Sunday, November 26, 2006


I recently came again across the quote from Ghandi when asked why he never accepted Christ even though he so often quoted Jesus' words. He responded "Oh, I don't reject your Christ. I love your Christ. It's just that so many of you Christians are so unlike your Christ." I have 2 thoughts on this.

First, I have always seen this used to call us Christians to act more like Christ. This is, of course, a valid point. We so often look to impact our culture by beating them into submission, when Jesus' method was to love them. Just love them. Not love them to change them, but just to love them. They often changed, but that wasn't his point. God loves all men, and the more we authentically love men, the more effective we will be in proclaiming Christ.

But second, I think Ghandi was not being honest. Surely he did not apply the principle that all men must unfailingly act on their convictions to those closest to him. In moments of self-honesty, he surely did not even apply this principle to himself. All men fail, and fail consistently, to be who they proclaim themselves to be. Often, we claim to be what we want to be, rather than what we are. We are not being hypocrites, we are being human. I have heard it said that we judge others by their actions but ourselves by our intentions. This is unfair both to us and to others.

But more than that, Ghandi looked only where he wanted to look. Every movement has people whose membership has less to do with adherence to core principles than it does to social or political expediency. But if you look in the places where Jesus spent His time, you will more often than not find the people who are most like Him. Had Ghandi allowed himself to compare those people to the words and message of Christ, he would have had less of an excuse for ultimately rejecting the claims of Christ.

It is my desire to be one of those Christians. Because I don't want to get in the way. But if you are looking at me, or any other person, to reflect Jesus perfectly, stop looking in the wrong place. Look to Jesus, and let Him change you as you surrender yourself to Him, and then you can begin to reflect Him.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Selective Ignorance

I was reading articles on the web instead of doing the work that I needed to do (mostly because what I need to do is tedious and uninteresting), and I came across an article by a similar name written by one of my favorite computer geeks, Andrew Koenig. This guy is almost legendary to programmers like myself, plus he actually writes very lucidly.

Anyways, I come across this article, where he makes the observation that given the choice between haphazard ignorance and selective ignorance, he would choose selective ignorance any time.

As Koenig says, we all practice selective ignorance in real life. Otherwise, we would be overwhelmed by details at every turn. It got me to wondering if sometimes we don't practice intentional ignorance, which is an altogether different thing. Selective ignorance says "I can ignore this issue right now; it is irrelevant to the task at hand." Intentional ignorance says "I don't want to know the truth; I would rather remain comfortably in this place I have always been."

For much of the last couple of years, the Lord has been impressing on me the importance of living life intentionally, rather than accidentally. Given the choice between selective ignorance and haphazard, I'm with Koenig. But given the choice between intentional ignorance and truth...

So I have to be intentional about not being intentionally ignorant. Hmmmm, my head is starting to hurt.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Youth sports

Both boys had basketball games today. Daniel's was exciting, won by our kids with an 11-0 run at the end of the game. The other team had a 13-year-old that stands 6' 1" and can already play. I expect to hear about him a lot the next 4 years. Daniel covered him for a little over 1/2 a quarter, with the task of just using as much energy as he could to harass the kid. Daniel did a great job.

Michael's game was against a team that they have already played once, and will play again. NYS apparently doesn't have anyone on staff that can schedule a season.

Anyways, the coach of the other team is pretty aggressive. His kids play well, but he is a little irritating on the sidelines. Michael's coach really wanted to beat him, at least in part because of his personality.

Daniel and I kept score, which means that we were just 5-10 feet from him most of the game. I found myself getting irritated with the comments he would make to his kids: "you take it right to them and run over them," "you can take him," other comments, appropriate for older kids, a little much for 10-year-olds. At one point, the coach tells me I got the score wrong, but I hadn't, so I said to him "I got it coach. I got the right score." I admit, I was frustrated with him, but not aggressive. Then, in the third quarter, one of our kids tries to put up a shot and gets nothing on it, so it falls way short, and he says (a little too loudly for my taste) "He's got nothing!" So I turn, and in a very mild tone (as pastoral as I could manage) "You know coach, they're just 10."

Now, I probably should have shut up. Really, I should have. Both coaches were emotional, the head ref was getting more and more irritated with both of them, and I really didn't need to jump in. But I hate to see kids games treated like they actually matter. Sure, the kids like to win, but most of them forget the losses within minutes. They just want to learn to play. And I thought this coach crossed a line.

You should have seen the eruption. There are probably tsunami warnings along the Pacific Rim as a result of it. He starts screaming at the head official, "I want him off the score table!" Over and over again. Fortunately, the head official knows me, and so after explaining very firmly to the coach that he has no intention of acceding to his demands, he walks over and asks me what happened, then offers that perhaps I could refrain from commentary. Which I did.

Happy ending. The coach comes up to me after and apologizes. Very nicely. I accepted his apology, but did not offer one of my own. I don't think I had anything more than bad timing. And I am hoping that the coach takes a moment to reflect.

I will get to find out, we play them again in a couple of weeks. I will remind the official of all that happened, and suggest an up-front approach that might help defuse things.

I intend to keep score.

OSU Michigan

Halftime. 28-14. Wow, I knew that Troy Smith was a good quarterback, but it looks right now like there is nothing Michigan can do to stop him. The commentators are talking about applying pressure, but to watch him play, you figure he will just kill them with 3-5 yards throws.

Of course, this is OSU-Michigan, and there is still a half to go.


This will probably surprise no one who knows me, but I occasionally have visions of more than moderate fame (probably why God has not given it to me). But experiences like Rick Warren's with Syria give me another good reason to avoid fame. I am certain he meant well, and had hoped to do something useful, but for all of his wisdom and insight, it appears he was in over his head.

Makes me wonder, Pastor Warren could have used advise from someone more skilled in deception and propaganda than he. Probably shouldn't keep someone like that on retainer, but...

Football - OSU vs. Michigan

I don't think you can ever cease to be either an Ohio State or Michigan fan, at least not on the last Saturday of the regular season when the 2 teams face off once again. Growing up in Ohio, I knew Michigan's fight song better than Ohio State's because we made up insulting lyrics to Michigan's song.

I don't follow OSU as closely as I once did, but today they play as 1 and 2 in the biggest game in college football in several years. I can hardly wait.

Coincidences, again

I find the notion of coincidences interesting. If God is truly sovereign and all actions are under His control. then any apparent coincidence is just part of God's all-encompassing plan, right? But what about things like the story Asimov tells relating the discovery of Mercury to the ancient Greek myths of Kronos and Zeus? Surely this qualifies as a coincidence.

But my interest here is of a slightly different sort. I have come to suspect that much of what we call coincidence is nothing more than our perceptions filtered by our expectations. For example, in politics, we will tend to value only the evidence that supports our theory, while discounting as insignificant or of lesser quality those facts that do not support us. Voila! All the evidence is on our side.

This is not supposed to carry over into science, but it does. The truth is that there is very good data that supports a very old universe, and some good evidence that supports a young universe. There are reasons to believe in evolution, and reasons not to. The quantum theory of nature has proven to be extremely effective in predicting the way certain phenomena occur, but still has some maddening implications that are so counter-intuitive as to leave one scratching one's head (assuming your brain hasn't exploded from trying to think about it). There are reasons to believe in global warming, and there are reasons to think it is all bad extrapolation from insufficient measurements.

So where does that leave us? I think we have to listen to those who disagree with us. Even as believers, we need to hear from those who do not believe; not because they can inform our understanding of God's revelation, but because they can help us to understand how someone else might perceive His revelation, and we can more effectively communicate.

Strange, this has nothing to do with coincidences. That will have to be for another post.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Haggard clarified

My original post about the Ted Haggard scandal was meant to address only the issue of how we might initially react to the news. It intentionally said nothing about how the process might proceed. A number of people have asked me informally about this, and then one person made some very good comments on the subject, to I thought I would take the chance to say some of the unsaid things.

There is clearly a need for some time in this process. The hurts that he himself is dealing with, along with those of the members of his family, congregation, and the community that he impacts, all require time and space for healing. While in some circumstances the healing process might proceed while the man remains in the pulpit, it is almost certainly not the case here. So time away from the pulpit is probably necessary, not because he cannot minister at this time, but because he (and everyone else) cannot heal should he remain in the pulpit at this time.

I am less comfortable with the notion that this sin "disqualifies" him from the pulpit at this time. This is a big deal, and has wide-ranging consequences, some of which certainly make pulpit ministry very difficult. These things conspire to make the pulpit unavailable to him, so I guess in a way he is currently disqualified. But I say this with many caveats. I think we cannot allow ourselves ever to forget the we do not minister out of our purity, but in the embrace of the grace of God in the midst of our sin. It is not our purity, but His mercy, that qualifies us for the work of the Kingdom.

Still, it would seem to me that it is best for everyone that he not be in the pulpit right now. I just wonder what will happen when the time comes (should it ever some) that he prepares to re-enter the pulpit.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Lessons from Sudoku

Now, I do not work Sudoku puzzles as a hobby. I do not need one more thing to take up my time any more than I need (as my parents used to say) a hole in my head. But I will work a puzzle if I have some time, like I did on the airplane coming back from Sacramento.

Because I do not work the puzzles regularly, even the easiest puzzles are hard for me. I generally figure out all the possibilities for a collection of squares, and then use logic to deduce the actual values. Yesterday, I did this for a while when it occurred to me that I might instead figure out what I needed in a particular row, column, or square, and from there figure out where each of those needs could be placed.

The result was remarkable. I finished the puzzle I was working on in a matter of minutes (after spending 30-40 up to that point) and moved through the next puzzle (which was supposed to be harder) almost effortlessly. Trust me when I tell you that I have never worked a puzzle so quickly.

And I got to thinking. I do this in my own life a lot. I spend a lot of energy investigating all the options, rather than just figuring out what I need and how best to achieve those things. There are, most of the time, just too many possibilities, but very few needs. Jesus said something like that to Martha.

I haven't worked any more Sudokus (I'm back to my real life now), so the approach may not always work. Just like it won't always work in my life. But it can work, and that's enough for right now.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Change for change's sake

If you know me, you know that I am a pretty staunch fiscal conservative, holding that markets are reasonably efficient and can be trusted to respond not only to financial but even social pressures without the need for governmental interference. I believe that governmental agencies move much more slowly than most markets, so relying on government to push social change is much less effective in general than relying on markets.

I am also an environmental skeptic, taking nearly all the current furor over environmental damage with more than a little salt, figuring that we know way less than anyone is willing to admit about these things, and that many of the suggestions being tossed around are both unlikely to really be effective, and unlikely to be ultimately implemented because of long-term cost. Besides, the progress already being made in this country by industry responding to social pressure is much greater than the prophets of doom are willing to admit (notice I can say all these things without any documentation -- isn't the web wonderful!!!).

All that being said, I am wondering if there might not be some benefit that may come from the current changes in Washington. A recent issue of Scientific American (September 2006) is devoted entirely to climate change, CO2 emissions in particular. And it got me to thinking that there might be some good ideas out there that aren't being considered right now because of core philosophy. And maybe a change in philosophy might open the door for one or two of these good ideas to be tried. This is where the slow pace of governmental movement become a benefit. There is no way all the weird ideas of the environmental left will be able to be implemented, which is fine with me. But this change will let us at least toss some new ideas out and see if any stick. Only a fool would believe that there are no good ideas out there from the left, just like only a fool would believe that there are no good ideas out there from the right. Our presuppositions and filters keep us from seeing even the plainest of truths at times.

So it should be fun. Hopefully, some good things will happen. We will see.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The election

I wasn't going to say anything. After all, there are more than enough pundits to explain it all. But one small observation I have made today helps explain why I remain proudly a Republican.

We got smacked yesterday. But today, I do not hear cries of "cheat" or threats to contest every election. Even the incumbent Republican in VA, Allen, is considering conceding to keep from dragging it out. While I am not proud of everything they do, there is a core sense of personal responsibility in the Republican party that is absent in large part from the Democrats. That is why, when we lose, we ask "what did we do wrong?" but when the other side loses, they ask "what did you do wrong?" We accept the blame, they (generally) shift it.

If you cannot humble yourself to learn a lesson when you lose, then you have wasted a good whipping.

The next (already broached) heresy

I had been considering this for my next heresy when the Ted Haggard story broke, and so I used that as my platform for this heresy. Then Scott suggested that I call it my next heresy, not knowing that it already was. So here goes.

What if...

What if the Bible's message of grace actually extends to sinners?

What if, when Paul says that there is "no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus." he actually means it?

What if the "nothing" that can separate us from the love of God includes our own sin?

What if the reason that God picked sinful men like Abraham and David as men of faith is that all he had to work with were sinful men?

What if the Biblical assertion that "our righteousness is like filthy rags" actually means that God does not have any unrealistic expectations? That He expects us to sin because we are sinners?

What if Paul was serious when he said that he was totally incapable of defeating sin?

What if God loves us, not because we are lovable, but just because He love us?

What if the assertion in Ted Dekker's book Obsessed, that God is obsessed with loving men, is correct?

Would it have any impact on the way I treat myself, or the way I treat others, if I really, honestly, truly believed that God's grace is for me -- because He knows me, He knows I sin, He knows I will always sin, but He wants me to be His friend anyways?

Could I love a disgraced man more easily if I knew not only that he was a sinner, but that I was a sinner as well?

Can I hope to be happier, more content with who I am, more at peace with myself and God, unless I accept the reality of my nature, not as an excuse to keep on sinning, but as an excuse to run to my Savior, who does not reject me in my sin, but died for me there?

What if He loves me when I am imperfect?

Would it make any difference?

Monday, November 06, 2006

I know! I know!

I'm listening to the radio this morning, and I hear a promo for an upcoming special broadcast. "Are you feeling, tired, sluggish, worn out, just drained? Listen to some expert on the subject this Sunday at 4:00 am for the answer."

Ooooh, ooooh, call me! Call me!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Ted Haggard

So, the news comes out that Ted Haggard may have paid for gay sex over the last 3 years. Now, before I begin, let me say that I have never met Ted Haggard, have never read anything he has written, have never seen nor heard him speak. He even graduated from ORU 2 years before I arrived. I have driven by his church in Colorado Springs on a number of occasions, and even used the bathroom there once. But I do not know the man and know very little about him. So I have no way of knowing if the allegations about him are true, or if this guy is a plant designed to suppress evangelical votes next week. But I have some thoughts on the matter, and this seems as good an opportunity as any to talk about them.

First, let me say that if it turns out to be true, my heart goes out to Rev. Haggard, his family and the church. To him, because it is nearly a universal truth that men engage in homosexual behavior because of a history of sexual abuse, and I hurt for the pain he must be in. For his family, because this will be very difficult for them to get through, and if it is true, may rip his family apart. There are 2 sins in the Christian community that are worse than blaspheming the Holy Spirit: homosexuality and divorce (not that they should be, but we have really gotten confused about this one). If these allegations are true, he may find himself involved in both. And finally, my heart breaks for the church for this is likely going to be a very difficult time as the world scrutinizes them, and any sense of family that the church enjoys may be shattered.

But beyond this, these allegations do not bother me. I do not, for example, believe that this necessarily disqualifies him from his pulpit. Obviously, this is a decision that the church members and leadership will need to make for themselves; but if I were there, I would support him remaining in the pulpit if he so desires. I mean, all he has done is sinned. Like we all do. Every day. Your pastor does. I have lately been reading a book by Steve Brown called A Scandalous Freedom. In it, Brown presents the scandalous proposition that we are in fact all sinners, that God knows it and loves us and uses us anyways. So it matters not a whit to me that Rev. Haggard's sin (should this prove to be true) is now well-known. Thank God my sins are not. And each of you should be equally glad that your sins are not so publicly well-known.

But, you may say, it's that sin. Oh really. Have you noticed what God lumps with that sin? No? You should read 1 Corinthians 6. Greedy, deceptive, speaking evil. These are mentioned in the same phrase as homosexual behavior. Or how about Romans 1:28-31? Here we have gossip and breaking promises. You see, I firmly believe that God himself is not nearly as offended by homosexual behavior as we are. We say "I love the sinner and hate the sin." I wonder if we might not all be better off loving the sinner and hating our own sin, leaving everyone else's sins between themselves and God.

Pastor Haggard, as the leader of the Evangelical movement, has been outspoken in his support for amendments banning gay marriage. If these allegations are true, I do not believe this disqualifies him as a spokesman. If the rule was that one cannot speak on an issue unless one has purity in all aspects of that issue, then no one could preach the whole gospel. The truth is not less the truth just because I (or anyone else) am unable to live it out. This is the fundamental premise of non-relative morality - truth is truth whether I believe it (or live it) or not. Rev. Haggard's struggles (if they turn out to be true) do not make his voice less meaningful on this issue.

But (I hear some of you saying) this public sin ruins our witness! What will the world think when they find out that we aren't perfect? Well, first of all, they already knew that. The only people who really thought we were perfect were in the church, and our attitude and pretention has made us unbearable. By pretending that we do not sin, we isolate the lost, who believe that they cannot be welcome because they still sin; we marginalize ourselves because a moment's reflection tells every non-believer that the sinlessness is a sham; and we set ourselves up for ridicule when someone sees us sin. Think of the problems Bill Bennett faced when his gambling habit came out. It amazed me then, and continues to amaze me now, that any believer was surprised to find out that Bill Bennett actually sins. Just because he has studied virtue doesn't mean he has mastered it. And when we pretend that our leaders are sinless, we guarantee that they cease to be heard when someone finds out that they are not.

I sincerely want these allegations to be not true. Because the people in Ted Haggard's life will have so much to struggle through if they are. Shoot, even if they aren't true, the simple fact that they have been raised is going to have a profound effect on a great many people. But if they are true, I pray that Rev. Haggard will not only find grace at the throne of God (it is always there and always free), but that he will also find it from the people of God, from whom it can sometimes be harder to find.