Monday, December 22, 2008

Beyond Riches

I told someone yesterday that if I had to choose between riches and more children, I would choose children hands down. I can't think of anything that could bring me more joy than my family. I have a beautiful wife, Amy, with whom I am perpetually falling deeper in love. Anna is a star from heaven. Her beautiful almond eyes are windows to eternity. Andrew's essence is super concentrated. He exudes both bravery and tenderness.

And now there is Peter. What will he be like? How has he been wired? To what heights will he soar? What mountains will he ascend? What battles will he fight? What losses will he suffer? What loves will he gain, and which will he lose? Only time can tell.

To Peter:
My son, may your life be like the music of the masters. May it rise and fall--gaining momentum--propelling you to culmination in a magnificent crescendo. And may the genius of your maker be seen in rhythm of your life.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

For unto us a child is born!

There are some things in life that cannot be put into words. I have just experienced one of them. My son was born on Sunday afternoon and as I looked into his face, the world seemed to make sense. A flood of emotion came over me and I was overjoyed. I love him and I long to prove it to him.

His name is Peter. We gave him his name to show our love for the Scriptures. In the biblical book of John we read that Peter was the brother of Andrew, the first disciple to bring someone to Jesus. Now, two thousand years later, there is another pair of brothers with the same names.

His middle name is John, not just because of the biblical book, but primarily because Amy's grandfather had that name. He sounds like a man I wish I could have met.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Modern Thinker's Creed

In his book Can Man Live Without God? Ravi Zacharias includes a satirical commentary by Steve Turner. Turner is an English music journalist and poet who writes for a secular paper.

The Modern Thinker's Creed

We believe in Marxfreudanddarwin
We believe everything is OK
as long as you don't hurt anyone
to the best of your definition of hurt,
and to the best of your knowledge.

We believe in sex before, during, and
after marriage.
We believe in the therapy of sin.
We believe that adultery is fun.
We believe that sodomy’s OK.
We believe that taboos are taboo.

We believe that everything's getting better
despite evidence to the contrary.
The evidence must be investigated
And you can prove anything with evidence.

We believe there's something in horoscopes
UFO's and bent spoons.
Jesus was a good man just like Buddha,
Mohammed, and ourselves.
He was a good moral teacher though we think
His good morals were bad.

We believe that all religions are basically the same-
at least the one that we read was.
They all believe in love and goodness.
They only differ on matters of creation,
sin, heaven, hell, God, and salvation.

We believe that after death comes the Nothing
Because when you ask the dead what happens
they say nothing.
If death is not the end, if the dead have lied, then its
compulsory heaven for all
excepting perhaps
Hitler, Stalin, and Genghis Kahn

We believe in Masters and Johnson
What's selected is average.
What's average is normal.
What's normal is good.

We believe in total disarmament.
We believe there are direct links between warfare and
Americans should beat their guns into tractors .
And the Russians would be sure to follow.

We believe that man is essentially good.
It's only his behavior that lets him down.
This is the fault of society.
Society is the fault of conditions.
Conditions are the fault of society.

We believe that each man must find the truth that
is right for him.
Reality will adapt accordingly.
The universe will readjust.
History will alter.
We believe that there is no absolute truth
excepting the truth
that there is no absolute truth.

We believe in the rejection of creeds,
And the flowering of individual thought.

If chance be
the Father of all flesh,
disaster is his rainbow in the sky
and when you hear

State of Emergency!
Sniper Kills Ten!
Troops on Rampage!
Whites go Looting!
Bomb Blasts School!
It is but the sound of man
worshipping his maker.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Nietzsche: An Honest Atheist

I heard these words from Madman the other day and was struck with how honest they were. Nietzsche was, in my opinion, gravely mistaken, but he was courageous. Unlike those who espouse pop culture atheism, he was willing to embrace the horrific ramifications of his philosophy. He knew that without God, there is no fixed reality to give meaning to all that is.

Here is the quote:

"Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place and cried incessantly: "I seek God! I seek God!"As many of those who did not believe in God were standing around just then, he provoked much laughter. Has he got lost? asked one. Did he lose his way like a child? asked another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? emigrated? Thus they yelled and laughed.

The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. "Whither is God?" he cried. "I will tell you. We have killed him—you and I! All of us are his murderers! But how did we do this? How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? And backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning? Do we not hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we smell nothing as yet of the divine decomposition?—Gods, too, decompose! God is dead! God remains dead! And we have killed him!

How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives,—who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?

Is it any wonder he decended into madness?

Nietzsche and Dostoyevsky

When I learned that Friedrich Nietzsche thought there were no psychologists who had anything to teach him, except one, I was intrigued. I was made more curious when I learned it was the famous Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky that he admired. What could the great atheist philosopher hope to gain from the Christian writer? I had to find out.

I remembered, shortly thereafter, that I had been given a copy of Crime and Punishment a few years ago and never read it. My question finally provided the motivation to plunge into this most profound novel and I was captivated from the beginning.

Here, Dostoyevsky’s worldview cries out loud and clear. When an arrogant man—full of the kind of ideas that lead one to dismiss God—honestly lives out his philosophy, he will crash down to ruin, and leave much destruction in his wake.

I say it was Sonia that saved Rodion by the powers of Divine grace. She was able to look deep inside his wretched soul and see what he needed most: forgiveness, love, and justice. He, however, was blinded by his ego, his pride, and his humanist ideas. Rodion could not have helped himself out of a wet paper bag, yet he remained strident in opposition to any help that was offered to him.

Sonia was a desperately poor teenage girl, who sold herself in prostitution to feed her kin. Sonia had shame. She prayed for deliverance and forgiveness came. Her suffering was not in vain, for her story lured Rodion. She intrigued him because he knew she had something he did not have--an inner virtue that conquered her self-loathing. She knew the forgiveness of God.

When she learned of his crimes, Sonia implored him to turn himself in. She knew he would go mad if he persisted in running. She gave him the strength to do the right thing, even when he still had his doubts.

After his confession, and nearly a year in Siberia he broke down at her feet and the prison of guilt that held his soul was unlocked. Is there any sound more deafening than that of shattering pride? When we come to the end of ourselves, there we will find God.

Nietzsche, however, could not yield, and sank into madness and despair. His end was different than that of Roskolnikoff. He said Dostoyevsky showed him something, but he must have missed the point. What made the difference between these two men? Perhaps Nietzsche never had a Sonia.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Obsessed with Winning

Obsession is the new dedication. What once was viewed as a feverish maniacal problem is now so common that we hardly blink. I was thinking about this the other day after a conversation with a fellow soccer coach. Happily, she is of the non-maniacal variety.

It seems there is a team of 6 year old boys in our county that practices three hours a day, three days a week. That’s right, nine hours of soccer practice for kids who can’t keep their shoes tied. When asked why so much practice, one of the parents said plainly, “We want to win.” I have a hard time with this mentality, and I question who the “we” refers to. Is it the six year olds, the parents, or the coaches?

As parents, we have bit hard into success syndrome and are now sacrificing our children to the god of victory at any cost. I’ve heard that those who say winning isn’t everything never won anything. “T” shirts abound with slogans such as: “Second place is the first loser.” I am unimpressed, and I am not the only one.

William Zinsser—author and highly successful teacher—had this to say in his book On Writing Well: “We are a culture that worships the winning result: the league championship, the high test score. Coaches are paid to win; teachers are valued for getting students into the best colleges. Less glamorous gains made along the way—learning, wisdom, growth, confidence, dealing with failure—aren’t given the same respect because they can’t be given a grade.”

Is this healthy? Could it be that we are raising a generation of lopsided, one dimensional children that don’t know how to discover anything for themselves because mom and dad already have their lives planned out in advance? Vegetables are healthy. Visualizing your little boy holding up the Lombardi trophy is not—especially if he doesn’t like football.

I am for dedication—for giving one hundred percent effort. It is a part of my heritage and my Christian faith. I gnash my teeth at the halfhearted, but I strive for balance. To obsess over a single aspect—a task, a person, a hobby, the “Office” (TV show), a cause, a job—at the expense of a well rounded life holds no appeal for me.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Difficult People

Are there any difficult people in your life?
Ponder this profound statement.

"There is a very real danger of our drifting into an attitude of contempt for humanity. We know quite well that we have no right to do so, and that it would lead us into the most sterile relation to our fellow-men. The following thoughts may keep us from such a temptation. It means that we at once fall into the worst blunders of our opponents. The man who despises another will never be able to make anything of him. Nothing that we despise in the other man is entirely absent from ourselves. Why have we hitherto thought so intemperately about man and his frailty and temptability? We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer. The only profitable relationship to others -- and especially to our weaker brethren -- is one of love, and that means the will to hold fellowship with them. God himself did not despise humanity, but became man for men's sake."
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters from Prison

For more information about the life of this amazing man, I recommend the following link:

Monday, November 17, 2008

How to Subscribe

If you are enjoying my blog there are few ways to keep updated. Which one you pick depends on whether or not you want to post comments. If you do, pick the first option.

1. Set up a Google/Blogger account (very simple). Type this address into your browser: and locate "Follow this blog" on the right hand side under my picture. Click it. The box that appears will ask you about your status. Click the link that says: New to Blogger? Sign up for your free blogger account. It will tell you how to do the rest. When you get to the box that asks you how you want to follow, please click the one that does NOT say anonymous (you can if you really want too, but I like knowing who is reading).

2. If you do not intend to post comments, you can type in and scroll down while looking at the right side of my blog. You will see a box called "Subscriptions." Click it. A drop box will appear. Select the site feed that applies to you.

3. Internet Explorer users can easily bypass step two by typing and clicking on the "feed" icon (usually orange with a dot and two curved lines) on you browser toolbar. You may also click on "Subscriptions" (as in step two) and click "atom". Follow instructions. A handy way to check content after subscribing is to click on the "Favorites" star (left side of toolbar at top) and then click the "feeds" tab.

4. For Facebook users. I frequently post the same blogs in Facebook. You may want to subscribe there instead.

Let me know if you have trouble!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My Friend Jorn

I have a good friend named Jorn (pronounced something like "yearn"). He is German scientist with impressive letters behind his name. He is also quite a talker. I love to get him going on just about any subject--he can philosophize almost endlessly. Do you know someone like this? If you don't, you should pray to God that you meet one, for they can provide a powerful vaccination against the mindless conversations about sports and weather we so often find ourselves in.

Jorn is an agnostic with strong atheistic leanings. He is a molecular biologist and an Evolutionist. Therefore, he disagrees with me on a great many things. We have differing worldviews, different backgrounds, and different passions. For example, he called me the other day and passionately explained how he bought a book and was going to make his own cheese. Fabulous!

What I love most about our friendship is that we can disagree with each other, strongly at times, and not be disagreeable. He reads my blogs and says, "Wait, you have a problem!" And, instead of bristling like a porcupine, I rub my hands together and say, "Now this is good conversation!"

I think our friendship is rare. People gravitate toward each other for different reasons these days. Too often we huddle up (Nietzsche would call it "hurding") into little groups that think just like we do. How can your mind be expanded without bumping into someone with differing opinions?

I believe there are two reasons Christians huddle up and set a laser fence perimeter:

The first is fear. What are we afraid of? Losing our faith? Are we afraid our faith is weak?

The second is a misunderstanding of verses like the one where Paul told the Colossians, "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ." (2:8, NIV) Does this verse tell us to stay away from anyone who disagrees with us? I think not.

The remedy for both of the above problems is discernment. We must know what we believe, and why. Does your faith stand the test of reason? If so, then you will not be carried away. Otherwise, get motivated to lay a foundation under your fragile faith that can stand the tests of skeptical waves.

Calling all Christians...THINK!!!!

I was following a dump truck the other day on rout 70. I couldn't miss the giant end to end sign on the back that read: THINK! And so I thought! I mused about many things, but as the truck turned at the next intersection my cogitation turned toward Christianity.

There is a notion that Christians don't think. Sceptics like Sam Harris (Author of "Letter to a Christian Nation") and Richard Dawkins want to paint believers as blind, deaf, and dumb. If you don't believe me, read a book such as End of Faith and you will see that the writings of these men reek of unabashed elitism. They are smart and we are not.

Bill Maher, the director and interviewer in the documentary "Religulous", is another prime example of modern skepticism. While traveling around the world he searches for ridiculous examples of mindless, superstitious people that couldn't think their way out of a paper bag. He then paints them as "mainstream" and that is unfair. However, this is not all that bothers me. What strikes me about these modern atheists is their seething disdain for people like me...or, maybe they're not like me at all.

Since America is labeled a "Christian" nation and 1.5 billion people worldwide claim to be believers it is easy for snipers like Harris and Dawkins to point out a phony and create a caricature of Christians. Too many believers are believers in name only--perhaps grandma was a Methodist, or mom took them to Sunday school when they were six. Surely, these are not believers in the biblical sense of the word.

The Bible instructs followers to "be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." (Romans 12:2 ESV) If I had to sum it up with a word it would be: THINK!

Elsewhere it states, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander." (1 Peter 3:15-16, NIV, italics added) Let me ask you a question. Can a Christian live out this verse without thinking? How about studying? What about debate, and discourse, and rubbing shoulders with skeptics in the marketplace? (see Acts 17)

I contend that the Christianity we need to see more of is the faith of the thinker, of the questioner, of the searcher, and seeker. We must wrestle with the facts and not be afraid to hold our beliefs up to the light. Can what we believe be proven empirically? No, but neither can Evolution be proven as fact. True Christianity is a reasoned out faith concluding that out of all the possibilities, this is the most probable solution!

Let me offer an exception to what I've written. There are good Christians who have a propensity to live with a simple version of the faith. They are not to be included with the thoughtless masses. They have come to practical conclusions and are content because their faith works just fine. If questioned, they often do not have answers, but will take up the initiative to find them. I admire these people.

To me a cardinal sin is believing something you have not thought about. It does not matter what kind of mind you have. Do you know why you believe what you believe?

You will be glad to know that there are far more brilliant Christian thinkers than me. Here are just two examples:

Dallas Willard

Ravi Zacharias

I commend them to you.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Family Tip: How Dinner Planning Can Help

Finding families that share regular evening meals is like a very pink steak--rare. The modern dinner is wolfed down after soccer practices and before the results shows for whatever reality TV program is on the schedule. Americans are busy--yes, we know--but have we allowed an excuse to become a reason?

I believe that meals are opportunities. I can't believe I'm saying this. If I were writing this in France I would be laughed at and ridiculed with eloquent phrases we might translate: duhh! I confess that I do not admire much about the French, but they truly know how to have dinner. They care as much about the conversation as they do the food and wine. By contrast, we Americans have lost the art of having a meal.

I contend that we must resurrect the family meal for the sake of unity and communication as it was meant to be--face to face, and not with a tiny screen and keypad. It's all about priorities. Listen to author and chef, Jacques Pepin tell about his family meals: "I don't remember a time when we did not sit around the table an hour every night. It's not necessarily a pleasant conversation to recap the day, but it's necessary. Otherwise there is no communication." (Excerpt from the Reader's Digest book Wisdom, quoted in RD, Oct. 2008 pp.150)

I suggest that if parents would plan to have dinner on the table (notice I didn't say TV tray!) one half an hour earlier each night, then meals would be more relaxed, and families would see conversation improve. Furthermore, start this process while your children are young. Encourage them to express themselves and make sure to engage them on their level. If you have teenagers, sit down on Sunday and map out the meals for the week. Ask for their input on menus and times.

I know that many readers are not in "traditional" father, mother, and two point three children families any more. Some people work evenings, and so this will not work for everyone. Parents will have to come up with alternatives in such cases . But, I venture to say the majority of homes today would benefit from fewer missed opportunities to eat together.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Politics: Conservative Compassion

I sat down with my father this morning and talked over cups of coffee. He told me about an alarming comment a coworker made to him the other day. She questioned him saying, "You're a Republican? Republicans don't work in the health care system!" Her question, while surprising is not completely off base. It seems that her view of Republicans is that they don't care for those who are less fortunate than themselves. Does she have a point?

I believe that conservative politics has lost something--namely, it's Christian moral foundation. When coupled together, biblical values and conservative politics lead to hard working, responsible people who govern themselves and give a hand to those in need. Modern Republicans don't forget to help themselves, but they forget to help those who can't help themselves.

Conservative political ideology, by itself, will lead to less humanitarian effort, fewer volunteer social workers, and a terrible gap between the poor and the rich. Gone are the days of the moral majority being the "moral" majority. This is what my Father's co-worker was referring to. She sees that it is the Democrats who are providing services to others--bleeding hearts pumping out social action for the helpless. But, what then? Should we all become liberals? Does the Democratic party have it right?

Democratic political ideology is slipping more and more into socialism with each passing election. The vacuum created by the decreasing influence of biblical principles on Main Street (and even more so on Wall Street) will cause liberals to clamor for government to step in and lay heavy taxes on those who have so they can give to those who have not. They may have right motives, but they forget the lessons history has taught us about forced wealth redistribution. For example:

In 1918 Marxists rapidly enforced social policies through the Soviet Constitution. "All private property is abolished, and the entire land is declared to be national property and is to be apportioned among agriculturists without any compensation to the former owners..." (Laidler, History of Socialism, p. 384). Lenin quickly realized that such a quick change would spell doom for the USSR. In 1921 he declared, "We are no longer attempting to break up the old social economic order, with its trade, its small-scale economy and private initiative, its capitalism, but we are now trying to revive trade, private enterprise, and capitalism, at the same time gradually and cautiously subjugating them to state regulation just as far as they survive."

What we learn from the experience of the Communists is that forced socialism from a powerful government cannot produce the will to work in its people without capitalism! Lenin became so frustrated with the ill effects socialism had on the work ethic of the Russian people that he contemplated enforcing a law stating, "one out of every ten idlers will be shot on the spot." (Lenin, Collected Works, vol. 26, pp.414-15)

Is this the direction The United States should be going in? The more power we hand to the government, the more we choke the biblical work ethic through taxation and redistribution, the closer we will get to shooting idlers in the streets.

No, Republican conservative economics and politics are not the solution in and of themselves. They are devoid of compassion and generosity without biblical morality. If conservatives regain their consciences we will soon find ourselves moving in the right direction.

Where do we begin? We cannot begin by setting up a state religion. That is self-evident. No, we must begin in the home. We must teach our children right from wrong and we must live out our convictions in their presence. Modeling biblical values (whether you believe the Bible or not, though I highly recommend it) over time will gradually strengthen our collective work ethic and our social conscience.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


I woke this morning to the news that Obama is the new President elect. Many Christians will view this to be a very terrible thing. I have a different perspective, possibly rooted in ignorance, or perhaps not. I was born in 1977. Jimmy Carter was President and I have no memories of him in office. But since then there have been dramatic contrasts. Some presidents were conservative, some were liberal, and all were scapegoats to some degree.
I have read that we as a nation lost the meaning of words when Bill Clinton challenged the meaning of the word "is". Is it really his fault? I don't think so. I pin the blame on me first, and then on everyone else who has lied, cheated, or used the English language to twist the truth.
I'm reminded of the story in the Bible where self-righteous leaders brought to Jesus a woman caught in the act of adultery. They wanted to stone her, but Jesus said, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first" (NKJV). I know that the point of this story is primarily a moral one. However, can it not be applied to politics, or, for that matter, any other area of life? Am I without blame. Is anyone? I believe we are far too quick to see our own irresponsible actions as inconsequential.
Now we are looking to the future and wondering what the next four years will bring. Some are not hopeful. Some are cautious. And some, like me, will move about, doing what they can within their spheres of influence to make this country a better place. I will not blame any of the past presidents for the problems we are facing today. I believe that we all share the blame and the praise. This is, after all, a democracy isn't it? (Ben Franklin called it a republic, an ideal that was never fully realized. But that's besides the point!) We have a "government for the people, by the people". If you want a democracy you have to share the blame. Otherwise, go live in Venezuela and blame Chavez for everything.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


I decided to perform a Texas style backpack baptism this morning. The days are getting shorter, the temperatures are falling, and I didn't want to be out back with a metal tub and garden hose in winter. So out I went to purge eleven Lowe Alpine I-frame packs from the filth that accumulated in Canada this past August.
After hanging the first two wet packs on the line my walk back to the garage for more was cut short. I paused to look at the maple leaves on the ground. The brilliance of the yellows contrasted by the green grass was a vision of natural beauty, and I was filled with wonder.
How is it that people can look at such things and conclude that they are not the product of intention, design, and creative genius? Is it possible that the scene of my back yard points to the randomness of natural formation? Is it true that the warmth of the sun produces just the right conditions for the maple leaf to thrive for five months and then depart in a blaze of glory by accident? No. This cannot be. I have seen too much beauty to believe in chance.

Nutrition and Faith

People are like cheese—when tended properly they improve with age, but if kept without care they spoil. By the time you read this I’ll be half way to my thirty-second birthday—a number that some remember fondly and some view as uselessly aged. There are teens in our youth group that have been viciously waiting for the moment that they can officially pronounce me “old.” I know that this must be laughable for many who read this, but, not wanting to age prematurely, I recently bought a book on nutrition. I was amazed how little I knew about such an important subject. I had no idea that trans fats could clog my arteries, clot my legs and ravage my heart!
I could take the time to tell you about all the changes I’m trying to make in what I eat, but I’ll sum it up by revealing this morning’s breakfast menu: coffee with non-fat creamer, milled flaxseed and soy cereal topped with two strawberries and a multi-vitamin that wasn’t quite up to par in the folic-acid department.
As I pondered my newfound knowledge, I wondered, how many people know as little about vital Christian truths as I knew about nutrition? I don’t doubt that many of this issue’s readers are in the same situation as me; issues of faith and church are easy to put off just a little while longer. I thought, how many will wait to act until they need a triple-bypass?
Well, at thirty, the jury is still out—will I spoil or age to perfection? Both the Bible and common sense tell me that a life well tended will be worth my while.

The Next Generation (sermon transcript)

Intro: I want to talk with you today about what I believe to be the most critical issue facing the church today: “What will happen to Christianity in America in the next generation?”
I intent to speak to YOU teens to YOU parents to YOU grandparents and to anyone else not covered that cares whether or not Christianity in America grows or fades and is forgotten.
It is no secret that across the country young people are becoming disillusioned with the faith as it has been traditionally practiced. The world has changed dramatically, and the church has been slow to respond. Here is the opening statement from a sobering book by Josh McDowell entitled, The Last Christian Generation. He says this to adults:
“I realize the title of this book may be shocking. But the decision to call this The Last Christian Generation was not made lightly nor was it done for sensationalism. I sincerely believe unless something is done now to change the spiritual state of our young people—you will be the last Christian generation!”
Why does he make such a remark? Look at some of these statistics:
Nehemiah Institute: 20,000 students from 1000 schools: 85% of youth from Christian homes that attend public schools do not embrace a biblical worldview. How about Christian schools? Only slightly higher.

Does this mean you teens are your children and grandchildren are rebelling against God? Perhaps you can answer for yourself. But polls indicate that young people today are very spiritually inclined:
65% want a close relationship with God;
49% want to make a difference in the world;
79% consider having close personal friends as a high-priority goal for their future.
Source: Barna Research Group, “Life Goals of American Teens”

McDowell interprets this data against other statistics and says, “The fundamental question is: ‘How are they forming their view of God? And what brand of religion are they adopting?’”

Look at this:
63% don’t believe Jesus is the Son of the one true God;
58% believe all faiths teach equally valid truths;
51% don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead;
65% don’t believe Satan is a real entity;
68% don’t believe the Holy Spirit is a real entity.
Source: Barna Research Group “Third Millennium Teens”

It’s not that young people today aren’t calling themselves Christians or won’t continue to down the road; it’s simply that the version of the faith that they are embracing is not built on the foundation we find in the Scriptures.

But what of this generation. Do you sense the gravity?

Psalm 71: 17-18 Psalm 71 was written by an older man who understood in his day what we are facing in ours. (READ)

Let me point out some observations from this text and then challenge you based on these observations.

1. He realized how important it was that he learned about God when he was young. Faith is not just a grown-up thing.
Young people: Take your Christian education seriously. Learn what God says in the Bible. Make it the guide for your life. Vs.17

2. His education included observation. He marveled at what God had done for him as he looked back over the years. His memories inspired awe of God.
All: Speak of God’s marvelous deeds. Be a witness, give testimony.
(OF course this means we need to be able to recognize the hand of God in our experiences.)

3. The wise man of God understands something our country is quickly forgetting: OUR GOD GIVEN RESPONSIBILITY TO RAISE THE NEXT GENERATION ACCORDING TO BIBLICAL PRINCIPLES.

I believe as I read between the lines that the psalmist observed the youth of his day and saw that they were in need of direction and a foundation to live by and inside him grew a passion to see that before he died he would tell them stories of God and teach them who He is.

In Deuteronomy 6:4-9 we find the Shema--the most important part of the Torah. It is extremely relevant for Christians today.

Here are some observations based on this text:
1. Moses is speaking to parents
2. The Word of God is to be on your hearts (that is to say, your mind will and emotions are to be bent toward the Scriptures. If you were cut open, you would bleed biblical principles.)
3. Impress them on your children. What do their actions tell you about the kind of impression you are making?
4. Use teachable moments! If you are deeply committed to God’s Word then it will show up in your conversations. You must show your kids that you make decisions based upon this book.
i. You pay your taxes, not because you don’t want to go to prison, but because the Bible instructs you to and you love God’s Word so it is your joy to obey it.
ii. You come to church, not because it is your duty, but because it is your delight.
iii. You work hard with integrity, not because you want to avoid getting fired, but because God’s Word tells you to and it brings you joy to follow it.
iv. You do good works, not to be seen as holy and wonderful, but as an offering of worship to God as taught in the Bible.
v. You show your child’s teacher respect, not because they deserve it, but because Scripture demands it and therefore you go out of your way to show them that you care.

This is where we fail the most-- where the rubber meets the road. We swear at the people making us late for church and then wonder why our kids don’t see the connection between Sunday and Monday. If we smell smoke on our kids when they come home from being with their friends, we must ask ourselves, "what right do I have to bring out my Bible and say, 'don’t smoke' to them?" Am I first applying it to myself? Incidentally, I have a book on my shelf about a girl whose father abused her while reciting the Lord’s Prayer.

Challenge to the gray headed people (out of deep respect):
Take the spiritual inventory self-evaluation we passed out in Sunday School. Your first responsibility is to live rightly yourself. If you read the rest of Psalm 71 you will see that it is a righteous man who wants to impact the next generation. Learn where your areas of weakness are and do something about them.
Resist the temptation to declare “evil” everything that is modern and foreign to your understanding. I have seen it in our church. A few weeks ago on a Sunday evening, Pastor Dave made a harmless comment about text messaging and another about how cursive writing is not used much any more. The comments from the people in the pews around me made me mad. You would have thought texting was the coming of the antichrist! Is it any wonder that young people are leaving the church in droves? Suggestion: (Unless you can’t afford a cell phone or have arthritis—very legitimate problems) I challenge you to learn how to text message and get the numbers for the phones of your grandkids and see who has the first heart attack, you or them. Your first text may take you ten minutes to type and it may only say “how are you?” But, I promise you, it will be worth your while. BTW—why not make the second text=How can I pray for you this week?
Learn how to tell stories. Some people can tell the most wonderful stories, full of drama and suspense, humor, etc. Who is to say that the experiences of your youth have no significance today? Look at the verses again. How can we declare God’s power and faithfulness to the next generation without stories? If you don’t tell your kids and grandkids stories then who will? Hollywood, J.K. Rowling, Oprah, and Dr. Phil.
i. Tip—Resist that urge to start a story with these anesthetizing words: “when I was a kid we didn’t have…” Try asking permission to share a memory you have from when you were younger. If they say, sure, then you’ve been granted the right to tell, but remember, not for an hour and a half!
ii. Another tip—If you’re going to start telling stories, make sure you instruct your young people to gently alert you if they have heard you tell a certain story before. I have a mentor who, when I see him next, will be sure to tell me a story for the tenth time and not have a clue he’s doing it.

TO PARENTS: Don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re a good parent you consider sitting at soccer games, going to the movies, or buying presents to be good parenting. You need face time or windshield time to make a difference. Try old fashioned board games, sharing a meal or ice cream together, take a stroll in the mall, go hunting, fishing, or plan a week long road trip next summer. If you live great distances from each other, do something radical like becoming friends on Facebook.
Let me tell you something that greatly impacted me by way of illustration. I turned 7 years old shortly after my family moved to Pennsylvania. I remember this because of the tremendous thunderstorm on my birthday. We were very poor. My present was a blue plastic whiffleball bat and ball. That’s it! My mom was further from her parents than she had ever been and couldn’t afford the long distance phone calls to keep updated on events back in Colorado. Their solution. Give up? No, my mom and grandmother bought a cassette tape and recorded messages to each other while they were ironing clothes. They would send the same tape back and forth once a week and I wouldn’t doubt that they communicated better through those beat up old tapes than most people do today with the their family members that lives in the same house! They did this for years! I am the first and last boy that ever lived that got excited when he saw his mom get out the ironing board. Why? I knew I was about to hear stories of God’s faithfulness! It was never about gossip. It was never mean. It was always edifying. And I stand here today as a testimony to the impact of those tapes far more than any Sunday School class, sermon, Christian movie, end times novel, or anything my youth pastor did. Friends, Don’t tell me you can’t find a way. Get a cd recorder if you have to. Do something radical or you will be the last Christian Generation!

Reality check for Young people: You live in an age where youth is the highest value. People want to be young more than they want to be anything else. Age is scorned and those of your generation mock those with silver hair. We live in the age where nursing homes are like Salvation Army bins for people; we discard the elderly with as much care as we toss out old clothes.
I went to lunch with a retired man a week and a half ago and as we were driving there was a very old lady slowly making her way across the parking lot to the store. We had to wait for her to cross. As we were waiting, the man I was with said something I hope I never forget. He said, “The older I get the more compassion I have for these people because I know that I am becoming one of them.” He is right. He is becoming one of them. And I don’t care how old you are, you are becoming one of them too.

Let me also challenge you to refuse to buy the lie that gray headed people are “washed up”. Sit at their feet. Learn wisdom from them. Ask them their stories. Start with your parents and grandparents. I wonder how many of you have no clue that treasures of history, knowledge, and experience live under the same roof as you do?

I remember a time a few years ago when I was in Florida with Amy and the kids and we were visiting grandpa Angelo Lentini. He was and is in his eighties and what stories he had to tell. We would sit around his kitchen table for hours and listen to him tell of his youth, the lessons he learned and the mistakes that he made. The reason I’m telling you this is because he would frequently stop in amazement and ask us, “Aren’t you bored listening to this? Don’t you want me to stop?” See, he understands something that’s so true and sad today. Nobody wants to hear the stories anymore! We, as a generation, have set aside these people in lonely little houses forgetting what treasures lay behind their eyes.

And, if there are adults that want to interact with you at youth group or in school, or if your grandma sends you a text message I challenge you to honor that as a deep act of love. Don’t push adults away. Don’t wish they weren’t around. Believe me, they have so much they could get done if they wanted too, but they come to you because they love you, and I hope you see that.

In conclusion
Grandparents: Follow the example of the psalmist who prayed that God would grant him enough days to pass on his faith.
Parents: Embrace your roll as the primary models of the Faith. What you see in your kids is largely a reflection of you.
Young people: Open up your hearts to your elders. Be more like wiser cultures that value age as a crown of glory and less like sitcoms that treat them like clothes for the Salvation Army.

Friday, September 26, 2008

My #2 Reason for Blogging

I love to discuss my faith with others.
I am a Christian. What does that mean? The moment you read about my faith you will instantly start to think about all the "Christians" you have met. What were they like? Were they reasonable people or fanatical? Where they genuine or fake?

Unfortunately, many skeptics I have run into over the years have tended to base their disbelief on poor stereotypes. They build straw men from news clippings of pastors taken in scandals and neighbors whose dogs bark too loudly. I contend that Christianity is a reasonable faith based on highly probable evidence--far from the blind "leap of faith" that many detractors accuse us of taking.

Personally speaking, I am quite flawed. I far fall below the standards that the Bible sets. I'm not proud of this fact. But I am free, free from the bondage that held me in sin. The peace that comes with the forgiveness of God is a sure cure for insomnia or anxiety or whatever else ails your soul.

My #1 Reason For Blogging

My intent is to be a resource for parents.

Parents are stretched to the limit these days. I see this first hand in my ministry and as a soccer coach. What concerns me is that parents seem to have less and less time to interact with their sons and daughters and trust them more and more to specialists. My heart goes out to parents. I want to engage them and help them see the connections between modern thinking and the behavior of their kids.

Here is a sampling of some topics/questions that I intend to address:
Media: Should I be concerned with the messages Hollywood is sending my teen?
Postmodernism: What is it and why is it dangerous?
College: Is the Christian university the right choice for my son or daughter?
Rebellion: Where does it come from and what can be done about it?
The Bible as a Guide: What does the Bible have to say about parenting? Does it have relevant answers for today's parenting struggles?
Discipline: How can I get my teen to tell me the truth?
Influence: Who has the louder voice: parents or media? (You might be surprised)

So, I invite you to subscribe and join me in conversation regarding the wonderfully complex world of youth culture.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Socratic Art

The Socratic Art is the art of asking questions. I love questions and the pursuit of answers. The more difficult the question the more it sparks my interest.
It has been said that without questions there is no learning. Each answer is preceeded by a question and leads to questions on a higher level. Since I don't like to let my mind atrophy I keep asking more and more. Life is lived in the tension between the question mark and the period and that is where you'll find me.
Though this is true, I recognize that questions are not what we're after. We all seek answers. Some say that the biggest questions have no answers, but I disagree. I believe there are reasons for everything.