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Challenges for the church in song

December 16, 2010 Leave a comment

“Fighting like the devil for the prince of peace” goes the song “Piece of Me” by David Wilcox which I just downloaded.  In the song, Wilcox talks about the “body of Christ being torn limb from limb,” unfortunately from within.

Here is a link to another song, called Little Fish which speaks sharply to the church’s involvement in politics.

Election maps

March 13, 2010 Leave a comment

A representation of the way the American vote went  in 2004 and 2008 using a cartogram, a map in which the sizes of states are rescaled according to their population. Interesting indeed

Here is a cartogram by county. “One way to improve the map and reveal more nuance in the vote is to use not just two colors, red and blue, but to use red, blue, and shades of purple in between to indicate percentages of votes”

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Why leaders go down

February 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Received the following in an email from Tim Irwin, trying to promote his book, Derailed. It looks to be worth reading. And no, he didn’t send me a free copy.  Not that I would mind! Here are the five stages to derailment as a leader:

Stage I: Failure of Self-Awareness

Derailed leaders manifest an acute lack of self-awareness. Knowing ourselves and our inner thoughts informs us of the needs, desires, hopes and moods of others that we might respond appropriately. It involves empathy, consideration and attentiveness to employees’ interests. Derailed leaders seem oblivious to how their behavior impacts others and the resulting failure to build a strong alignment alliance. They can’t see beyond their own understanding of their personal truth.

Stage II: Hubris: Pride before the Fall

Power provides one of the most revealing tests of a person’s character. While a failure of character manifests itself in many ways, arrogance stands as the most self-destructive. Just as humility seems to be at the epicenter of leadership effectiveness, arrogance is commonly at the root of a leader’s undoing. Arrogance is the “mother of all derailers.” The Boston Globe wrote, “Coakley’s arrogant assumption of victory was so strong that midway through the brief campaign season, she simply disappeared off the campaign trail for days.”

Arrogant leaders seem to eschew feedback that’s beneficial to any leader. They become “truth-starved.”

Stage III: Missed Early Warning Signals

Like the California train engineer who ignored blatant warning signals while texting, derailment signs are usually there, but not heeded. Otherwise-talented leaders don’t see the signals of subtle but persistent feedback about their inner state, or other’s diminishing confidence in them. Early warning signs should have jarred their attention to avoid the danger ahead. Instead, these distracted leaders barrel ahead toward the inevitable crash. Could Coakley’s election derailment have been prevented if she had paid earlier attention to the red flags?

Stage IV: Rationalization

When it finally becomes apparent that a leader is losing his or her constituents’ confidence, defenses are heightened. A siege mentality takes over, and the leader starts to rationalize. Stage IV insulates the leader from the information that could either fend off disaster or greatly limit the damage. The most damning consequence is that derailing leaders lie to themselves. Some may even believe, “I’m too important to fail.”

The derailing leader twists data to fit their world view. In an attempt to maintain psychological equilibrium, the derailing leader believes the lie, despite many warning signs.

Stage V: Derailment

What happened in the Massachusetts election seemed like a train wreck in slow motion. When Coakley aloofly rebuffed the idea of standing outside Fenway Park in the cold, shaking hands, we knew that she was bound to lose.

Understanding Haiti

February 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Why show mercy to our opponents (part 2)

February 4, 2010 Leave a comment

mystic place by marius grozea

God is “kind to the ungrateful and to the evil.  Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:35-36 ESV)

This post follows the one I started on Feb 3 2010.

John Fischer in his catch of the day for Feb 2, 2010, wrote about the lack of kindness and civility regarding the political issues of our day.  He says, as a result, “the hope for gentle debate and reaching a more complicated, but equitable consensus is unlikely.”

Most people would have no problem with his comments at this point.  But, then he writes that the church

“has taken sides along with everyone else and lost its authority to speak into the deeper levels of these issues. The gospel, which values every human being and every human being’s right to freedom, justice and equality has lost its middle ground. While the truth should be speaking into both sides, it is being heard only in one.”

man begging by vicedomini

While it is certainly okay and right to have a position on the various issues of our day, as Christians should we not, of all people, be able to reach across the barrier of whatever issue is being discussed, to value and love those who hold another, even opposite, position from our own?  Again, from Fischer,

“We must remember these are real people we are talking about—people who like us, need Jesus. Making an enemy of someone for whom Christ died is not consistent with the message of the gospel.

. . . We can represent the love of Jesus to everyone. And we can listen and learn even from those with whom we might disagree.”

The expression of mercy was important in the ministry of Jesus.  Twice (Mtt 9:13, 12:7) Jesus quotes Hosea 6:6 in which we are told that it is better to show mercy than it is to offer a sacrifice. There at least five passages in which people beg for mercy before Jesus or God in the gospels.  Four of these are found in Matthew (9:27, 15:22; 17:15; 20:30-31).  Luke also gives us the parable in which the tax collector cries out, God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18:9-14) Needless to say, all who request mercy in these examples are shown mercy.

God seems to delight in showing mercy to people.  As He does so, He receives much glory. (Romans 11:32-36; 15:9)

Because of God’s mercy, we are to offer our bodies to him as living sacrifices.  We are to recognize that we have a ministry because of God has shown mercy to us (2 Cor 4:1). Our salvation comes because of the mercy (and grace) of God. (Eph 2:8-10, Titus 3:5, 1 Peter 1:3) It seems to be valuable for us to continually go back and remember that once we had not received mercy from God. (1 Pet 2:10)

If we say that we will show mercy to others when they beg for mercy, it would be helpful to read 1 Tim 1:13-14; which says that Paul experienced the mercy of God even when ignorant, in unbelief and while acting as a blasphemer, persecutor and violent man.  It might also be worthwhile to consider that God demonstrated his love and mercy to us “while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8). I don’t know about you but I continue to desperately need the mercy of God every day (Heb 4:14-16). Interestingly enough, God’s wisdom is said to be full of mercy. (James 3:17)

To be honest, I don’t know all the ways that we are to show mercy and love to those who disagree with us, who are on the opposite side of political issues, to our enemies. But, I am pretty sure that we are to show them mercy and that we are to be the ones who initiate expressions of mercy.  Here are some ideas:

  1. Show respect by listening to them (even when they do not listen to us)
  2. Communicate love not hatred (even when they express hatred of us and our position)
  3. Be kind and tender hearted, assuming the best of others (see Eph 4 here)
  4. Avoid name calling (avoid being contentious, seasoning every word we speak with grace)
  5. Agree to disagree

If others can come up with more specific ideas from their context, I would appreciate the sharing of your ideas.

Why show mercy to our opponents (part 1)

February 3, 2010 1 comment

It may be helpful for you to know that the impetus for this post comes out of discussions I have had on political issues with friends and watching/reading the news. I admit to being a Republican and of my  disagreement with a lot (if not most) of what our President has been doing.  However, I have been uncomfortable with what I have been hearing coming from the mouths of evangelicals about the political scene today. So, when I read a post by John Fischer this morning based on Luke 6:32-36, I started to write.

Surprise, surprise! Each time I read that God is “kind to the ungrateful and wicked” in Luke 6:36 I am aware how much the church (and I am including myself here!) does not appear to practice this.  Actually, Jesus does not tell us that we are to be like God in this respect.  However, he does tell us to love our enemies, do good to our enemies and lend to our enemies without expecting to get anything back

in return.  Hmmm, maybe this is being kind to the ungrateful and wicked?

What Jesus does tell us here in Luke 6:36 is that we are to “be merciful just as Your Father (in Heaven) is merciful.”  The word here oiktirmon is an adjective and is found only in James 5:11 where James is trying to encourage perseverance for those experiencing suffering and says “The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.”   From hileos and eleos (other words for merciful), Jesus tells us that the merciful are blessed because they will be shown mercy (Mtt 5:7), we learn that Jesus is a faithful and merciful high priest (Heb 2:17) and are warned that we will experience a judgment without mercy if we have failed to be merciful ourselves (James 2:12).  Read Matthew 18:23-35 for a sobering parable about someone who failed to show mercy and forgiveness after having experienced it themselves.

Waiting for mercy in the old city by Baruch

Most interesting is in Jude in which we are commanded to “Be merciful to those who doubt.”  That kind of makes sense since in 1:22, we are told to “Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.”  And regarding the false prophets, Jude writes in verse 23, “snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear–hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.”  Jude is not saying to agree with these people nor even to condone their behavior but he is telling us to be merciful.  Why?  Because God has been merciful to us!

So, if we are to show mercy to our enemies, what about those on the opposite side of a political issue than us? If you think that does not sound fair or wise, I suggest you read the parable in Matthew 20:1-16. God seems to anticipate that some may not like the idea of his showing mercy to certain people and so he states in Romans 9:15-18, “I will show mercy to those to whom I want to show mercy.” Please take up any issues on this with God!

TO BE CONTINUED!

Narcissistic Leaders

October 18, 2009 Leave a comment

Mark Steyn writes about the narcissism of President Obama and the aftermath of his UN speech in which he preceded another President. Wonder what he wrote after Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize?

Looking forward to a lecture and discussion on narcissistic leaders later in the week.  Will write more then!

The lady with the shoes penniless

June 23, 2009 Leave a comment

Interesting link to this news clip of Imelda Marcos (former wife of President Ferdinand Marcos) here in the Philippines claiming she is penniless.  Hmmmm, I don’t think so if she is headed to Singapore for medical treatment.  Anything for a little attention, eh?

How easily disgusted are you?

June 1, 2009 1 comment

I was pretty sure I was a conservative before after reading Nicholas Kristof’s article yesterday in the Herald Tribune (here is the link for the original New York Times piece).  Now, I am sure that I am since I get disgusted more easily than others!  Kristof refers to studies that show that conservatives and liberals not only think but feel differently and refers to a disgust scale in which conservatives are shown to register more disgust in unpleasant situations.  I took the disgust test and found out that I am slightly more sensitive to disgust than most people that have taken the test altho not in the matter of animal reminder or contamination.  That probably has something to do with living in the Philippines for 20+ years! By the way, I do think justice issues are more important for conservatives than for liberals.

Here’s a link to the website yourmorals.org where you will find the disgust test.   Reminded about this article in World Mag blog

In the end, it was all about Mao

May 30, 2009 Leave a comment

Just finished reading, Mao, The Unknown Story by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, a page turner at 650+ pages.   Mao was an evil man, who delighted in using violence to destroy the social order and maintain power. No matter that 20-30 million died in famines directly caused by his ambition to be a world military power.  In the end, it was all about Mao, not about ideology or about the masses.  As Chang writes about Mao’s last hours,

“His mind remained lucid to the end, and in it stirred just one thought: himself and his power.”  654

Forgiveness lies at the heart of our civilization

April 8, 2009 Leave a comment

My wife pointed me to a long, complicated (for me) and wide ranging article by Roger Scruton, ” Forgiveness and Irony” in City Mag. Scruton is warning about an abandonment in today’s western cultures of our Christian roots.  Forgiveness and irony are two “gifts that we have received from our Judeo-Christian tradition.”  I dont quite understand what he means by irony but a few of his comments on forgiveness are worth quoting.  Scruton writes

The first of these gifts is forgiveness. By living in a spirit of forgiveness, we not only uphold the core value of citizenship but also find the path to social membership that we need. Happiness does not come from the pursuit of pleasure, nor is it guaranteed by freedom. It comes from sacrifice: that is the great message that all the memorable works of our culture convey. The message has been lost in the noise of repudiation, but we can hear it once again if we devote our energies to retrieving it. And in the Judeo-Christian tradition, the primary act of sacrifice is forgiveness. The one who forgives sacrifices resentment and thereby renounces something that had been dear to his heart.

The West’s democratic inheritance stems, I would argue, from the habit of forgiveness. To forgive the other is to grant him, in your heart, the freedom to be. It is therefore to acknowledge the individual as sovereign over his life and free to do both right and wrong. A society that makes permanent room for forgiveness therefore tends automatically in a democratic direction, since it is a society in which the voice of the other is heard in all decisions that affect him. Irony—the recognition and acceptance of otherness—amplifies this democratic tendency and also helps thwart the mediocrity and conformity that are the downsides of a democratic culture.

Forgiveness and irony lie at the heart of our civilization. They are what we have to be most proud of, and our principal means to disarm our enemies.

Global warming or not?

April 4, 2009 2 comments

When abortion is called a “blessing”

April 3, 2009 Leave a comment

My wife pointed the way for me to find the following sermon (or speech as she calls it) by Katherine Ragsdale, titled, Our Work is Not Done It is about why the right of women to have an abortion should be protected and is not an easy read for a pro-lifer.  As a pro-lifer, I disagree with Ragsdale and find no “blessing” in abortion.  But, worth reading what she thinks–is it safe to assume that she is on the radical end of abortion rights?   Another link to her speech here. Here are the words by Episcopal priest, Katherine Hancock Ragsdale.

- Finally, the last sign I want to identify relates to my fellow clergy. Too often even those who support us can be heard talking about abortion as a tragedy. Let’s be very clear about this:

When a woman finds herself pregnant due to violence and chooses an abortion, it is the violence that is the tragedy; the abortion is a blessing.

When a woman finds that the fetus she is carrying has anomalies incompatible with life, that it will not live and that she requires an abortion – often a late-term abortion – to protect her life, her health, or her fertility, it is the shattering of her hopes and dreams for that pregnancy that is the tragedy; the abortion is a blessing.

When a woman wants a child but can’t afford one because she hasn’t the education necessary for a sustainable job, or access to health care, or day care, or adequate food, it is the abysmal priorities of our nation, the lack of social supports, the absence of justice that are the tragedies; the abortion is a blessing.

And when a woman becomes pregnant within a loving, supportive, respectful relationship; has every option open to her; decides she does not wish to bear a child; and has access to a safe, affordable abortion – there is not a tragedy in sight — only blessing. The ability to enjoy God’s good gift of sexuality without compromising one’s education, life’s work, or ability to put to use God’s gifts and call is simply blessing.

I need to pray

April 2, 2009 Leave a comment

I just read the last few pages of Philip Yancey’s book on Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? I have always enjoyed his books and this one was one of his best imho.  Not so much new here but he is able to verbalize the questions that so many of us have about prayer. As is typical Yancey, he admits that he does not have all the answers and is willing to share where he is on his journey.   Very quotable and as is also normal with Yancey for me, I now have another list of books to read.

My wife sent me a link on the Washington Post site to reactions on a statement about prayer that Sarah Palin made last week. As she said, very sad and revealing such a misunderstanding of prayer.  I suspect that Palin was trying to express her own feelings of inadequacy in the light of what was before her and sought out someone who was like-minded and with whom she could trust to not quote her words in prayer.   The reality is that most people are uncomfortble praying, especially out loud and in public.  How odd that an expression of humility (I was desperate to pray) was turned into an expression of pride (no one else was good enough to pray with me)!  The following quote from Yancey fits well here.

Indeed, any time spent in prayer seems wasted to someone who has other priorities than a relationship with God.  For one who loves God, however, there is no more productive, or necessary act. 287

Closing debate on scientific truth?

February 14, 2009 1 comment

We are celebrating the 200th anniversaries of the birth of Darwin and Lincoln this week so much is being written in support of Darwin and evolution.  Here, an attempt is made to link Lincoln and Darwin.  I hope this is not the common agenda of most scientists.  Dr. Michael Wolfe writes

Democracy needs to evolve to the point where our representatives cannot vote on matters of scientific truth, just as a majority should not be able to vote to deny the rights of a minority.

Sounds like he wants to elevate arguments against evolution to the category of hate crimes? Why do evolutionists fear healthy debate?

Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, and through this executive order, set the stage for the total abolition of slavery in this country. In the same way, national standards for science education should be established so that state and municipal boards of education cannot work to deny the truth of evolution and cause distraction and confusion by having scientifically inaccurate and indefensible alternatives taught in the science classroom and espoused in science textbooks.

Lincoln saved our union from dissolution and opened our minds to the equality of man. Darwin unified biology and opened our minds to the origin of man. Today we should proudly celebrate both men and their legacies. And let’s recommit ourselves, as President Obama said in his inaugural address, to “restoring science to its rightful place”.

Wolfe’s point earlier in the article, “nothing in biology makes sense except in light of evolution.”  He further states,

“As a biomedical researcher, I can attest that we routinely use the genetic relationship between humans and other organisms (including yeast, worms, flies and mice) to discover important processes involved in human health and disease. Not only is evolution true, it is practical; we need the insight it offers to understand and treat illness.

Why not admit that these genetic relationships may reflect a common creator rather than a common evolutionay link?

Standardized genome sequencing?

February 14, 2009 Leave a comment

Interesting post here discussing some of the implications should whole genome sequencing be standard for all babies in the next ten years. Slippery slope?  How desperate we are for the church to remain engaged in cultural discussions and policy decisions!

Better to pray for our new President

January 18, 2009 1 comment

During the Clinton presidency, we were overseas and I remember being shocked at the expressed hatred towards him byevangelical  Christians when I would return for visits. Fortunately, I have not heard such words expressed to me personally.  But, I am sure they are out there.  So, these words from Michael Spencer at internetmonk are worth reading. Would be good if you clicked over and read his entire article.

If you are an evangelical Christian adult, please hear me out:

You are sinning- badly and boldly- when you publicly denigrate and lie about the President. You have no basis to do this. Surely you know that this is wrong.

You can state your opposition to the President as you choose, but it is wrong to say that a Christian should not watch the Inauguration, pray with Rick Warren and pray for President Obama when he puts his hand on the Lincoln Bible.

You can oppose him in every way, but to speak threatening, hateful, hostile or untrue words is wrong, and it makes Christians appear, once again, to be hateful, hostile, unconcerned with truth and selfish to a fault.

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Voting Matters and Yet . . .

November 3, 2008 1 comment

Solid, perspective giving words from John Piper on the vote that will happen this week in the U.S. Based upon 1 Cor 7:29-31. I have just summarized his main points—would suggest that you read his whole post before you react or copy to others.

1. “Let those who have wives live as though they had none.”

So it is with voting. We should do it. But only as if we were not doing it. Its outcomes do not give us the greatest joy when they go our way, and they do not demoralize us when they don’t.

2. “Let those who mourn [do so] as though they were not mourning.”

So it is with voting. There are losses. We mourn. But not as those who have no hope. We vote and we lose, or we vote and we win. In either case, we win or lose as if we were not winning or losing. Our expectations and frustrations are modest. The best this world can offer is short and small. The worst it can offer has been predicted in the book of Revelation. And no vote will hold it back.

3. “Let those who rejoice [do so] as though they were not rejoicing.”

So it is with voting. There are joys. The very act of voting is a joyful statement that we are not under a tyrant. And there may be happy victories. But the best government we get is a foreshadowing. Peace and justice are approximated now. They will be perfect when Christ comes. So our joy is modest. Our triumphs are short-lived—and shot through with imperfection. So we vote as though not voting.

4. “Let those who buy [do so] as though they had no goods.

So it is with voting. We do not withdraw. We are involved—but as if not involved. Politics does not have ultimate weight for us. It is one more stage for acting out the truth that Christ, and not politics is supreme.

5. “Let those who deal with the world [do so] as though they had no dealings with it.”

So it is with voting. We deal with the system. We deal with the news. We deal with the candidates. We deal with the issues. But we deal with it all as if not dealing with it. It does not have our fullest attention. It is not the great thing in our lives. Christ is. And Christ will be ruling over his people with perfect supremacy no matter who is elected and no matter what government stands or falls. So we vote as though not voting.

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

A book about the abolition of the slave trade

October 1, 2008 Leave a comment

My latest history read was Bury the Chains by Adam Hochschild, a book about the abolition of the slave trade.  If you read it, you will likely never eat sugar in the same way!

Although to our shame, there were many Christians who justified slavery, there was also a group of Christians who who not give up in pursuing the abolition of the slave trade.  Hochschild describes how the abolitionist movement was one of the (if not the) greatest human rights movements of all time–in fact, many of the strategies used by most “citizens’ movements in democratic countries today”, were formulated and perfected by those early abolitionists.  The abolition movement led to laws against child labor and for worker rights, women’s rights and eventually to universal suffrage.  In this book, you meet well-known personalities such as Wilberforce and Newton but also learn about the critical roles of the lessor known Thomas Clarkson and Olaudah Equiano.

Some shocking statistics from the opening chapter (his book does not dwell on statistics).

  • “At the end of the 18th century, three-fourths of all people alive were in bondage of one kind or another.”
  • “Close to 80,000 chained and shackled Africans were loaded onto slave ships and transported to the New World each year.”
  • Often, more than a third of all slaves would die on the voyage and 20% of the sailors would die on the passage or of disease
  • There was an estimated 35,000 Atlantic slave voyages over the three and half centuries of trade

Hochschild sets the scene in the 18th century.

“a world in which the vast majority of people are prisoners.  Most of them have known no other way of life. They are not free to live or go where they want.  They plant, cultivate and harvest most of the earth’s major crops.  They earn no money from their labor.  Their work often lasts 12 to 14 hours a day. Many are subject to cruel whippings or other punishments if they do not work hard enough.  They die young.  They are not chained or bound most of the time, but htey are in bondage, part of a global economy based on forced labor.  Such a world would, of course, be unthinkable today.” 2

A concluding sentence is also worth highlighting, “The end of slavery did not mean the end of injustice, but one measure of human progress, surely, is that today enslaving others is a “crime against humanity” under international law.  360

Editorial cartoons worth thinking about

April 8, 2008 Leave a comment

I had promised myself that I am going to avoid doing any more posts about politics but when Michelle Malkin provided this link to an archive of the political cartoons of Michael Ramirez, I could not resist.  Warning: some of you may be offended by his cartoons.  He is a conservative but does manage to make fun of all the candidates.

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