BlogWalking – January 30th, 2007

I’ve been gathering all these links in my newsreader, thinking I was going to post something about each one. Silly me, instead I just keep gathering links without posting.
So, taking a cue from JP Manzi’s Weekly Blog Roundup, I decided to post regular lists of blog linkage that I found interesting or inspiring. So here’s the first installment of “BlogWalking’.

Back in November, Patrick Mead made two powerful posts at Tent Pegs. The first is called Faith Insurance and is a powerful story of what happens when someone who poured their lives into their church family gets struck by tragedy. Faith Insurance. Are you making your deposits?

Later, he posed the question Act or React? in relation to Hebrews 11:

These people did not merely believe (as some weak form of intellectual assent), but they matched that faith to a verb and so became great heroes.

In regards to someone treating him badly on the golf course one day and why he refused to respond in kind, he said this:

I decided before I left my house this morning what kind of person I was going to be. He doesn’t get to change that decision.

Also in November, Mick of Unveiled Face posted observations from Alexander Strauch’s Biblical Eldership. In it, Strauch challenges the notion that you can’t expect men to have careers, families and to shepherd the church. Strauch quotes R. Paul Stevens:

And for tentmakers to survive three full-time jobs (work, family, and ministry), they must also adopt a sacrificial lifestyle. Tentmakers must live a pruned life and literally find leisure and rest in the rhythm of serving Christ (Matt 11:28). They must be willing to forgo a measure of career achievement and private leisure for the privilege of gaining the prize (Phil 3:14). Many would like to be tentmakers if they could be wealthy and live a leisurely and cultural lifestyle. But the truth is that a significant ministry in the church and the community can only come by sacrifice.

As one who aspires to shepherd, this one hit home.

At the end of last year, Patrick Mead also posted at his main blog) reflections on his own private vs. public persona. I took quite a bit of comfort from the fact that he is content with a relationship with God and his wife that doesn’t match the Christian stereotypes. He’s not a prayer warrior and he and his wife don’t even talk much when alone. But they love each other and everyone knows it, and he loves his God and it is clearly evident.

One more from Patrick – at Tent Pegs he tells the story of how God made him buy a guitar, and the man (Bubba Angel he calls him) who’s ministry is in a music store and why the store owner lets him come day after day to share his faith. Amazing, inspiring stuff. What are you doing with the hobbies God has given you interest in?
As my wife and I enjoy our evenings together, frequently in silence (and separate rooms), and as my prayer times and Bible study fluctuates, I am encouraged to see a respected leader of a large, influential and effective congregation say that he’s a lot like me and he’s just fine with that.

Earlier this month, Keith Brenton observed that God created us to journey with Him, not settle down.

Also this month, Dan at Cerulean Sanctum weighed in on John Piper’s use of the impolite word for Donkey. To be exact, he said that sometimes “God kicks our ass.” Dan’s comments were more on how so many others were in a tizzy over his use of a ‘bad word’. Now, I’m certainly not comfortable throwing certain words around carelessly, but like Dan, I think to laser beam focus on three letters missed the point.

All this hoopla comes off as just another case of Evangelicals missing the point in their rush to appear holy. Do we think that 80 years of never uttering a “dirty word” is going to look good in heaven when every day we tear down another person with our supposedly clean words?

Later in the month, Dan manages to turn his son’s distress in receiving the ‘girl toy’ in his happy meal into a powerful lesson on the use of pain in our lives.

Your tragedy carries meaning for someone else. God never intends for us to squander pain. Be wise in knowing how to use yours to the benefit of another grieving soul.

That’s enough for now (Yeah, I’ve got more for later).

Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters – Chapter 1

My reading of Meg Meeker’s Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters is progressing (surprise!) slowly.
Chapter 1 – You are the most important man in her life.
Meg starts this chapter with her observations from 20 years of medical practice, watching daughters & what their relationship with heir fathers does, or doesn’t do, for them. She says “They might take their mothers for granted, but not you.” She talks about what girls will do to try to get their father’s attention (some scary stuff) and how they react to us.

When she’s in your company, your daughter tries harder to excel. When you teach her, she learns more rapidly. When you guide her, she gains confidence. If you fully understood just how profoundly you can influence your daughter’s life, you would be terrified, overwhelmed, or both.

p. 8

Lest you think this is a book of opinions of one woman doctor, Meg Meeker provides 59 footnotes from 30 some distinct sources in this chapter alone. Most of these are statistics about the world your daughter faces. Meg states more than once that the father’s role is to stand between your daughter and a “toxic culture”, a culture that is “yanking the best right out of them”. How toxic? Some statistics:

  • 40.9% of girls 14-17 years old experience unwanted sex, primarily because they fear that their boyfriends will get angry.
  • 35.5% of all high school girls have had sad, hopeless feelings for longer than two weeks. Many physicians call this clinical depression.
  • Within the last year, 74.9% of high school students (male and female) have had one or more drinks each day for several days in a row.
  • Within the last month, 44.6% of high school girls have had one or more drinks per day.
  • Kids spend, on average, 6.5 hours per day with media (TV, computers, DVD, video games, music)
  • 26% of the time, they are using more than one device. This means that 8.5 hours of media exposure per day is packed into 6.5 hours. (This is the equivalent of a full time job.)
pp. 19-22

But she goes on to say that Dads have the power to fight back. Don’t think that we can’t win over the culture. “[Its] influence doesn’t come close to the influence of a father.” Then she proves it with 2 1/2 pages of statistics from research on the effects of a loving, caring father:

  • Six-month-old babies score higher on tests of mental development if their Dads are involved in their lives. (emphasis mine)
  • Girls with good fathers are less likely to flaunt themselves to seek male attention.
  • 76% of teen girls said that fathers influenced their decisions on whether they should become sexually active.
  • Girls who lived with their mothers and fathers (as opposed to mothers only) have significantly fewer growth and developmental delays, and fewer learning disorders, emotional disabilities, and behavior problems.

pp. 23-25

These statistics, and more in the book, prove the title of the chapter. We are the most important man in their lives. It seems obvious on some level. After all, as they are growing, what other men are there? Grandpas, uncles and friends are around, sure, but none has the time with her that we do. Why shouldn’t we be the most important influence?
But the sheer impact created by me over my girls is astounding. I would have thought Mom had more pull. Not according to Meg. And even into the ‘scary years’ of middle and high school (my oldest turns 12 next month) when sex and drugs come crashing in, the culture doesn’t have a chance against a loving Dad.

When you are with her, whether you eat dinner and do homework together or even when you are present but don’t say much, the quality and stability of her life – and, you’ll find, your own – improves immeasurably. …
Your daughter will view this time spent with you vastly differently than you do. Over the years, in erratic burst and in simple ordinary life together, she will absorb your influence. …
Be it good or painful, the hours and years you spend with her – or don’t spend with her – change who she is.

pp. 25-26

Isn’t God great? I mean, even when the tide of society seems against us, if we just determine to be the Dad, to care, to pay attention, we can overcome. So many times I find this at work. Some news story about dangers lurking out there – unsafe cars, tornadoes, stats about teen sex, tragedies and disasters – will get me worked up. But I’m reminded that the reality of the world our God made for us is that its overwhelmingly safe. Everyday, millions of people don’t die in car crashes. Millions more aren’t hurt by a viscous storm. For most tragedies, they only effect a small minority of the population, the odds are in our favor.
So, even though the world is scary for our daughters, overwhelmingly so, because God is good, we can guide them through it becasue he’s made us stronger than the world.

Midweek Lesson

An expansion on Doug Geyer’s Sunday sermon (download MP3 file or visit the CCOC sermons page) intended to spark thought and dialog at our midweek service.
Christians have a thing about blessings. On the extreme, people consider Christianity to be all about receiving material blessings. Joel Osteen tells you that with God you can have Your Best Life Now, Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuler told us over the years about the Power of Positive Thinking to change our lives, to bring us blessings. Televangelists call on us to put our hands on the TV, pray (and send in our check) and we will blessed by God.
Even more mainstream, everyday folks talk about the blessings that God has brought them. “God blessed me with a new Job.” “I’ve been blessed with good friends.” I’m blessed to have healthy kids.”
Certainly God blesses people with Earthly things. Satan accuses God of blessing Job with so much wealth & prosperity that there’s no way he’d turn his back on God. Joseph, through God, ends up the Pharaoh’s right hand man, overseeing his kingdom. And Abraham, as we saw in Sunday’s lesson, had more than enough gold, silver, livestock and family. In fact, he and his nephew lot had so much they couldn’t live together anymore.
So god gives us blessings. Let’s talk about blessings for a minute.
Q – What sort of blessings has God given you?

  • Good jobs
  • Loving spouse
  • Healthy kids
  • Friends
  • Church
  • house, car, etc.

God is good to us, he provides for our earthly needs. Yet, in spite of that, we sometimes only see what is lacking. Not enough money, old car, not married.
Genesis 15:1-5
Even Abram, who had every material blessing, and after hearing from God Himself that he was his shield, told God that more blessings didn’t matter, since he had no son. God had promised him earlier (Genesis 12:1-3) that he’d be made great, he’s have his back and the whole world would be blessed through him. In spite all that, Abram complains that he has no son to take care of his stuff. And God listens, taking him outside, clarifying the promise already made (that he’d be a great nation) and promises him a son.
Abram, surrounded by blessings, missed the blesser here, didn’t he? God says “I’m your reward.” or “I’m your blessing.” and Abram instead was thinking of the blessings he’d not received.
So, both a focus on material blessings and a missing blessing can take our eyes off of the blesser.
Q- How does that manifest itself in our lives?

  • Slaves to our possessions, or our striving for them
  • Our family becomes our God – kids activities eat up our schedule, pushing out church and relationships.
  • We only see what we do not have – If only my marriage was ____, then I’d _____. If I only had my bills paid, I’d ____.

Our blessings or our lack of blessings distract us from the blesser. God know this to be the case, and he longs for us to turn our eyes to him. What did God do for Abram in these situations? Let’s look:
Genesis 12:1-3
Genesis 22:1-2
Q- What did God do in each of these situations, one at the beginning of Abram’s walk with him, one nearer to the end?

  • He pulled him out of his comfort zone.

In Genesis 12 it was the homeland and family. get off on your own where it will be just Me and you. In Genesis 22, it was to the mountain. He couldn’t bring his silver and gold, Sarah would not be there. It was only Abraham, Isaac, God and that knife.
God called him away, into a place where he had room to work with him. Where there were no distractions crowding God out. Either the distractions of blessings received, or blessings longed for.
Q – What familiar surroundings do you think God might be calling you out of so he can work with you? What blessings or missing blessings might be keeping you from seeing Gd and following him completely?

  • Schedule – too busy, or too predictable.
  • Family – Too focused on having the perfect family, too many activities.
  • Leisure – pursuing our hobbies with fervor, leaving little room for God

The thing is, Abram was changed when he followed God out of his comfort zone, when he made room for God to work with him.
My comfort zone is in my home in front of the TV, on the computer or with a car magazine in my hand. I prefer email to the phone, because it’s easier to choose my words carefully and it just feels safer. I’m blessed to have a nice comfortable home, cable TV, high speed Internet, my own blog and a comfy recliner.
But I don’t meet God in those places as much as I do when I pick up the phone just to talk, have someone over for dinner or go out to meet family and friends. There, in the interaction between people, sharing my heart and listening to theirs, sharing victories and hurts, pain and joy – there I meet God. There I find Him working through me in ways I couldn’t have imagined sitting at home.
It’s less comfortable, less ‘safe’, more vulnerable. But just like with Abram, if I don’t step into that zone, there’s not enough room for God to work with me like He wants to.
Are you willing to push the ‘blessings’ aside to make room for the blesser?
How will you do that this week?
Who here can help you get out of the comfort zone and meet God in the open where there’s room for Him to use you?

Hebrews 12:18 – 13

Hebrews 13:2 – There si a lot of truth in this passage about hospitality. A brother here shared in a lesson recently about how people over and over and over in the Bible showed simple hospitality and were blessed tremendously for it. He went on and on with more examples than i can remember. Think about Rahab, Zacheus, Lydia, Cornelius, Mary and Martha, and more. I think we short change the power of showing hospitality.
Hebrews 13:11-12 – The animals are burned outside the camp, I think to keep the camp pure. Jesus, our sacrifice, suffered outside the camp as well. But the Hebrew writer here does something that surprised me. I was thinking that the point would be about how because of His suffering outside the gate, we can have the places of honor inside. Instead, he calls us to humility and to go, in our spirits, to Jesus, in his shame, and sit at the cross with him. To me it’s a powerful reminder of how Jesus sat with the lowly and rejected throughout his life and how we ought to do he same.
Hebrews 13:14 – Sometimes this seems so real. I don’t feel that I belong here, the things that are familiar to most are foreign to me. What seems acceptable to most is ridiculous to me. I don’t understand them, and they don’t understand me. This world makes no sense, I just want to go home.
Hebrews 13:15 – If your lips acknowledge Jesus, what fruit would that bear? More than words.
Hebrews 13:16 – “Do not neglect to do good …” This is the hardest thing. Avoiding evil is a cake walk at times compared to getting off my duff and actually doing some good.

Maximize or Satisfice?

Back in November, I wrote a slightly tongue in cheek post about Mike Cope’s first of three write ups on the book The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less by Barry Schwartz. At the time, I even joked about how nice it was for Mike to read the book for me, so I didn’t have to.
Then he wrote posts two and three.
In number 2, he lays out the differnce between the Maximizer and the Satisficer:

A maximizer needs for every decision or every purchase to be the very best that could possibly be made. …
The satisficer is someone who settles for something that works — something that is good enough — without fretting over whether or not there is something better.

Me a Maximiser? Guilty as charged.
He then lists 12 point questionaire where you rank each item bewteen 1 and 7 to judge whether you are a Maximizer or a Satisficer (see the questions in his post). He indicates that ‘extreme maximization scores’ – where you’re on the border of clinically depressed – are 65 or higher. Mine was 52. Ugh.
He wraps it up:

A maximizer is often wondering if there isn’t a better gift, a better church, a better doctor, a better vitamin, a better health club, a better cable option . . . . It isn’t just about high standards; it’s about a sense of discontentment (fueled, perhaps by concern for social status and the explosion of options).
For a maximizer, the overload of choice . . . is a nightmare. But for a satisficer, it does not have to be such a burden. In fact, the more options there are, the more likely it is that the satisficer will find one that meets his or her standards. Adding options doesn’t necessarily add much work for the satisficer, because the satisficer feels no compulsion to check out all the possibilities before deciding.

Boy, that really hits home. I find myself frequenty over analyzing my options, searching out reviews and opinions and then sondering later if I made the right choice.
In post #3, Mike gets to the practicals. In other words, what’s a maximizer to do?
He sums up the problem:

So much of happiness comes down to decisions we make to be contented. The problem with a maximizing approach to life … is that we’re never quite satisfied. They could have chosen (a car . . . a spouse . . . a church) better, perhaps, so they’re always looking over their shoulders and living in regret.

It’s about my choosing to be contented rather than choosing to be perfect. I mask it by saying I’m looking for exelence, but the reality is I want to be perfect, to make the perfect choice. Well, I can’t and as long as i prend that I can, I will not be content.
He then shares 4 of Schwartz’s 11 suggestions (You can read his elaborations on his site):

  1. Choose when to choose.
  2. Satisfice more and maximize less.
  3. Make your decisions nonreversible.
  4. Practice an “attitude of gratitude.”

As I said, I mentioned in my first post how it was great that folks like Mike actually buy and read the books, summing it up on their blogs, so I don’t have to. But his posts have made me think that this is a book that I actually need to go read.

Communion Lesson

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us …

Hebrews 12:1, ESV

Back in college and for a short time after, I worked as a hotel doorman. A big part of the job, especially weeknights, was standing on the sidewalk in the dark and in the cold. Not much happens at a downtown hotel on a late weeknight in the winter.
Part of the uniform was a long, thick wool coat. It went down past my knees and had a big poncho like rain collar on it. The wool was nearly 1/4″ thick. It was a pretty cool coat in a way and it was pretty warm too. But it was heavy; I think one of the guys weighed it at something like 8-10 pounds. It really weighed you down standing there on concrete with that coat hanging on you for several hours a night.
I think of that coat when I read this scripture. There are times, when my sin is particularly real to me, that it hangs on me like that old coat, weighing me down and bringing me to a standstill. But the writer tells us that, since we are surrounded by these great, but flawed, heroes of faith, we should throw off the sin that clings to us and run the race God has for us to run.
What a refreshing thought. I know that ant the end of the shift, when I took that coat off it was liberating. And when I decide not to be bogged down by sin it is as well. It can be really hard to do that, the sin is still with us, it will happen again, but that’s what Jesus came for, so we could be set free from the burden of carrying that sin around. That’s what he meant, I believe, when he said his burden is light. Light compared to thte burden of our own sin.
What has helped me recently to believe that it’s possible to drop the burden of my own sin are these scriptures:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

Romans 8:31-34, ESV

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.

1 John 2:1

I was reminded last week in our preteen lesson that God gave Jesus the authority to judge (John 5:22) but that Jesus did not exercise it on Earth. Instead, he left his word to be our ultimate judge (John 12:47-48). So, while Jesus did not judge while he was here, he, through his word, will ultimately be our judge. But Jesus is on our side, as it says in Romans 8:34 and speaks in our defense according to 1 John 2:1.
Who will condemn at judgment? Jesus’ words will. But Jesus is our advocate, he’s on our side, putting in the good word to God on our behalf. The cross is almost like a plea bargain with generous terms, offered by the prosecution, without being asked for by the defense. I’ll reduce your sentence to zero, but you must be completely devoted to me.
As we take communion this morning, think about the offer that Jesus made on our behalf.

Yeah, What He Said

Rod Dreher, author of Crunchy Cons and blogger over at beliefnet, had an editorial on NPR’s All Things Considered this afternoon that was excellent. He and I are the same age (he’s got me by 6 months actually) and he relates his experience growing up as a Conservative, his first awareness of politics being Carter and the Iranian hostage crisis, Reagan as his political hero of sorts, his lack of understanding the hippies of the 60’s and more.
I can totally relate to his experience, from being a full blown conservative believer all the way up to Bush’s election (well, almost) to the (ironic) disillusionment with the administration and the war in Iraq. I can’t do it justice, go give it a listen (the button at the top of the page).

Hebrews 11:32 – 12

Well, here I am again, back to my QT journal after another 3 month absence. I am always surprised and disappointed by these lapses in my reading, but I don’t know why. It’s a pattern i fall into repeatedly, besides, look at the roller coaster that was Israel in the OT. Thankfully, even that harsh God of the OT didn’t’ abandon them, so there’s hope for me too. 🙂
Hebrews 11:32 – If I could travel back and ask the writer of Hebrews (assuming I knew who it was) some questions, one of them would be “Why is Samson listed here?”
Hebrews 12:1 – Maybe the writer answers the question for me here: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us …” Look at the list – Samson was a fool, Rahab a prostitute, David a murderer – yet they were honored by God for their faith. Since they were, what should hold me back from the race God has set before me?
I can certainly relate to the phrase “[the] sin which clings so closely“. It seems my sin sticks to me closer than my own skin, and heavier than a heavy wool coat saturated with water. It bogs me down, dragging me to my knees and even farther, preventing me from moving. By Hebrews tells me, look at the great knuckleheads of the Bible, heroes of faith and heavy with sin, just like you. Throw off that weight, shed the skin of sin, and run as Go meant for you to run. What a mental picture. If David could, and Rahab could maybe I can too.
There’s a Casting Crowns song called Set Me Free about the man possessed by a legion of demons with lyrics that haunt me:

As the God man passes by
He looks straight through my eyes
And darkness cannot hide
Do you want to be free?
Lift your chains
I hold the key
All power on Heaven and Earth belong to me

I can feel, at times, Jesus look straight through my eyes and see my darkness. I wonder, do I believe that he is “the One they say will set the captives free” and I wonder if I am really willing to lift my chains of sin and be free. It seems easier at times to wallow.
Hebrews 12:3-11 – There have been some dark times in my heart the past year or two. I’ve written about some if this. God has been disciplining me, allowing to see the sin (pride, judgemental ism, anger) that has been there for so, so long. This passage has been my encouragement. God is disciplining me because he loves me. Moreover, he believes in me enough to show my this part of my character. Sometimes I wish he didn’t, but ultimately it’s encouraging that he does. I’m looking forward to “the peaceful fruit of righteousness”, though.
Hebrews 12:15 – This verse has been used to challenge those with issues with others in the church, but in this context, is that what he’s talking about? Maybe it’s just my mental state or the flow of this post, but given the urging to drop the weight of sin and lift drooping hands and strengthen weak knees, I wonder if this is not an urging to see that no one is bitter towards God rather than man? If so, that would demand a very different kind of response, wouldn’t it? It’s a call to stand by those being disciplined by God, the weak and the discouraged, and make sure they are cared for, encouraged and pointed back to a God who cares. I don’t know, certainly both kinds of bitterness are unhealthy and destructive.

Oh, The Irony

Watching the OSU/Florida game yesterday, I paid attention to the band at halftime. Me and 4 other people watched the 30 seconds each that Fox showed of the Gator and OSU bands. I was in marching band in High School and college and loved it, so I try to watch but they usually don’t show much. 30 seconds apiece was a treat, actually.
As I commented on in my last post, it seemed like the OSU band was playing the theme from Titanic and actually had formed a sinking ship on the field. Actually, there was no doubt about the music, my wife pointed it out and I recognized it as soon as she said so, what was unclear was the formation. The camera shots were simply too close. With OSU getting pummeled and down 34-14 at the half, I thought there’s no way this was really happening.
Well, thanks to YouTube, there is now no doubt. The video at right was shot at the U of M game, I think, here in Columbus. Unfortunately, there’s no sound, but there is clearly (about 2 minutes in) the Titanic, breaking apart, and sinking into a blue tarp sea.
Going into this game, OSU was widely regarded as unbeatable. Leaving port, the Titanic was widely regarded as unsinkable.
To be fair to the OSU band, this show is amazing, but the irony of seeing the Titanic go down as OSU went down was very, very sad. And very, very funny.

On This Day

Recent Posts

Recent Comments