Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Doing several things at once is a trick we play on ourselves, thinking we're getting more done. In reality, our productivity goes down by as much as 40%. We don't actually multitask. We switch-task, rapidly shifting from one thing to another, interrupting ourselves unproductively, and losing time in the process.
You might think you're different, that you've done it so much you've become good at it. Practice makes perfect and all that.
But you'd be wrong. Research shows that heavy multitaskers are less competent at doing several things at once than light multitaskers. In other words, in contrast to almost everything else in your life, the more you multitask, the worse you are at it. Practice, in this case, works against you.
Monday, September 20, 2010
When Christians practice yoga, they must either deny the reality of what yoga represents or fail to see the contradictions between their Christian commitments and their embrace of yoga. The contradictions are not few, nor are they peripheral. The bare fact is that yoga is a spiritual discipline by which the adherent is trained to use the body as a vehicle for achieving consciousness of the divine. Christians are called to look to Christ for all that we need and to obey Christ through obeying his Word. We are not called to escape the consciousness of this world by achieving an elevated state of consciousness, but to follow Christ in the way of faithfulness.
Read the whole thing here.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
In many cases, the word “no” is more important than the word “yes.”
To say “yes” to the best things, you’ll have to say “no” to the good things.
In ministry, you will be overwhelmed with many good opportunities. But if you say “yes” to all of them, one day you won’t be able to say “yes” to the most important things.
Just because you could do something, doesn’t mean you should do it.
It may sound odd, but if you want to do more to make an impact, it often starts with the word “no.”
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Some of us will choose to not participate in any of the world's systems, and opt for insulating ourselves in a self-made Christian bubble, a life constructed so that we can live out our days without ever even bumping into someone who doesn't believe or live as we do. Safely detached from the spiritual lepers outside, we can glory in Christian preschool through graduate school, Christian music, Christian romance novels, Christian leadership books, and even Christian Halloween candy. Thank God for those Christian Yellow Pages. The only thing we will not have is the personal influence of the gospel in the lives of those who do not know Christ. It's difficult to make disciples of people we won't even talk to. In a perverse twist of our Lord's expectation, many Christians find themselves of the world by means of some kind of pseudo-sacred imitation, but not in it.
Read the whole article here.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Monday, September 13, 2010
.......because of my keen awareness of and pastoral interaction with the cultural influence of Bans (Patrick's label for males who are men in age buy boys in their lifestyle and actions), I know that my work is cut out for me when it comes to raising a godly man. As with all of us dads with similar aspirations, my only hope is the Holy Spirit. So I recently wrote a little prayer that reflects the kinds of men we need. Drew and I pray this prayer together almost every night. It is a prayer for him and for me:
God, make me a man with thick skin and a soft heart. Make me a man who is tough and tender. Make me tough so I can handle life. Make me tender so I can love people. God, make me a man.
A wise and godly friend helped me realize a couple of things. First, he helped me see that angry outbursts are like doing a cannonball into a pool -- you don't really know how far the splash reaches because you're just jumping in with your eyes closed. My anger was splashing on people I never intended to reach.
We are not called to defeat the Devil--Christ has already done that at the cross, and the days until his final and complete triumph over Satan are numbered. What we are called to do is resist the Enemy (James 4:7) and become firm in our faith (1 Peter 5:9). God will be faithful to protect us and to give us help against Satan's assaults.
As I have decided in recent days to become more intentional and focused in my reading, I am going to attempt to do two things -- one, read only 1-2 books at a time, and two, begin to share the best quotes from the books I am reading here on the blog. I am going to call these posts "Quotes from the Book Stack." My goal is to complete a book every 7-10 days, and as I read share the best quotes and perhaps even some of my thoughts with you.
I don't know how this will work, but I hope it will be a blessing to you. Look for the first installment later tonight.
When an eagle is happy in an iron cage, when a sheep is happy in water, when an owl is happy in the blaze of the noonday sun, when a fish is happy on dry land then, and not till then, will I admit that the unsanctified man could be happy in heaven. —J.C. Ryle
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Tony Schwartz of Fast Company:
It's Labor Day in the U.S. as I write this post. To my own amazement, I've spent most of the past month truly relaxing--reading lots of books, playing tennis, running, hanging out with my family, and eating food I mostly shouldn't--scones and donuts for breakfast, BLTs and burgers for lunch. I enjoyed every minute of it.
Now it's time to return to work. I feel lucky to have a job, and especially one I love, but the fall ahead is intense, daunting, and demanding, as I suspect it is for you. I'm anxious about the economy. I'm wondering when the next shoe is going to drop. I'm concerned about how my company will hold up if things do get worse.
Add to all that the digital demands of the world we now inhabit. Armed with ever more ways to connect with each other, and to stay current in every moment, we often aren't sure where to put our focus. We find it harder to give all of our attention to anything--or anyone--for very long.
The consequence is that we're undertaking more and more tasks every day, but they often add up to less and less real value.
Just think about how many emails you now receive and respond to each day? There are 1307 sitting in my inbox right now. I suspect that two dozen at most genuinely merit my attention. But how to focus on those, and invest minimal time on the rest?
What, in short, does it take to be productive and efficient in a world of infinitely rising demand, and endless potential distractions? By productive, I mean generating goods and services with lasting value. By efficient, I mean doing so with the least amount of unnecessary expenditure of time and energy.
Here are six behaviors that we regularly teach to our clients (for more, please click here):
1. Make sufficient sleep a top priority. Schedule your bedtime, and start winding down at least 45 minutes earlier. Ninety-eight percent of all human beings need at least 7-8 hours a night to feel fully rested. Only a fraction of us get that much regularly, in part because we buy into the myth that sacrificing an hour or two of sleep a night give us an hour more of productivity. In reality, even small amounts of sleep deprivation take a dramatic toll on our cognitive capacity, our ability to think creatively, our emotional resilience, the quality of our work, and even the speed at which we do it.
2. Create one to-do list that includes everything you want or need to do, on and off the job--and I mean everything, including any unresolved issues that merit further reflection. That's the essence of David Allen's simple but profound work (see Getting Things Done). Writing everything down helps get it off your mind, leaving you free to fully focus on what's most important at any given moment.
3.Do the most important thing first when you get to work each morning, when you're likely to be have the highest energy and the fewest distractions. Decide the night before what activity most deserves your attention. Then focus on it single-mindedly for no more than 90 minutes. Productivity isn't about how many tasks you complete or the number of hours you work. It's about the enduring value you create.
4. Live like a sprinter, not a marathoner. When you work continuously, you're actually progressively depleting your energy reservoir as the day wears on. By making intermittent renewal and refueling important, you're regularly replenishing your reservoir, so you're not only able to fully engage at intervals along the way, but also to maintain high energy much further into the day.
5. Monitor your mood. When demand begins to exceed your capacity, one of the most common signs is an increase in negative emotions. The more we move into "fight or flight," the more reactive and impulsive we become, and the less reflective and responsive. The first question to ask yourself is "Why am I feeling this way, and what can I do to make myself feel better?" It may be that you're hungry, tired, overwhelmed, or feeling threatened in some way. Awareness is the first step. You can't change what you don't notice.
6. Schedule specific times for activities in your life that you deem important but not urgent. With so much coming at you all the time, it's easy to focus all day on whatever feels most pressing in the moment. What you sacrifice is the opportunity to take on work such as writing, strategizing, thinking creatively, or cultivating relationships, which may require more time and energy, but often yield greater long-term rewards.
Friday, September 10, 2010
Thursday, September 9, 2010
I recently finished reading Making Ideas Happen, the new book from Scott Belsky, founder and CEO of Behance. Here are the highlights from my reading:
•“It turns out that ‘having the idea’ is just a small part of the process, perhaps only 1 percent of the journey.”
•“Most ideas are born and lost in isolation.”
•“Organization is the guiding force of productivity; if you want to make an idea happen, you need to have a process for doing so.”
•“Without some structure, you can become an addict of the brain-spinning indulgence of idea generation.”
•“The process of excessive note taking actually interferes with the bias toward action that is necessary for a productive creative environment.”
•“You must be willing to kill ideas liberally–for the sake of fully pursuing others.”
•“Leaving a meeting without anything actionable signifies that the meeting was just an information exchange and should have taken place over e-mail.”
•“It turns out that constraints–whether they are deadlines, budgets, or highly specific creative briefs–help us manage our energy and execute ideas… our productivity desperately requires restrictions.”
•“While we all have different insecurities, most of us share a common approach to dealing with them: we seek information to make our anxiety go away.”
•“Any project that’s run by a single person is basically destined to fail. It’s going to fail because it doesn’t scale. If one of my projects can’t attract a team, I pretty much figure that there’s something wrong with it.” –Chris Anderson, Wired magazine’s editor in chief
•“You need to work with people who ask the difficult, practical questions that are frustrating but important when pushing ideas forward.”
•“We fall short of fully empowering others because we don’t want to compromise the quality (or control) of our ideas.”
•“You are the steward of the chemistry in every project you lead, starting with who and how you hire.”
•“Cynics cling to their doubts and are often unwilling to move away from their convictions. By contrast, skeptics are willing to embrace something new–they are just wary and critical at first. Thought they are often undervalued, skeptics are an essential component of a healthy team, and leaders should cultivate their respect and influence.”
•“The leaders of great creative teams value the friction that results when opinions vary among a passionate group of creative minds.”
•“Teams should not strive for complete consensus at the outset of a project. After all, consensus-driven teams run the risk of settling on what offends no one and satisfies no one.”
•“Leadership is not about making people do things. Leadership is about instilling a genuine desire in the hearts and minds of others to take ownership of their work on a project.”
•“As long as the desired outcome is achieved, controlling how it is achieved shouldn’t be that important to you.”
•“We should be wary that ‘best practices’–the tried and true ways of doing thing–often become conventional wisdom, and conventional wisdom is often wrong.”
•“Most entrepreneurs will admit that the value of having a masterful business plan is overrated. What matters most is your ability to keep moving and pushing your ideas forward, yard by yard.”
•“The uncharted path is the only road to something new.”
I think you’ll be challenged by Scott’s writing. Here’s my Amazon link if you’d like to pick up your own copy of Making Ideas Happen.
Friday, September 3, 2010
If you have five minutes to spare I recommend listening to this short interview with Mike Rowe of the show Dirty Jobs. Recently I've become hooked on Dirty Jobs, a program where Mike travels the U.S. looking for dirty jobs and the people who get them done. The interview was insightful in that he explains a bit more of his philosophy and the reasons for creating the show as well as its continued popularity. For example, he has this little intro on his website (www.mikeroweworks.com) titled "Work is Not the Enemy":
Doesn’t it seem strange that we can have a shortage of skilled labor, a crumbling infrastructure, and rising unemployment? How did we get into this fix? Are we lazy? Our society has slowly redefined what it means to have a “good job.” The portrayals in Hollywood and the messages from Madison Avenue have been unmistakable. “Work less and be happy!” For the last thirty years we’ve been celebrating a different kind of work. We’ve aspired to other opportunities. We’ve stopped making things. We’ve convinced ourselves that “good jobs” are the result of a four year degree. That’s bunk. Not all knowledge comes from college. Skill is back in demand. Steel toed boots are back in fashion. And Work Is Not The Enemy.
Monday, August 30, 2010
I hardly ever listen to the radio anymore. I mainly listen to classical and jazz and lots of rock when I workout. But I still want to be up to date on what music is popular and thus I browse the iTunes top charts to see what is going on.
Today Katy Perry is leading the pack. Her song "Teenage Dream" is the number one song on iTunes. She is an amazing singer and apart from the completely superficial picture of relationships and sex it is a perfectly crafted pop song. Congrats to her. This is common grace on display. What a beautiful person with extremely unique musical abilities.
But Katy Perry grieves me. She is is another classic example of the "sex on a plate" female musician. Britney, Christina, Katy... and on and on. Another girl on the long list of those who embrace glorified prostitution for the sake of music sales. Scoot your chair up to the table and consume.
I am sad for Katy. She has a fabricated image that has been created by a music industry that functions as a corporate pimp. It will use her for profit and then cast her aside when they are done with her.
I am sad that millions of young girls who don't have a clue about sex and relationships will look to her lyrics as an example to follow.
I am sad because her song "Teenage Dream" is one of the catchiest pop tunes I have heard in a long time and I love listening to it. I know that I am not alone here. This song has probably already sold millions and embodied in it is view of sex and relationships that will leave so many lonely, unsatisfied, and broken. Our idols always leave us that way.
I am sad because this song will be consumed by many too young and naive to know that it's just a lie marketed to them to make lots and lots of money.
I don't blame Katy. This is the culture that we have created and enabled to exist. We pay for it and we reap the carnage of it. She is simply the next one up and more will be sure to follow. But Katy doesn't represent the real world. Like her song "Teenage Dream" that is all it is, a dream. So what do we do?
Teach your kids, especially your daughters.
Live such transparent lives with those who don't know Jesus that they sense something different is going on. I can honestly say (by God's grace alone) that I am more satisfied with and in love with my wife today after 12 years than I have ever been. But it's no "teenage dream". It is blood, sweat, and tears. Sounds a lot like crucifixion doesn't it? Yeah, nails hurt. They hurt real bad but the resurrection that follows is sweet beyond words.
Does an onlooking world see The Gospel on display in our lives and in our relationships? This is the only way to counter the destructive worldview that is preached from the radio waves and iTunes playlists. Show them and tell them that only Jesus can give us more than a "teenage dream". He gives us himself and only this will satisfy.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
A Mormon television star stands in front of the Lincoln Memorial and calls American Christians to revival. He assembles some evangelical celebrities to give testimonies, and then preaches a God and country revivalism that leaves the evangelicals cheering that they’ve heard the gospel, right there in the nation’s capital.
The news media pronounces him the new leader of America’s Christian conservative movement, and a flock of America’s Christian conservatives have no problem with that.
If you’d told me that ten years ago, I would have assumed it was from the pages of an evangelical apocalyptic novel about the end-times. But it’s not. It’s from this week’s headlines. And it is a scandal.
Fox News commentator Glenn Beck, of course, is that Mormon at the center of all this. Beck isn’t the problem. He’s an entrepreneur, he’s brilliant, and, hats off to him, he knows his market. Latter-day Saints have every right to speak, with full religious liberty, in the public square. I’m quite willing to work with Mormons on various issues, as citizens working for the common good. What concerns me here is not what this says about Beck or the “Tea Party” or any other entertainment or political figure. What concerns me is about what this says about the Christian churches in the United States.
It’s taken us a long time to get here, in this plummet from Francis Schaeffer to Glenn Beck. In order to be this gullible, American Christians have had to endure years of vacuous talk about undefined “revival” and “turning America back to God” that was less about anything uniquely Christian than about, at best, a generically theistic civil religion and, at worst, some partisan political movement.
Rather than cultivating a Christian vision of justice and the common good (which would have, by necessity, been nuanced enough to put us sometimes at odds with our political allies), we’ve relied on populist God-and-country sloganeering and outrage-generating talking heads. We’ve tolerated heresy and buffoonery in our leadership as long as with it there is sufficient political “conservatism” and a sufficient commercial venue to sell our books and products.
Too often, and for too long, American “Christianity” has been a political agenda in search of a gospel useful enough to accommodate it. There is a liberation theology of the Left, and there is also a liberation theology of the Right, and both are at heart mammon worship. The liberation theology of the Left often wants a Barabbas, to fight off the oppressors as though our ultimate problem were the reign of Rome and not the reign of death. The liberation theology of the Right wants a golden calf, to represent religion and to remind us of all the economic security we had in Egypt. Both want a Caesar or a Pharaoh, not a Messiah.
Leaders will always be tempted to bypass the problem behind the problems: captivity to sin, bondage to the accusations of the demonic powers, the sentence of death. That’s why so many of our Christian superstars smile at crowds of thousands, reassuring them that they don’t like to talk about sin. That’s why other Christian celebrities are seen to be courageous for fighting their culture wars, while they carefully leave out the sins most likely to be endemic to the people paying the bills in their movements.
Where there is no gospel, something else will fill the void: therapy, consumerism, racial or class resentment, utopian politics, crazy conspiracy theories of the left, crazy conspiracy theories of the right; anything will do. The prophet Isaiah warned us of such conspiracies replacing the Word of God centuries ago (Is. 8:12–20). As long as the Serpent’s voice is heard, “You shall not surely die,” the powers are comfortable.
This is, of course, not new. Our Lord Jesus faced this test when Satan took him to a high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the earth, and their glory. Satan did not mind surrendering his authority to Jesus. He didn’t mind a universe without pornography or Islam or abortion or nuclear weaponry. Satan did not mind Judeo-Christian values. He wasn’t worried about “revival” or “getting back to God.” What he opposes was the gospel of Christ crucified and resurrected for the sins of the world.
Read the rest here.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Saturday, August 21, 2010
Monday, August 16, 2010
Sunday, August 15, 2010
This week Eva and I took the plunge and enrolled our children for the first time in a public school system. This is a matter that we have wrestled with for years and in particular in the last six months. Much consideration, research, and most importantly prayer went into the decision. And since the issue of schooling is perhaps the number one topic that I discuss with parents of young and school-aged children, I thought I would share a few of the key reasons behind our decision. Before I share these reasons however, let me state the following caveats:
· I'm not sharing all of the varied factors that influenced our decision, only the ones that I believe will be the most important to my readers.
· What I'm sharing isn't prescriptive; in other words, I am not telling you what schooling you should provide for your children. That's for you to decide.
· I am very thankful for the Christian school that my children have attended for the last 6 years; for a number of reasons (see some below) we have decided that a change is what is best for our children (and us) at this time. That might change in the future. Only God knows.
Those caveats behind, let me elaborate on several key reasons for our decision:
1. The Scriptures are clear that parents are responsible for the development of their children (Deut 6:1-4, Prov. 22:6, Ephesians 6:1), not the school or church. There is no Biblical mandate for Christian education, or home education, any more than there is for public education. The Scripture holds parents, and parents alone, responsible for raising their children. God has given parents the church and school as a tool to help them in this task, but at the end of the day, I will be the one who is held accountable for how my child has been raised (note I didn't say turns out; ultimately the child has to answer for himself).
2. I have been involved in Christian education in some way, either as a student, a teacher or a parent of students, for all but 5 years of my life. And during my 10 years as a pastor I have interacted with hundreds of public and home-schooled children. Here is what my unofficial research has determined: the number one influence on a child, by far, is the parents. You might be saying, well, duh, of course, but here is what my "research" also shows: when parents follow Proverbs 22:6 (i.e., shepherd their children spiritually) it doesn't matter what school they go to, the children will grow up to walk with the Lord. While this is not always true (Proverbs 22:6 isn't a guarantee, simply the way of the wise) it is true most of the time. It certainly was for me; I love the Lord today largely because of my parents involvement in shepherding me spiritually, not because of (and actually to some degree in spite of) the Christian school I attended.
I have also found the converse to be true: when parents don't follow Proverbs 22:6, children normally don't grow up to walk with Lord, regardless of where they go to school. In fact, and this is what scares me the most, when parents abdicate their role to shepherd their children to the Christian school (and the church), children often see little connection between what they see in school/church and the home, and often leave the church (and the faith) as soon as they leave home. This leads me my next point.
3. Here is what I have come to realize in recent days: I have been using the church and Christian education as a crutch. I have slowly and subtly abdicated my responsibility to "bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." Since I knew they were receiving Biblical instruction at church and school, I have bought into the thinking (lie?) that they were getting all that they needed. In reality, what they need the most is what only I can give to them (Fathers, bring them up in the training.....).
4. Finally, my family, and in particular me, live in a Christian bubble. We are a Christian family. We go to a Christian church. A Christian church I work at. What's missing? Involvement with those who aren't Christians. How can I be salt and light when I am never around those who need the salt and light? How can I train my children to live a missional life and share their faith if they don't see me doing it?
Here's a transparent moment for you: we lived in our last home for 7 years. During those 7 years I can count on one hand (without using my thumb) the number of significant conversations I had with any of our neighbors. That has to change. And in our recent move we have determined that we are going to begin to break out of the Christian bubble, begin to build relationships in our community, begin to attempt to reach our neighbors for Christ, and use the relationships that our children and their activities help us make to do so.
Oh, and one more thing here. I have an 8-year old daughter who I am convinced God has given the gift of "relationship-building". She can walk into a room with people she has never met and in five minutes she will be playing with a girl who is her age. She has never met a stranger. And she wants to tell them about Jesus. What a gift. As her father, I believe that it is my role to help her develop this gift. How will she ever do this if she is never around non-Christians?As I said earlier, these are not the only reasons, just the most important. I know you might not agree, and you don't have to. But I would be happy to hear your thoughts none the less. Either way, I hope this helps as you consider how God would have you lead your children.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
The terms election and predestination are often used interchangeably, both referring to God’s gracious decree whereby he chooses some for eternal life. In Romans 8:30 Paul speaks of those whom God has predestined, called, justified, and (in the end) glorified. In 8:33 Paul references “the elect,” apparently a synonym for the predestined ones described a few verses earlier.
A sharp distinction between the two words is not warranted from Scripture, but if there is a distinction to be made, predestination is the general term for God’s sovereign ordaining, while election is the specific term for God choosing us in Christ before the foundation of the world. That is, predestination is the broader category of which election is the smaller subset. Calvin defined predestination as “God’s eternal decree, by which he compacted with himself what he willed to become of each man…Therefore, as any man has been created to one or the other of these ends, we speak of him as predestined to life or to death” (Inst. III.xxi.5). For Calvin, predestination encompasses the entire eternal decree. Election and reprobation, then, represent two different aspects of the decree. The Canons of Dort Article 1 makes the same distinctions.
This delineation is not without merit. The “elect” is always a positive designation in Scripture (e.g., Matt. 24:31; Titus 1:1), suggesting that election implies eternal life (though Rom 9:11 may be an exception to this rule). Predestination, on the other hand, can be used more broadly. Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and people of Israel, did to Jesus what God’s “plan had predestined to take place” (Acts 4:27-28). Indeed, all of our days are written in God’s book before one of them comes to pass (Psalm 139:16 ). Every form of prosperity and affliction comes to us not by chance, but from God’s fatherly hand (Heidelberg Catechism Q/A 27). Or as Augustine put it, “The will of God is the necessity of all things.”
Does this mean we are “predestined” to marry so-and-so or take a certain job? In one sense, looking back at God’s providential care, we can say “Yes, that’s was God’s plan for my life.” And yet this notion of divine superintendence is not meant to undercut personal initiative and responsibility. Everything happens after the counsel of God’s will (Eph. 1:11), but this is no excuse to neglect the use of means, nor is it a reason to think every decision we make is automatically pleasing to God. God’s sovereign unalterable will of decree is not be confused with his violable will of desire.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Yesterday was the beginning of Ramadan, the month when Muslims fast in remembrance of the time of year when they believe Allah revealed the first verses of the Koran to Mohammed.
If you would like to pray for Muslims during Ramadan (August 11-September 9) you can download a prayer guide here.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Monday, August 9, 2010
Saturday, August 7, 2010
Parents, if you can’t afford a sitter, is there a way to set up a rotation with three other families to take turns each week watching kids for date night?
Husbands, when is your date night? Your wife needs it. You do, too. Grace and I have enjoyed Friday date nights for about 20 years.
Husbands, don’t waste every date night at a movie where you can’t talk. Use the time to visit with your wife, draw her out, and study her like you do the Bible.
Husbands, plan out your date nights. Ask you wife in advance what sounds good, see what your options are, and make a plan. She’ll be thankful.
Date night killers: no plan, selfishness, laziness, letting technology keep interrupting, and doing the same old predictable thing.
Time with other couples now and then is OK, but if most date nights involve other people, there is likely an intimacy disconnect in the marriage.
Dads, moms who stay home all day with the kids need to get dressed up, taken out, and have some adult conversation with their husbuddy.
Husbands, what can you do to find some creative ways to make date night fun and endearing even on a tight budget?
Husbands, what can you start doing days or hours before date night to build the expectation of connection with your wife? Flowers, cards, calls, texts?
When life gets crazy, the kids are sick, etc. is there any way to sneak in a bit of a date night at home with say a soak in the tub together, glass of wine etc. after the kids go to sleep?
Sometimes sending the kids out to someone’s house and having a date night at home can be cheap and fun if planned right.
Men, you don’t pursue a woman to marry her and stop pursuing her. You pursue a woman to marry her and pursue her with more passion and creativity than ever. How’s it going husbands?
Men, you don’t need to understand women. You will be doing better than most men to understand just one woman. Date nights are to ask inviting questions, listen, and learn about her. It’s also a night to open up and let her do the same.
Men, if you don’t date your wife, someone else may eventually volunteer for the job.
Ladies, sometimes it’s a great gift to go into your husband’s world for a date night by doing something like putting on a jersey going to a game and eating a hot dog. His love language may just be hot dog.
Men: find a shirt with buttons, try two eyebrows instead of one, find a breath mint or 20, show up with a gift, don’t ogle other women, and go to a restaurant that does not have a spork.
Sometimes the best date night is date breakfast, date lunch, or surprise pick up your spouse from work for an hour at a hotel.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
This is a need that is almost constant at Bethel, and both Melissa and I are convinced that a primary reason for this is that many (most?) people fail to see the value and joy of ministering to children. This is apparently not something that Jesus failed to see (Matthew 19:12-14), nor should we.
Along this line, as I was browsing through some of my favorite blogs this evening, I was directed to this post at Radical Womanhood:
Almost three years ago, a dear friend of mine passed away in a fatal car accident. She was married and had two little boys, and the months after her death led to an increased desire in my heart to care for her kiddos. I completed my spring semester of my freshman year of college, and sought counsel about it and prayed a ton, which led to an increased burden for the children. God was opening doors and guiding me, and I excitedly decided to take a break from college to take care of Mason (4) and Evan (2) full time. Since then, I've been very involved in their lives, watching them 40+ hours a week and homeschooling them.
Directors and professors from my college asked me why I'd throw away my education and waste my life to care for children. I told them I could come back to school anytime, but more importantly that I did NOT see it as a waste at all. God values life and He loves children, and that, I told them, is what motivated me. I was shocked that people were asking me these questions; I thought everyone had a high view of care for children. But these interactions, which happened more frequently than even I like to acknowledge, made me eager to see God prove Himself to me in this new season, and left me with a passion to somehow reveal the lies of our culture that say the training of and investment in children is unimportant and demeaning. Because I didn’t believe that, and two years later, I still don’t.
Read the whole thing here.
Monday, August 2, 2010
Our church gives 100% of its budget to missions. That’s because our church is a mission.
Staff salaries are mission. Benevolence (our fund to support those who are in need financially) is about missions. Paying the rent, again, missions.
And why shouldn’t we think of church in America like this? Are we still under the assumption that we are the chaplains to our culture, to use Ed Stetzer’s apt illustration? We are missionaries. We are not at home, even in our home country. We don’t share similar world views with people outside of the body of Christ.
It’s hard to think like missionaries. It is not intuitive to see the world where WE LIVE as missions. After all, it’s home. We speak the same language, we wear similar clothes, listen to similar music. But we have forgotten, or maybe never learned, that we are really different. This culture doesn’t share similar assumptions about God, man, justice, love, righteousness, etc. We don’t have a common language anymore for these concepts.
So we must adapt, just like a missionary would. No missionary would think that the culture where they are sent has to adapt to the missionary’s cultural norms. The missionary, if they are worth anything, seeks to understand the culture and then find creative ways to communicate the gospel in a way that the people will understand.
All of this is rooted in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. If we are to walk as He walked, then we need to be a missionary like He was; a missionary that did not look to his own interests, but the interests of others. The Son of God came in a way we could understand. He laid aside His rights as God to reach us — why should we not do the same?
Sunday, August 1, 2010
Thursday, July 29, 2010
The interviewee is Dr. Bob Kellemen, author of the recently released book God’s Healing for Life’s Losses: How to Find Hope When You’re Hurting.
Let me begin by quickly introducing you to Dr. Kellemen. Bob has served as a pastor, counselor, professor and seminary department chairman. He is also an accomplished author and blogger, and his ministry has touched lives around the world. I admire Bob for many reasons, not the least of which is his NW Indiana heritage and his love for the Chicago Bulls. For more on Dr. Kellemen and his ministry, visit www.rpmminstries.org.
God's Healing for Life's Losses is a short book, but it is packed with life-changing truth. We all face pain and hurt, and Dr. Kellemen provides succinct, Biblical wisdom for how to handle life's difficulties in a spiritually-healthy and God-honoring way. Here are a few questions that Bob answers about his book:
Dr. Kellemen, what’s the “big idea” behind God’s Healing for Life’s Losses? What would you like readers to take away from it?
In a biblical sentence: you can grieve with hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). God’s Healing for Life’s Losses gives readers permission to grieve and offers a pathway toward hope. I want people to see their suffering from God’s perspective without denying the reality that suffering still hurts.
What would I like readers to take away?
The title and subtitle say it best. I’d like readers to walk away with God’s healing hope.
Who should read God’s Healing for Life’s Losses?
Sometimes the second we hear words like loss and grief, our minds focus exclusively on death and dying. God’s Healing for Life’s Losses focuses on any type of loss—from the grand loss of death, to the daily casket experiences of the loss of a job, the loss of a dream, the loss of a relationship…...so anyone struggling with any life loss would benefit from reading God’s Healing.
God’s Healing for Life’s Losses also equips spiritual friends, pastors, and counselors. When we’re helping hurting people, it can get messy and confusing. A few “handles,” a few “road markers” on the journey sure would help. That’s what God’s Healing for Life’s Losses offers. It provides a “map” without becoming a straight-jacket. It suggests eight “directional markers” that become something of a GPS—God’s Positioning System—for the grief and growth journey.
God’s Healing for Life’s Losses examines Scripture relationally and practically so that helpers grow in their ability to explore passages with hurting people—and do so in a natural, loving, caring, skillful way. Also, the two built-in discussion/application guides benefit small group leaders—providing an ideal forum and format for candid discussions about grief, emotions, hurt, hope, healing, God’s purposes, and much more.
In the four stages of grieving, you use your own grief experience as an example. Tell my readers about your grief story.
On my 21st birthday, I entered official adulthood not only because I turned 21, but also because my father passed away on my birthday. And for a year, I lived basically in denial—not really facing deeply the loss of my father. Then on my 22nd birthday, I began to move from denial to candor. I remember like it was yesterday—walking around the outskirts of the campus of Grace Seminary—telling myself the truth about how I felt, how I grieved the loss of my Dad. Over the course of that entire next year, I continued to move through the grief process. Again, walking the seminary campus, I had some long conversations with God. I lamented—I shared my heart about my hurt. During those times I cried out to God, acknowledging not only how much I missed my earthly father, but how much I longed for God as my heavenly Father. During those spiritual conversations I began to find God’s comfort—His hope in my hurt. I tell it now like it was a nice neat process, but at the time it was anything but. God and I had some messy, real, and raw conversations. I prayed my feelings to God. I wept. I surrendered. I asked God for comfort and He came.
How can people learn more about God’s Healing for Life’s Losses?
On my website at www.rpmministries.org people can find and download a free sample chapter of the book. Also at my website, people can order the book at 33% off. Additionally, I offer seminars around the country on God’s Healing for Life’s Losses. People can find my speaking schedule at the website. If a church or para-church group is interested in seeing if I could speak for their group, they can contact me at email@example.com.
If you are interested in a free copy of the book, post a comment after reading the interview and you may be selected to receive a complimentary copy.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Monday, July 26, 2010
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Monday, July 19, 2010
Sunday, July 18, 2010
Sunday, July 11, 2010
I want to try to introduce my son to a study that isn’t correction specific to an occasion. I want to study the heart, I want to study anger, I want to study idolatry, unrelated to an occasion where I am bringing discipline, so that the study hopefully can have the most effect. I want to engage in a study from Scripture. I want to choose age-appropriate material. I want to choose appropriate passages. And then my study with my son is supplemented by stories from my life, because I do the same thing. I don’t cry anymore like a child but I know how to cry in adult ways. I want my child to know that no matter what the category, I can identify.
Read the whole thing here.
Saturday, July 10, 2010
Thursday, July 8, 2010
1) I have been working on a new blog format and hope to have that ready to go soon.
2) One of the church matters that I have been dedicating significant time to is a leadership development initiative called The Barnabas Project. A part of this project is a blog, which you can access here.
3) This post signifies that I am returning to a regular posting. This may be somewhat less than in the past as I will be posting both here and at blog mentioned above, but I hope to post at least a couple of times a week.
Looking forward to getting back in the saddle!
Saturday, April 3, 2010
That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that l the Christ should suffer these things and enter into m his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and s blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and a how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.
Luke 24:13-35 (ESV)
Thursday, April 1, 2010
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Monday, March 22, 2010
“Now these three abide: anger, outrage, and fear—and the greatest of these is fear.”
That’s not in the Bible.
But sometimes I wonder if I think it is.
The United States House of Representatives just passed a health care reform bill that I and lots of other Christians opposed. Such legislation should concern us. There are some bad consequences for the weakest and most vulnerable among us, principally unborn children. But should it also concern us that so many of us are talking today about how afraid we are?
Is it a problem that some of us who are tranquil as still water about biblical doctrine and ecclesial mission are red-faced about Nancy Pelosi and the talking heads on MSNBC? Is it a problem that some who haven’t shared the gospel with their neighbors in months or years are motivated to vent to strangers on the street about how scary national health care will be?
It’s not that I think Christians should be disengaged from issues of justice (God forbid!). It’s just that I wonder if we wouldn’t represent Christ and his kingdom better if we did it with a certain tranquility of Spirit, a tranquility that signals we’re not afraid of the rise and fall of temporal kingdoms and their policies.
The words “do not fear” and “don’t be afraid” are among the most common phrases on the lips of our Lord—in both Old and New Testaments—and on the lips of his angelic messengers. I wonder why?
Isn’t it because “perfect love casts out fear” (1 Jn. 4:18)? Isn’t it because we “did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear” (Rom. 8:15)? Isn’t it because the Spirit prompts us not to “fear anything that is frightening” (1 Pet. 3:6)?
In fact, the Holy Spirit through King David, in a context far more frightening than that of our own, calls us to “fret not yourself because of evildoers” who will soon pass but “trust in the Lord and do good” (Ps. 37:1-3).
Here’s why this matters.
Most of us don’t preach “hellfire and brimstone” sermons anymore, on hell and God’s judgment. But hellfire is exactly what Jesus said we should fear. “And do not fear the ones who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul,” our Lord tells his disciples. “Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28).
Jesus not only teaches this; he lives it. Jesus doesn’t fear the crowds attempting to stone him. He doesn’t cower before Pilate. He isn’t afraid of the Sanhedrin. He’s confident and tranquil, even when he’s being arrested. But when he faces drinking from the cup of judgment of his Father, he sweats drops of blood.
If we were half as outraged by our own sin and self-deception as we are by the follies of our political opponents, what would be the result? If we rejoiced as much that our names are written in heaven as we do about such trivialities as basketball brackets, what would be the result?
So if what you’re afraid of is a politician or a policy or a culture or the future of Western civilization, don’t give up the conviction but give up the fear. Work for justice. Oppose evil. But do it so that your opponents will see not fear but trust, optimism, and affection.
“So now faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13).
Fear God and, beyond that, don’t be afraid.
Perhaps part of our slowness to come to grips with this truth lies in the way the notion of moral imperative has dissipated in much recent Western thought. Did you see the film Titanic that was screened about a dozen years ago? The great ship is full of the richest people in the world, and , according to the film, as the ship sinks, the rich men start to scramble for the few an inadequate lifeboats, shoving aside the women and children in their desperate desire to live. British sailors draw handguns and fire into the air, crying “Stand back! Stand back! Women and children first!” In reality, of course, nothing like that happened. The universal testimony of the witnesses who survived the disaster is that the men hung back and urged the women and children into the lifeboats. John Jacob Astor was there, at the time the richest man on earth, the Bill Gates of 1912. He dragged his wife to a boat, shoved her on, and stepped back. Someone urged him to get in, too. He refused: the boats are too few, and must be for the women and children first. He stepped back, and drowned. The philanthropist Benjamin Guggenheim was present. He was traveling with his mistress, but when he perceived that it was unlikely he would survive, he told one of his servants, “Tell my wife that Benjamin Guggenheim knows his duty” –and he hung back, and drowned. There is not a single report of some rich man displacing women and children in the mad rush for survival.
When the film was reviewed in the New York Times, the reviewer asked why the producer and director of the film had distorted history so flagrantly in this regard. The scene as they depicted it was implausible from the beginning. British sailors drawing handguns? Most British police officers do not carry handguns; British sailors certainly do not. So why this willful distortion of history? And then the reviewer answered his own question: if the producer and director had told the truth, he said, no one would have believed them.
I have seldom read a more damning indictment of the development of Western culture, especially Anglo-Saxon culture, in the last century. One hundred years ago, there remained in our culture enough residue of the Christian virtue of self-sacrifice for the sake of others, of the moral imperative that seeks the other’s good at personal expense, that Christians and non-Christians alike thought it noble, if unremarkable, to choose death for the sake of others. A mere century later, such a course is judged so unbelievable that the history has to be distorted (30-31).
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Friday, March 19, 2010
Gambling is horrible. It’s an addiction. It will wreck your life, make you throw all your money away and perhaps worst of all, it encourages you to spend time in fake river barges off of the coast of Mississippi. I like Mississippi but those boats are nonsense. And when you go to a casino and lose your money in the first five minutes you have to try to trick waitresses into giving you free drinks. When you see them coming, you hover closer to a blackjack table in the hope that they will assume you are playing, that you are perhaps an international gambler like say Roger Dalton, the best James Bond ever.
Gambling is horrible and I would elaborate on my thoughts in more detail but I have to go update my NCAA bracket. The first games were yesterday!
What’s that? You’re not familiar with March Madness? It’s a college basketball tournament and every year some guys at work run a pool. We all fill out brackets, pay $10 each and then try to win the pot. Lot of fun, lot of fun.
Did you know Robert Morris is a college? Until yesterday I thought Robert Morris was that kid from high school who had that wispy mustache and kind of smelled like cheese most days. I was wrong. Turns out Robert Morris is a great school with a really scrappy basketball team. Yesterday they almost beat the grossly overrated Villanova team. I follow the odds so I know which team to pick. (I don’t want to talk about UNC being in the NIT by the way.)
What? All of that sounds like gambling? Surely you jest. That’s not gambling. That’s fellowship. I am loving my neighbor by entering into a pool, where I can win money by successfully predicting the outcome of sporting events. It’s practically a ministry. Plus, NCAA brackets go back all the way to the Old Testament. Google it.
When the 12 Israelite spies went into the promised land to scout it, the other Israelites formed a bracket to see who would emerge with positive news. Turns out Joshua and Caleb fought it out in the championship.
If you’d like to apologize and perhaps join me in prayer for people who gamble on things like poker let me know. Just promise me you’ll do it after today’s games. I’ve got a lot riding on some of these picks.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Sunday, March 14, 2010
According to the New York Times “The Tea Party leaders . . . deliberately avoid discussion of issues like . . . abortion. . . . [They] argue that the country can ill afford the discussion about social issues when it is passing on enormous debts to future generations.”
Let me see if I understand this term “ill afford”.
Is this it? Enormous debt will hurt our children and grandchildren. Therefore don’t talk about the lawfulness of whether they can be killed.
Something like that?
Saturday, March 13, 2010
I've been asked several times in the last couple of days about whether I'm upset about the new remix of "We Are the World."
The Christians contacting me about this are disturbed by what they see as a startling omission from the '80s-era song in its 21st century update, performed by artists in support of Haiti relief. Willie Nelson's line "As God has shown us by turning stone to bread..." is gone. These Christians are outraged, and they wonder if I am too.
Well, yes, I am outraged. Willie Nelson should have been invited to participate. He's still every bit as talented as he was in 1985, and if Nick Jonas can be invited, then certainly Willie should've been too.
That's not what these folks are outraged about. They're afraid this is indicative of the secularization of American pop culture, and that there should be a Christian backlash.
But wait, again.
God didn't turn stones into bread. It was Satan, not God, who suggested our Lord Jesus turn rocks into bread (Matt. 4:3-4). God sends bread down from heaven (Exod. 16), a Manna he ultimately gives to us in the body of Jesus (Jn. 6), signified in the communion meal (1 Cor. 11).
Read the rest here.
Friday, March 12, 2010
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Sunday, March 7, 2010
I don't know who has it harder, preachers or those who have to listen to them every week. But, I have been thinking about some things that I wanted to share with both.
Preaching is hard. Those of us who teach every week put tons of pressure on ourselves and are often our worst critics. Sometimes we feel only as good as our last sermon. So to those of you with this joyful burden, I have two quick things to say:
•Trust that there is a cumulative effect to your preaching. Not every sermon needs to be a home run. Just be consistent and over time you will see a lot of fruit from your preaching. You don't have to "kill it" every Sunday; in fact you can't. Very few people have the ability to preach a lights out sermon week to week. Just preach the Gospel, relax and trust that God will bring about fruit.
•Define the win. If you have not defined what makes a sermon good, then you have no objective criteria by which to judge your sermons. Here is how I define the win: Was it text sourced, Christ exalting, gospel centered, and audience focused? Text Sourced - did the sermon come from a text in the bible and was it taught in context? This requires a lot of study. Christ Exalting - was Jesus the hero of the sermon? Did I preach in such a way as to move people's minds and hearts toward him? Was he shown to be the One we need? Was he exalted as more than just an example or a model, but as a Savior? This is key. If we only present Jesus as a model for how we live, we condemn people. Jesus died the death he died because we cannot live the life he lived. So our preaching must put Jesus forth as Savior. That is what I mean when I say Gospel-Centered. Was the Gospel presented not merely as the starting point for the Christian life, but the very track on which the Christian life is ran? As Dr. Tim Keller puts it, the Gospel is not the ABC's of the Christian faith, but the A-Z of the Christian faith. We do not grow by getting beyond the Gospel, but by going deeper into it. Show in your sermon how the Gospel is the answer. If you are teaching on generosity, show your people how the Gospel liberates us from greed by revealing a trustworthy, generous God who sacrifices greatly to meet our needs. In fact, if your sermon is just as true had Christ not died and risen from the dead, you did not preach the Gospel, you gave advice. Lastly, was it Audience Focused. You are not preaching to podcast land; you are preaching to a group of people who live in a certain place at a certain time who have certain idols. Study your audience and preach to them. This is the hardest part of preaching for me and an area where I need greater focus and growth. So, define the win or you will measure your sermon by the wrong things. You will be asking, "did the people like it and respond," or "was it entertaining or engaging." A wrong definition of the win brings about some critical losses.
For those that have to listen to preachers every week, I have two quick things to say:
•Trust that there is a cumulative effect to your pastor's preaching. Don't expect him to hit a home run every week. It is impossible. Receive the sermon trusting that God will add it to the work that He is currently doing in your life and bring forth fruit. Your pastor's sermons should be supplemental to the work God is doing in you through your own times in the word.
•Define the win. Don't judge your pastor on whether he is funny or dynamic or captivating. If your pastor is preaching the bible, exalting Christ, keeping the Gospel central and applying it to your context, then you have a great pastor and you should thank God for him. Stop complaining about your pastor's delivery; pray for your receptivity. I hear people criticize their pastor's preaching but never scrutinize their own listening. Maybe the problem is not what you think it is.
There is more that could be said, but I will stop there. I love preaching to the people of Apostles Church. They are a huge joy to me. Praying that we would have a deeper hunger for the things of God and greater receptivity to his truth.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Friday, February 26, 2010
You might not know this, but the words “U.S.A.,” “Winter Olympics,” and “domination” have never quite worked out to be in the same sentence. For the last 50 years, we’ve picked up a few medals here and there, but generally speaking, the competition has buried us in a blizzard of skill and athleticism.
Close That was then… This is now. World, meet Lindsey Vonn, Shani Davis, and, most impressively of all, Shaun White, also called The Flying Tomato because of his red hair.
In case you missed it, The Chairman of the Snowboard flipped out the “also rode”competitors with a double McTwist 1260 (invented by him, not McDonalds) and a near perfect score of 48.4. I guess the only way to score a 50 with those judges is to leave orbit, circle the moon, and land a triple cork, all while singing “Oh Canada.”
It’s obvious to me that Shaun White goes way beyond wanting to win, because he has made his biggest competitor himself. No one wants to defeat Shaun White’s old scores more than Shaun White, and I can totally see him getting a 50 in the 2014 Olympics… can’t you?
Watching these events and awards ceremonies makes me think of the day that I hope to receive my own gold medal. It’s the day I will stand before the Judge, who will show me my own scores and, I hope, say, “Well done!”
I’m not talking about summer or winter games. I’m referring to the most important day of my life – Judgment Day:
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
Read the full article here.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
An Israeli archaeologist said Monday an ancient wall in east Jerusalem confirms part of the Old Testament of the Bible.
Dr. Eilat Mazar said pottery shards found at the site date the walls to the 10th century B.C. That is 3,000 years ago when the Bible says Jerusalem was ruled by King Solomon.
Some archaeologists say the biblical stories of Kings David and Solomon are just a myth. But others, like Mazar, say the Old Testament account found in 1 Kings is absolutely true.
Read the full article here.
Praise the LORD.
Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who finds great delight in his commands.
2 His children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.
3 Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever.
4 Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man.
5 Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely, who conducts his affairs with justice.
6 Surely he will never be shaken; a righteous man will be remembered forever.
7 He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD.
8 His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes.
9 He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor, his righteousness endures forever; his horn will be lifted high in honor.
10 The wicked man will see and be vexed, he will gnash his teeth and waste away; the longings of the wicked will come to nothing.
Just a sample list from only two verses.
You can (and should):
•hear it preached
•be saved by it
•remind others of it
•stand in it
•hold fast to it
“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.”—1 Corinthians 15:1-2
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
1. The opportunity for extensive culture-making in the U.S. In an interview, sociologist Peter Berger observed that in the U.S. evangelicals are shifting from being largely a blue-collar constituency to becoming a college educated population.
His question is--will Christians going into the arts, business, government, the media, and film a) assimilate to the existing baseline cultural narratives so they become in their views and values the same as other secular professionals and elites, or b) will they seal off and privatize their faith from their work so that, effectively, they do not do their work in any distinctive way, or c) will they do enough new Christian 'culture-making' in their fields to change things? (See http://www.virginia.edu/iasc/HHR_Archives/AfterSecularization/8.12PBerger.pdf)
2. The rise of Islam. How do Christians relate to Muslims when we live side by side in the same society? The record in places like Africa and the Middle East is not encouraging! This is more of an issue for the western church in Europe than in the U.S., but it is going to be a growing concern in America as well. How can Christians be at the very same time a) good neighbors, seeking their good whether they convert or not, and still b) attractively and effectively invite Muslims to consider the gospel?
3. The new non-western Global Christianity. The demographic center of Christian gravity has already shifted from the west to Asia, Latin America, and Africa. The rising urban churches of China may be particularly influential in the future. But the west still has the educational institutions, the money, and a great deal of power.
What should the relationship of the older western churches be to the new non-western church? How can we use our assets to serve them in ways that are not paternalistic? How can we learn from them in more than perfunctory ways?
4. The growing cultural remoteness of the gospel. The basic concepts of the gospel -- sin, guilt and accountability before God, the sacrifice of the cross, human nature, afterlife -- are becoming culturally strange in the west for the first time in 1500 years. As Lesslie Newbigin has written, it is time now to 'think like a missionary'--to formulate ways of communicating the gospel that both confront and engage our increasingly non-Christian western culture.
How do we make the gospel culturally accessible without compromising it? How can we communicate it and live it in a way that is comprehensible to people who lack the basic 'mental furniture' to even understand the essential truths of the Bible?
5. The end of prosperity? With the economic meltdown, the question is -- will housing values, endowments, profits, salaries, and investments go back to growing at the same rates as they have for the last twenty-five years, or will growth be relatively flat for many years to come? If so, how does the western church, which has become habituated to giving out of fast-increasing assets, adjust in the way it carries out ministry? For example, American ministry is now highly professionalized--church staffs are far larger than they were two generations ago, when a church of 1,000 was only expected to have, perhaps, two pastors and a couple of other part-time staff. Today such a church would have probably eight to ten full-time staff members.
Also, how should the stewardship message adjust? If discretionary assets are one-half of what they were, more risky, sacrificial giving will be necessary to do even less ministry than we have been doing.
On top of this, if we experience even one significant act of nuclear or bio-terrorism in the U.S. or Europe, we may have to throw out all the basic assumptions about social and economic progress we have been working off for the last 65 years. In the first half of the 20th century, we had two World Wars and a Depression. Is the church ready for that? How could it be? What does that mean?
Monday, February 22, 2010
From National Right to Life:
Any member of Congress who votes for the final legislation proposed by President Obama will be voting for direct federal funding of elective abortion through Community Health Centers, and also an array of other pro-abortion federal subsidies and mandates.
The health bill passed by the Senate in December (H.R. 3590) had become, by the conclusion of the Senate amendment process, the most expansively pro-abortion bill ever brought to the floor of either house of Congress since Roe v. Wade. The Senate bill, as passed, contained seven distinct problems pertaining to abortion policies. (The bill passed earlier by the House, H.R. 3962, contained none of these pro-abortion components, thanks to adoption of the Stupak-Pitts Amendment on the House floor on November 7, 2009, by a vote of 240-194.) President Obama today proposed "a targeted set of changes to" the Senate-passed bill. None of President Obama's proposed changes diminish any of the sweeping pro-abortion problems in the Senate bill, and he actually proposes to increase the funds that would be available to directly subsidize abortion procedures (through Community Health Centers) and to subsidize private health insurance that covers abortion (through the premium-subsidy tax credits program).
If all of the President's changes were made, the resulting legislation would allow direct federal funding of abortion on demand through Community Health Centers, would institute federal subsidies for private health plans that cover abortion on demand (including some federally administered plans), and would authorize federal mandates that would require even non-subsidized private plans to cover elective abortion.
Here is one problem, offered for illustration: The Senate bill, due to a last-minute amendment, provides $7 billion for the nation's 1,250 Community Health Centers, without any restriction whatever on the use of these federal funds to pay directly for abortion on demand. (These funds are entirely untouched by the "Hyde Amendment" that currently covers Medicaid.) Obama today proposed to increase that figure to $11 billion, but without adding a prohibition on the use of the funds for abortion. (The House-passed bill would provide $12 billion, but in the House bill the funds would be covered by the Stupak-Pitts Amendment.) Two pro-abortion groups, the Reproductive Health Access Project and the Abortion Access Project, are already actively campaigning for Community Health Centers to perform elective abortions. In short, the Senate bill would allow direct federal funding of abortion on demand through Community Health Centers. A memorandum documenting this issue in further detail is posted here: http://www.nrlc.org/AHC/NRLCmemoCommHealth.pdf.
The abortion-related differences between the House-passed and Senate-passed bills are far, far greater than one would gather from reading superficial summaries such as those published repeatedly in the mainstream news media. These thumbnail sketches have tended to focus exclusively and superficially on certain provisions associated with Senator Ben Nelson. NRLC believes that the Nelson provisions are unacceptable, but the pro-abortion problems in the Senate bill go far beyond the flawed Nelson provisions. A letter from NRLC to U.S. House members, explaining the multiple pro-abortion components of the Senate-passed bill, is posted here: http://www.nrlc.org/AHC/HouseLetteronAbortionProvisions.html.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) produced a 13-page memorandum that throws the many unacceptable provisions of the Senate bill into stark relief, which is posted here: http://www.usccb.org/healthcare/life_conscience.pdf.
A substantial number of pro-life Democrats in the House, including some lawmakers whose names have not been mentioned on the various published lists, have told their constituents that they are not going to vote for the Senate-passed bill because of the abortion problems. For pro-life Democrats, President Obama's proposal only makes matters worse. The only thing that would fix the Senate bill on abortion is permanent, bill-wide language that is functionally identical to the Stupak-Pitts Amendment adopted in the House on November 7, 2009.
The Obama proposal also would force rationing of lifesaving medical treatment, a matter that will be the subject of separate comment by the National Right to Life Committee.
- Chris Carr
- I am a husband to Eva, father of 4, pastor, and most of all passionate follower of Jesus Christ. The focus of my life is to make the most of every opportunity God gives me to bring glory to Him. Outside of the time spent in my role as a pastor, I spend most of my time with my family -- a good deal of that coaching various sports teams that my children are involved with. Every fall and winter you will find me rushing to the woods of Indiana and West Virginia in search of a monster whitetail buck.