Friday, June 30, 2006

Money Can't Buy Happiness

The journal Science published a study today that shows money doesn't buy happiness.

Arthur Stone, vice chairman of the psychology department of Stony Brook University of Long Island, New York said, "When you look at people's actual experience, the rich are not happier than others. And if they are, it has little to do with the money they have." Stone, and others professors at other universities, conducted the study. You can read an account of it here.

This shouldn't be news to anyone. Remember what Jesus said - "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." In other words, money can't buy happiness! It's too bad that too many of us think it can.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Something to Think About

Christians believe that the Bible is the final authority for faith and practice. We know that there certainly are other authorities, but none of them are the final court of appeal - like the Bible.

When we talk about the authority of the Bible, we need to make an important contrast - the Bible is either a book by man about God or it's a book written by God (through men) about Himself. Those are the only two options.

If the Bible is nothing more than a book by men about God, then it's no different than any other book and holds no more or less authority than any other book. If the Bible is a book written by God (through men), then it has authority because it's God's revelation of Himself to us.

That's something to think about as we consider the Bible and its authority.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

After God's "Funeral"

If God is dead, as Nietzsche proclaimed, then someone or something has to take His place. Nature abhors a vacuum, especially in spiritual matters. We all will worship and serve something or someone - it's how we're wired.

Pleasure, money, power, sex, success, intelligence, science and a host of other things rush in to fill the void. Probably the most popular substitute for God is ourselves. When God is removed from His throne, so to speak, we're quick to take His place.

The absence of the true and living God doesn't mean nothing remains, it means something (or someone) does that is decidely not-God.

Superman's Back

After a 20-year absence, Superman Returns. The movie opened today (don't thye usually open on Fridays?) with a lot of fanfare. But some of the most interesting buzz, as far as I'm concerned, is coming from fellow-Christians almost giddy about the biblical themes and allusions they say are everywhere present in the movie. Here are some of the articels from the Associated Press and the Dallas Morning News. What do you think?

Monday, June 26, 2006

Just A Crutch?

Here's a transcript of Greg Koukl's podcast of several days ago (I don't remember the exact date). Greg is the founder of Stand To Reason, an organization I heartily recommend. It's one of my links, so I must like it, right? Of course! Without further ado:

"Some say Christianity is just a crutch. But let's turn the question on its edge for a monent. Is atheism an emotional crutch, wishful thinking? The ax cuts both ways. Perhaps atheists are rejecting God because they've had a bad relationship with their father. Instead of inventing God, have atheists invented non-God? Have they invented atheism to escape some of the frightening implications of God's existence? Think about it."

We should think about that and so should atheists! so, the next time you hear the "Christianity is just a crutch" statement, you'll know how to answer. One of the best things we can do as we interact with people who may not be followers of Christ is to "turn the tables" on an argument and see what happens.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

How Inviting Are We?

Christian Cryder has a thought-provoking post on is blog (many of the are interesting, but this one caught my attention more than the others). It's called "Creating an Inviting Environment," and it's worth your attention. The basic question is "do we love the lost as much as we claim to love the truth?" Good question and good discussion.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Our Social Circles Are Getting Smaller

A report published in the American Sociological Review revealed something most of us probably already know - our social circles are getting smaller. In other words, we have fewer close friends than we did twenty years ago. One-quarter of all Americans say they have nobody (think about that - no one) they can discuss problems with or confide in. That's more than double the percentage in 1985. On average, most Americans have just over two close friends, as opposed to just under three in 1985.

We're going in the wrong direction. We were created by God to be in community with others - to have relationships - with the ultimate and primary relationship being with Him. After Adam was created, God said that it was not good for him to be alone. Obviously that meant marriage in the first place, but it means relationships in general, too. We weren't meant to go it alone. Spouses, families, churches, voluntary associations, communities, cities, and nations all help fill that need.

But what am I doing while I'm surmising on the need for real community? Sitting in front of a computer, typing on a keyboard, publishing my thoughts in something called a "weblog" which is meant by many to be a "virtual" community - a substitute, if you will. It's ironic, but that's part of the problem. Something to think about, but I don't think I'll be giving up blogging anytime soon!

Friday, June 23, 2006

3 Simple Questions

Terry Mattingly of the GetReligion website has posted some of his thoughts on recent developments in the American Episcopalian church (and by extension the Presbyterian Church USA). In the course of his post, he says he can determine whether or not someone is a theological liberal or a theological conservative. Here they are:

  1. Are the biblical accounts of the resurrection of Jesus accurate? In other words, did it really happen?
  2. Is salvation found in Jesus Christ alone? Did Jesus mean what He said in John 14:6 - "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except by Me"?
  3. Is sex outside of marriage sin? The key word is "sin."

Mattingly says he gets some strange responses when those questions are asked. Some answer very willingly, while others refuse to answer at all.

My answer to all three questions is yes (so you in which category I fit), but that's not true of many Episcopalians (especially the clergy and leadership). Interesting idea, Terry. I'll have to try it!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Pastor's need this kind of fellowship and support! I'll take a sugar-free hazelnut iced latte, with whipped cream - venti, please.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Tony Dungy - Man of Faith

ESPN has an article on Tony Dungy that is quite good. Dungy is the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts of the National Football League, a role model, and a man of God. The article is timely because it's near Father's Day and last year during the playoffs, Dungy's son committed suicide. ESPN also did a good job of portraying Dungy's faith (which doesn't always happen). Dungy is an example of a man who lives out his commitment to Jesus Christ, in my opinion.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Quote to Consider

David Brainerd, missionary to the American Indians of New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey wrote the following:

"When I really enjoy God, I feel my desires of Him the more insatiable, and my thirstings after holiness the more unquenchable...Oh, for holiness! Oh, for more of God in my soul! Oh, this pleasing pain! It makes my soul press after God...Oh, that I might not loiter on my heavenly journey!"

Amen! Amen! Amen! If you're not familiar with Brainerd's life an ministry, it would benefit you tremendously to become better acquainted with it (and him). He lived to be only 29 years old (from 1718 to 1747), but filled it with a passion for God and for people. Possibly the only reason we know anything about him at all is because he kept a journal. Thank God for that!

Tooley on Mega-Churches

The Weekly Standard has posted an article by Mark Tooley on mega-churches. Tooley specifically uses McLean Bible Church in the Washington D.C. area to make some surprising points about mega-churches in general. For example, even though the vast majority of mega-churches are conservative theologically and politically, they don't emphasize political action (for the most part), even though they're regularly charged with it by some (liberals in the media). It's an interesting article that can be found here.

Here's a sample:

"But mega-churches are not a phenomenon exclusive to red America or the deep South. They are most common in large and affluent suburbs and exurbs, appealing to families with frenetic schedules and eclectic spiritual needs that often do not fit with more traditional churches."

Saturday, June 17, 2006


Mollie Ziegler of the Get Religion website has posted some good thoughts on being a godparent. Interesting stuff. (The post is not the most recent, but still on the opening page.)

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Influence of Dads

We can't even begin to understand the incredible influence fathers have with their children. I'm convinced that families are defined by the father. That's why fatherless families are such a tragedy - without a father and his influence we have only disarray and devastation. Michael Craven posted an article on that gives some statistical confirmation of the influence of dads.

The Sports Department

Mark Moring of Christianity Today has some interesting takes on several issues in the current sports scene. All of life is lived "Coram Deo" (that is, before the face of God), including sports. Read Mark's thoughts here.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Be ready to give an answer

Peter Jones, an expert on Gnosticism and professor at Westminster Theological Seminary in California, has posted a review of "The DaVinci Code" movie. He has some good insights. It's definitely worth a read.

Believe me, the buzz and stir Brown created isn't anywhere near being over. I naively hoped it would quickly blow over, but it isn't and it won't anytime soon. That hit me hard this morning as I taught a class of fifth and sixth-graders in Vacation Bible School (the first day of five!). As we got into the lesson, I began to get questions about some of the claims that were made in the book and in the movie. They quoted most of them (Brown's claims) almost verbatim (which really surprised me). Many of them had seen the movie and none of them had read the book. I thank God that I'd done my homework and was able to answer the questions they raised. They need to know that Christianity offers answers to life's most basic questions and can be defended against skeptics and scoffers. Something else was confirmed to me this morning - movies have an influence we can't even begin to understand in today's culture. It could be said that movies are the most effective preachers and teachers of the day.

Culture counts, and before the face of God we need to figure that out.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

What Do American Teens Believe?

A survey by the National Study of Youth and Religion at the University of North Carolina reveals some disturbing trends about the religious beliefs of American teenagers. They interviewed more than 3,000 teens and here's some of what they found:
  • A God exists who created the world and watches over human life.
  • God wants people to be nice to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
  • The central goal of life is to be happy and feel good about oneself.
  • God does not need to be involved in one's life except whan needed to solve a problem.
  • Good people go to heaven when they die.

Gene Edward Veith, now an official at Patrick Henry College in Virginia, made these comments about the results:

Even these secular researchers recognized that this creed is a far cry from Christianity, with no place for sin, judgment, salvation, or Christ. Instead, most teenagers believe in a combination of works righteousness, religion as psychological well-being, and a distant, non-interfering god. Or, to use a technical term, 'Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.'

There we have it! Is that what we're teaching our kids? Moralistic Therapeutic Deism? If so, we ought to be ashamed of ourselves! I'm sure that I'd have a really hard time finding any pastor or youth pastor in an orthodox Christian church who would admit to teaching what the study shows (in a 5-part series, of course). Those of us in the pastorate who don't have the privilege of serving alongside a youth pastor (we're the de-facto youth pastor!) need to be motivated to make sure that we're contending earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

I wonder how many adults in our congregations believe exactly the same things. One one hand, I'm not sure I want to know. On the other hand, I know I have to know.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Which Comes First?

Do laws change the culture or is it the other way around? Breakpoint has posted an article written by Jim Tonkowich called, "The Limitations of Politics" that helps us sort out the answer. This is an inportant reminder in the "culture wars" of our day.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Fear of God and Humility

Terry Pluto is a great sportswriter who's also a Christian. In addition to his columns on sports, which I enjoy, he writes thought-provoking articles on issues of faith and life, too. He understands liveing "coram deo" - before the face of God. His latest column deals with the fear of God and humility. (The link may require a subscription, which is free.)

The Bible is Foundational

In his daily commentary Breakpoint, Chuck Colson says that 39 professors at major universities were asked whether or not it's possible to be an educated person without a knowledge of the Bible. There answer was a resoounding "No, it isn't!"

One professor, David Kastan of Columbia University, says, "The Bible is the foundational text, certainly of the West...We need to know more, and we need to know it better." Very well said, professor! You can read the commentary by going here.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Enough Already!

I've seen and read enough stories on June 6th, 2006 (6-6-06) that my hair hurts! There is absolutely no theological significance to this day. It has meaning in that God has given it to us and we should glorify Him in it, but it's no different than any other day.

So why have there been so many stories on it? The number "666" has real fascination for some people - including journalists - because it's mentioned in the book of Revelation. But where did the idea that some disaster would happen today come from? Where did the idea come from that the world would end today come from? I'm not aware of any "prophecy teacher" in the evangelical world who has ever made such a claim. I could be wrong, but I haven't heard it.

I'll be glad when 12:01 AM tomorrow morning comes (June 7th, 2006) when the stories will stop and my hair stops hurting.

By the way, there are all sorts of interpretations of precisely what "666" refers to. It doesn't have anything to do with phone numbers that begin with three sixes, or bar codes, or Social Security numbers, or even license plates that begin with "666." And it certainly doesn't have anything to do with a specific day of the year.

We now return to our regularly scheduled program.

Which Lunch Is More Christian?

Christian Cryder has a lot of interesting things to say on his blog. One entry, called "Christian Lunch" asks which lunch is "more Christian" than the other. He shows two pictures and then gives us the answer. It certainly got me thinking. Thanks, Christian!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Word of the Day

Today's word is bloviate. It's a verb that means "to speak or write verbosely and windily." "I was hoping for a little substance, but all he did was bloviate," we might say if we used it in a sentence.

Just another public service from your humble blogger.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Resisting Temptation in College

Graduations (whether high school or college) always cause me to think about the pressures students will face or have faced in the university setting. In particular, I'm thinking of the immense sexual pressure that will be faced. David Wheaton says that only 14% of all college graduates leave with their virginity intact. That's an incredibly sad statistic!

When you put the equation together, it's bad. A whole bunch of 18-to-22 year-olds plus raging hormones plus being away from home plus easy availability of members of the opposite sex plus the strong current of contemporary culture toward sex with anyone minus the presence of authority figures equals temptations that are nearly impossible to resist.

How can we impress upon our students the importance of sexual purity? God commands it (see 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 for at least one passage), and it's the best course for us. Should we stress the scourge of sexually transmitted diseases? The fact is that they're rampant. Should we emphasize the emotional scars that sex outside of God's boundaries inevitably brings? Absolutely!

But it's my contention that we should spend far more time preparing students for sexual temptation by developing the attitude of Joseph. You remember Joseph, don't you? We find his story in Genesis 37 through 50. After being sold into slavery by his brothers, Joseph finds himself in Egypt working in the household of Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh's bodyguards. Joseph was "handsome in form and appearance," and Potiphar's wife noticed him and liked what she saw. Day after day, she asked him to have sex with her. Day after day, he refused. In Genesis 39:9 he said, "How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?" Joseph resisted real and repeated temptations - not by quoting statistics or thinking about emotional consequences - but because of his love and fear of God. He loved God so much and feared Him so fully that he wouldn't dare bring himself to sin against Him. Joseph didn't want to disappoint the Lord or hurt Him by his own sin. That, in my opinion, will keep a college student from sexual sin - a deep sense of the love and fear of God. It's easier to simply proclaim the bad effects of sexual activity outside of marriage than to do the hard work of developing a heart attitude of the loving fear of God - harder, but better and more effective in the long run.

Friday, June 02, 2006

You Can't Avoid Theology

Maybe you've heard this one before - "I don't really want to talk about doctrine because it divides people. I just want to love Jesus."

I understand the sentiment and emotion behind the statement. Doctrinal debates and discussions have sometimes led to division among Christians - sometimes very painful division. There's nothing wrong with loving Jesus, either.

However, there is a big, big problem with the statement made: theology can never be avoided or dismissed, either by the follower of Jesus or one who doesn't make any pretense of following Him. I come to that conclusion with the asking of one question: "Who is Jesus?" We should love Jesus, but we need to understand that the split second we start to answer the question of who Jesus is, we're talking about doctrine and theology. Here's another question: "What does it mean to love Jesus?" The very moment we begin to answer - however we answer - we're involved in theological and doctrinal discussion. Living life before the face of God means thinking doctrinally and theologically - there's no way around it.

The one who makes a claim like this means what they're saying, but they haven't thought it through. We can help them do it.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Thanks a Ton, Pat

Pat Robertson is in the news again with a claim that he can leg press one ton. That's right, 2,000 pounds! A spokesman even repeated the outrageous claim. Sorry, but as much as Pat might want us to believe that he's Superman or the world's strongest man, the claim is ridiculous and obviously false on its face. Why would he say something like that? Evidently, he has a new line of vitamins coming out. But listen Pat, no amount of vitamins can make a 76-year old man leg press 2000 pounds.

With all of the Christian love I can muster, I think that Pat needs to sit down and be quiet for a while - a long while. He has an unfortunate history of making wild and outlandish statements, not to mention false prophecies. When he makes the news for his goofy comments, Christians, the church, and Jesus Himself are harmed in the process. It hurts the cause rather than helping it. Robertson gives those who oppose Christ one more reason to deny Him, drives away those who are seeking, and makes it tougher for those who follow Christ. Knowing what to say is a valuable skill, but knowing when to stop talking is even more valuable.

In other words, "Pat, take a seat. You're hurting the team."