2. Submit your whole mind to the Scripture. Don't think you know better than God's word. Bring it to bear on every area of life. Become a person under authority.

Lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (Prov 3:5b-6)

3. Be humble and teachable toward others. Be forgiving and understanding when you want to be critical of them; be ready to learn from others when they come to be critical of you.

Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. (Prov 3:7-8)

4. Be generous with all your possessions, and passionate about justice. Share your time, talent, and treasure with those who have left.

Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. (Prov 3:9-10)

5. Accept and learn from difficulties and suffering. Through the gospel, recognize them as not punishment, but a way of refining you.

My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in. (Prov 3:11-12) "

I encourage you to read the whole article, print it off, and start praying for yourself and your family.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

No Prolonged Infancies, Please!

"No prolonged infancies among us, please. We'll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are an easy mark for impostors. God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love." Ephesians 4:14, The Message

One of the worst attributes of US culture is the exultation and celebration of prolonged adolescence. Look at the sitcom plots -- many are about 20-40 year old singles who are still acting as self-absorbed teenagers. Look at the demands on state and federal governments -- take care of us! Look at the attitudes towards men -- generally the same as teenagers have towards any parent or authority figure.

Men, let's work in our families to help our children become youth who become functional adults. Let us celebrate adulthood and speak positively about shouldering responsibilities and leading and focusing on others first. These are good things, worth aspiring to!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Don't Start with "You"

Michael Hyatt and Regi Campbell give some great advice for husbands and fathers when interacting with our wives and children: Avoid starting sentences with "You."

Starting with "you" tends to provoke conflict. Consider their examples:

You never _________
You should have ________
You used to ________
I wish you would ________
I wish you wouldn't always __________

I don't think this is an absolute case. Consider the great sentence that starts with 'You': "You are beautiful!"

But be very careful when starting sentences with 'You.'


I have intentionally avoided US politics on this blog for a long time. My heart sank hard when I scanned the headlines this morning. I'm glad that our Lord is sovereign, and I will try hard not to lean on my own understanding. I confess I am very concerned about the teflon-coated slope on to which the US Congress just tossed us all.

Dads, I recommend you think seriously about what you can do to get out of debt, build up an emergency reserve, and help your children learn about liberty and economics.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Church Leaders Getting Training

Two years ago my boss and I went to an excellent training practicum run by the guys who do the podcasts at This year we’ve sent four of our lead managers to similar training by the same group. One manager returned from their Chicago session this week and reported to me that almost half of the 60 attendees were from churches. This was a one day, $1000 event, plus travel.

I thank God for all the innovative church leadership out there, people really trying to learn how to do things better. Some of the very best blogs I read these days are written by pastors, church planters, and church leaders. I believe God is raising up a generation of leaders in the church that will have a disproportionately large impact on the world!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Fill Out the Census...Or Not? What's a Christian To Do?

There's been a lot of questions about whether Christians should fill out the 2010 US Census documents or only give the minimal information, or skip it altogether. One man asked for my views. Here's what I wrote to him.

Thanks for your question and concern to respond to civic issues appropriately. The US Constitution calls for a census count in order to determine representatives in the US Congress, conducted according to the laws established by Congress. There is a lot of hoopla about all the information requested beyond the "How many people live here?" question, and whether that's constitutional or not.

Romans 13 makes it plain that we're to live under the authority of the state. We should take a stand against that which is plainly against God's commands for us -- and expect to participate in civic avenues open to use (e.g., the courts), and potentially suffer the consequences from the state when we do. Paul appealed to Roman law when he demanded a trial.

Please note, too, that the Biblical view would be that we submit to the government authorities as they are, not as we think they should be.

Our submission to the state request to complete a census form does not therefore matter if we think the way the census is set up is beyond the Constitution, or asks for information government authorities should already have, or is inconvenient for us. We can avail ourselves of civic avenues open to us if we believe changes should be made. But I don't think there are good biblical grounds to refuse to participate in the census process.

I will fill out the census form that is delivered to my house, and I will return it as requested.

Our census form came in the mail the other day, and I filled it out. There were questions about how many people lived in our house, whether we owned or rented it, and the race of each person. Despite what I'd heard, there were no questions asking about the number of telephones or TVs or cars we owned, educational background, political party registration, income, health issues, or use of compact fluorescent light bulbs. Took about 5 minutes to complete.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Blogging Break!

I'll be taking a couple of weeks off from writing blog posts, to devote my attention on other projects.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Churchill -- Recommended Biography

I heartily recommend men read biographies of great men, of great leaders, of great thinkers and great servants of people. Winston Churchill was no evangelical to emulate, but had many admirable qualities as a leader and a man. Few men influenced the 20th century as Churchill did. (I should say, God used Churchill in remarkable ways on the events of the 20th century.)

The stumbling block for many men is that they are not good readers. This is correctable, but seldom is.

That poor reading capability will not deter men from fully digesting Paul Johnson's new biography Churchill. It's 168 pages of delightful reading, stuffed with good analysis, and easy-to-find lessons to apply in our lives today. The author knew Churchill and lived through the WWII years in Britain. I recommend you start with the six-page epilogue for an introduction.

I recommend all of Paul Johnson's books if you want to learn from history. Johnson writes well, but without injecting too much opinion into the work, or being overly positive or overly negative about real-life strengths and weaknesses, triumphs and mistakes. Reading Modern Times in 1985 catalyzed a great love of history in my heart.

The Family War...and Battle Victories

Dads, you're in a war.

You must simultaneously hold a long-term view (the goal is to create adult disciples of Christ) and the short-term view (what can I do TODAY to lead my family? What does God want them to learn today? How can I make sure I'm growing in the Lord so I can keep leading this family?)

The key to success is to pursue battle victories one day at a time.

Every devotion you lead with your children is a battle victory. Every time you pray with your wife it's a battle victory. Every time you work through a forgiveness issue with your children it's a battle victory.

Jesus Christ has won the war.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Quick Note on Blog Comments

I've been battling a lot of comment spam in the past few months. If you comment on a post more than 2 weeks old, I have to approve it before it will appear. I'm actively deleting spam comments on newer posts, but it's a challenge to keep up. So if you see comment promoting, uh, "organ" enlargement or get-rich-quick schemes, rest assured it won't stay there.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

What Does a Leader Need to Hear Over and Over?

There's a great leadership lesson about strength and courage to be learned from the life of Joshua.

Joshua had demonstrated his potential from the time he was a young man. Joshua was one of the 12 sent to spy out the land of Canaan - and one of the two who proved confident in God's leading. Joshua had spent many years serving as Moses' aide. Let's not underestimate the leadership development power of association with godly men! Think of how it would affect a man to stand outside the tent of meeting where God met Moses face to face (Exodus 33:11).

As he neared death, Moses tells the people that Joshua will lead them, and that they must be strong and courageous:

1 Then Moses went out and spoke these words to all Israel: 2 "I am now a hundred and twenty years old and I am no longer able to lead you. The LORD has said to me, 'You shall not cross the Jordan.' 3 The LORD your God himself will cross over ahead of you. He will destroy these nations before you, and you will take possession of their land. Joshua also will cross over ahead of you, as the LORD said. 4 And the LORD will do to them what he did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, whom he destroyed along with their land. 5 The LORD will deliver them to you, and you must do to them all that I have commanded you. 6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."
7 Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, "Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the LORD swore to their forefathers to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. 8 The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." (Deut 31:1-8)

The Lord commissions Joshua to lead the people into the Promised Land:

14 The LORD said to Moses, "Now the day of your death is near. Call Joshua and present yourselves at the Tent of Meeting, where I will commission him." So Moses and Joshua came and presented themselves at the Tent of Meeting.
23 The LORD gave this command to Joshua son of Nun: "Be strong and courageous, for you will bring the Israelites into the land I promised them on oath, and I myself will be with you." (Deut 31:14, 23)

This commissioning probably occurred through Moses laying hands on Joshua (see Deut 34:9)

Then after Moses dies, Joshua is again told to be strong and courageous (3 times!):

1 After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses' aide: 2 "Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them-to the Israelites. 3 I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. 4 Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates-all the Hittite country-to the Great Sea on the west. 5 No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.
6 "Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. 7 Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:1-9)

Finally the people ask Joshua to be strong and courageous:

16 Then they answered Joshua, "Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. 17 Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you. Only may the LORD your God be with you as he was with Moses. 18 Whoever rebels against your word and does not obey your words, whatever you may command them, will be put to death. Only be strong and courageous!" (Joshua 1:16-18)

Let's review: Who is told to be strong and courageous?
Moses tells the people of Israel (Deut 31:1-6)
Moses tells Joshua (Deut 31:7-8)
The Lord tells Joshua -- several times (Joshua 1:1-9)
The people tell Joshua (Joshua 1:16-18)

(And it doesn't end here: at the end of his life, Joshua commands the people to be very strong -- Joshua 23:6)

It's safe for us to infer that leaders should be strong and courageous! The fact that this is repeated so much here suggests:
o The great danger for leaders to guard against is slipping back to our default state: timidity and fear.
o Leaders need to be reminded of the important things.
o Leaders need to remind people of the important things (being strong, courageous, and obeying God's commands).
o Being reminded frequently is a sign of God's love and compassion on us.

Let's strive to be strong and courageous leaders for God's people within the spheres of influence God gives us. Our situation today is no different than this biblical history: we have a bright future, we're a called people, we need godly leadership, and we need to be strong and courageous.

Monday, March 01, 2010

"Stop Sign" Prayer Challenge

Here's my challenge for you: Every time you see a stop sign, pray for someone you know fighting cancer.

Develop habits of prayer like this with ordinary activities. Washing your hands, brushing your teeth, taking out the trash, starting the car, opening the mailbox -- associate all of these with prayer. These are helpful steps towards praying continually, little buoying moments to lift our thoughts towards God.