Friday, January 27, 2012


I found it interesting that Generate Good? - the post about whether or not we have the ability to alter our genes through behavior - was the most viewed post in the last week.  In the last month, Superficialites was.  And of all time - it was Generate Good? followed closely by Insult to Injury, the post about offending others, from Romans 14.  I know you guys don't get to see the stats (at least I don't think you do) and thought you may find them interesting.

Another interesting thing - somehow this site gets quite a few hits off of the image associated with the post. 

Instilling Values

instill:  verb,  gradually but firmly establish (an idea or attitude, esp. a desirable one) in a person's mind

What do your kids value?  Is it what you value?  How do you 'establish' your values in their hearts and minds?  How were they 'established' in your mind?  Is your set of values different than your parents?  These are the million dollar questions I now open for exploration.

In your life, when you were young, did you do what your parents told you because 1) it seemed good and right to you? 2) they told you it was good and right and you believed them? or 3) you were going to get in trouble if you didn't?  

It may have been a combination of those things in varying percentages depending on the individual, but I'd venture a guess that for most of us it was mainly 3.  In other words, doing X or not doing Y, was not part of our value system.  But we may have complied in order to avoid our parent's wrath and/or punishment.  The highest 'value' was placed on avoiding a negative.  This can be true even in adulthood.  Just switch parents with law enforcement or social mores.  

But for most of us, especially Christians, we began to 'own' a different value system than the one we were born with.  One that's more like what our parents - if they were good role models - valued.  Good, kind, honest, self-sacrificing behavior.  

How does this happen?  

Certainly the Holy Spirit plays an important role in this.  But there are other factors too.  Many times, when we DO bad things, bad things HAPPEN to us.  I've wondered recently if this is the primary way we incorporate good thinking, and thus behavior, into our lives.  We compare good instruction and the results of following it, with the results of doing bad and then we 'get it'. 

1.  Do Christians 'behave' correctly in order to avoid punishment.
2.  Is that a 'lower' or less mature reason for right behavior.  Should 'avoiding a negative' transition into 'receiving a positive' - or something even higher?
3.  What can we do to effectively cause our kids to 'buy in' to the way of life we think is best for them.

I know one method that's very powerful and it's simply - by example, by the way we live.  Our actions, for good or bad, speak much louder than what we say.  We need to have those 2 things in agreement with each other.  Not that we have to be perfect, but practicing as best we can the things we say we value.

Other than that, and the work of God, I don't know what else would work besides cold, hard experience.  Get smacked in the face, knocked on the ground, and kicked a few times and you start to learn (at least most of us do).  Unfortunately, that's not a much different model than how we started with our parents.  Do bad = get spanked/grounded/sent to room etc.

Last question:  what role does faith play in all of this.  We are instructed that the righteous will live by faith.  If we truly trusted God, and all that He says, we would obey Him without having to suffer through bad consequences that resulted from sin.  Wouldn't we?

I had lunch with Steve yesterday and he asked me what's the one thing, if I could only have one thing, that I'd want for my kids.  Salvation, I answered.  Right, he responded.  Therefore, everything else is secondary.  Hmmm...

Thursday, January 12, 2012


I had a conversation recently with a friend who suggested that another mutual friend of ours needed to 'upgrade' his appearance in order to be more effective at his job.  I understood his point:  if you 'look' a certain way then people are more apt to go along with whatever it is that you want them to do.  The clothes make the man, dress for success, etc.  But I was reluctant to agree with my friend on the basis that the issue he was talking about seemed to be a superficial one.  

Or is it?  

This raises all kinds of questions with me.  Is it wrong to make judgements about people based on the way that they look?  We think the right answer is no, but this can go either way.  If you see a person who is dirty, dressed sloppily and shows no evidence of personal grooming; you could make the assumption that they are either 1) a homeless street person, or absent that, they are at least 2) undisciplined and apathetic, or 3) possibly mentally out of touch with reality.  These are all 'judgements' we can make.  The person may even have a heart of gold, but if they were a CPA, would you trust them with your retirement account?

What about people who are overweight?  I know some have health reasons that lead to obesity, but aren't most simply overeating and underactive?  And do those personal deficiencies in their behavior translate into other poor decision making?

Does the admonition to 'not judge' from Matthew 7 apply here?  That passage is routinely twisted out of context.  I think the warning there is against being hypocritically judgmental.  There is a difference between judging and being judgmental.  We have to make judgments every day in order to function.  We certainly wouldn't say the judicial system is unbiblical since there is judging going on.  There's even a book called Judges in the bible.

It is true that judgments can be made based on what we observe about others - there will be 'fruit' of the persons character and motives.  However, people can also make us think one thing is true by their words and actions, while the exact opposite may actually be the case.  We can be very good at hiding our true feelings and motivations from others - though not God.  

As I said in Off To The Races, racism takes the individual out of the picture.  It creates stereotypes that may have no connection to reality.  We wouldn't want to make those kinds of judgments.  Another big problem is comparing ourselves to each other in the way we look, or how eloquently we speak, or how talented we are at something.  When we do that, we are making judgments on superficial things.  Usually those assessments make us feel bad about ourselves if we determine that we don't match up, or prideful about ourselves if we determine we are 'better' than someone else.

What do you think about this issue?  Is there validity both ways?  
Is it always wrong to make decisions based on appearances?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Shack Attack

The Shack is a Christian novel by Canadian author William P. Young, a former office manager and hotel night clerk, published in 2007.  The novel was self-published but became a USA Today bestseller, and it was the #1 Paperback trade fiction seller on the New York Times best sellers list from June 2008 to early 2010.  The title of the book is a metaphor for “the house you build out of your own pain”, as Young explained in a telephone interview.  He also states to radio host talk show Drew Marshall that The Shack "is a metaphor for the places you get stuck, you get hurt, you get damaged...the thing where shame or hurt is centered." (Wikipedia)

Two issues for me:

One:  The book
In this book, Mack, the main character, meets God at 'the shack' as 3 different persons.  Jesus is, appropriately, a Jewish carpenter.  The Holy Spirit is an Asian woman with flowing robes.  The Father is portrayed as a large, black woman.  The portrayal of this last character is the beginning of many of the issues some mainstream Christian leaders have with the book.  In the story, the Father explains to Mack why He needed to meet him in this form and it makes sense to me.  I don't read new-age, gender-blending subversiveness into this.  Also remember, this book is advertised as fiction, which it is.  It's not intended to be a systematic theology text.  However, our own Al Mohler called it 'dangerous fiction'.  Maybe that's the role a Christian leader who is the head of a major seminary needs to take - defender of the faith, no matter how innocuous or trivial the perceived threat is.  I, however, found many good things to be gleaned from the book - especially about the relational side of God - even though I did not agree with every statement the book made.

Two:  The church (little c)
Therefore, I find it sad when I hear that people who are being considered for church leadership are actually judged by church leaders on whether or not they take a stand against this 'heresy'.  You better keep your mouth shut if you liked it, or you're obviously in error or simply ignorant.  Plus you won't get 'promoted'.  If you're a person who thinks differently than the norm, you are to be feared or shunned.  Why?  Can't the church withstand a little scrutiny, or differences in opinion on these matters.  If not, then open dialogue is shut down and members are afraid to say what they think - to their own detriment.  I'll tell you what else people in the church are afraid to do - give voice to doubts.  I'd like a place where I can air my doubts without being attacked.  Just because I have doubts or questions about some things considered Baptist doctrine doesn't make me evil.  In fact, to honestly and fully explore them will give deeper and richer understanding into the topic and this whole thing called Christianity.  But not if I have to keep my mouth shut for fear of being categorized and ostracized. 

Well, I think you know I won't.  I wonder sometimes if it's my God-given role to be anti-establishment.  I know it would be much harder for me to say that if I was already part of the 'establishment'.  This is my argument against the institution.  There is pressure to conform.  We have to be able to distinguish between, and lovingly live in the tension of, unity and non-uniformity.

The quote is well known:
In essential things - Unity
In non-essentials, or debatable things, or matters of opinion - Liberty
In all things - Charity (or love)