Thursday, January 31, 2008

Corporate Justice

Last night at class I was talking to a politically-minded candidate about the various possibilities for the GOP nomination. He is still holding out hope for Huckabee. One thing he said in reference to Huckabee was his stance on corporate greed. Huckabee has a problem with an airline that forces its workers to take a 40% pay cut to remain solvent, but gives its CEO a big bonus. It's hard to argue about that.

My company is pretty frugal. I have heard that our president only uses pens that he gets at hotels. He drives a fairly modest car and lives in a big, but not ostentatious house. We don't pay for employees' cell phones, even if they use them as a tool for doing business. However, we do pay for the voice plan on the Blackberry devices of our top executives. Here are the people who need the perk the least and yet they get it.

It really sends a message, I think.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Is This My Church?

Check out this blog entry from C. Michael Patton. I wonder how much of this we have at Hope? The description of the production value of the worship time sounds familiar. Fortunately, our children's ministry still seems like it is focused on Jesus.

Like other churches in the Willow Creek Association, we have been doing a survey to say what we think about our church. Apparently Hybels & Co were surprised to find that the way they were doing things wasn't helping people grow. It turns out that the old traditional practices of Bible study, memorization, etc did more for people than another program at the church.

We're getting ready to start a 6 week study on transformation. The cornerstone to this is an inductive study of the Sermon on the Mount. All small groups are going to work on this together. The past two sermons have been extolling the virtues of Scripture. This has got me thinking.

I wonder if we make a big enough deal about Scripture from the pulpit? The messages are pretty good, but they aren't really teaching a whole lot. It's clear that our pastor is capable of good expository preaching. I think he handles the text he uses faithfully. However, I also know that I would prefer if he got a little deeper into the text. It seems like he finds passages that relate to what he wants to discuss rather than discussing what he finds from going through a text. I guess if this worked for Charles Spurgeon it is OK for Mike Lee too, but I still would like more exposition.

The answer to this problem is always "small groups." We are supposed to get deeper in our study in small groups. However, there are limits there too. I have been told not to get into what I'm learning in seminary. The groups are supposed to be open and it's supposed to feel like anyone could potentially lead one.

Maybe I'm getting a bias from seminary, but I think that there is value in education. I also think that our leaders should be equipped beyond being simple "facilitators." How are we supposed to really grow in grace and knowledge (2 Pet 3:18) without someone teaching us?

That being written, I know some small group leaders and they do a good job. There is nothing that says you need formal training as long as you have good materials. I've been out of the small group leader role for a while so I can't speak to how it is now, but I don't recall much formal training on how to rightly handle the Word of God. This makes me wonder just how important it is to the church.

I guess that there has to be a balance between making the small groups just about community and "what do you think the text means?" and the strict Sunday School structure of a Colonial Baptist. I'm not sure what the right answer is there.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


There was some big news announced today at my company. I don't think that this will affect me much day-to-day. However, I will miss Mr. Hyler. He is easily one of the most down-to-earth executives I've ever worked with. For better or worse, he is quite a technophile. I won't miss trying to keep up with all the latest Blackberry technology with him, but I will miss working for him.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Geek Picking

I've finally decided to indulge my longtime fascination with locks. I never quite understood how they worked, so a few months ago I did some research on How Stuff Works. It turns out that they are fairly simple. This got me to thinking -- what would it take to learn how to pick a lock?

I did some Googling on it and found some good pages with lots of information. One of them suggested that I buy a practice lock, take out all the pins but one, and then practice with that. I got one on Saturday, but waited until Sunday before trying it out. With much persistence from Lily I finally did it yesterday.

I am proud to report that I can pick a single pin using two paper clips. I put a second pin in and did some quick fiddling, but made no progress. As a lark I tried again this morning and was able to pick it. I need to mess with this some more before I add a third pin, but right now it is very encouraging. I was happily surprised when I was able to pick even the single pin.

I look forward to when my tools arrive and I can go beyond the single pin. Then I can start messing with the other locks in my house. Amanda was initially not particularly supportive of this, but I think she is starting to at least be more understanding.

I'll know that I'm getting serious about this when I go out and get a vise and a Dremel so I can make my own tools. We're not quite there yet though.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Tozer on the Thought Life

Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against 
the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the
obedience of Christ.
--2 Corinthians 10:5

What we think about when we are free to think about what we will--
that is what we are or will soon become....

Anyone who wishes to check on his true spiritual condition may do so
by noting what his voluntary thoughts have been over the last hours
or days. What has he thought about when free to think of what he
pleased? Toward what has his inner heart turned when it was free to
turn where it would? When the bird of thought was let go did it fly
out like the raven to settle upon floating carcasses or did it like
the dove circle and return again to the ark of God? Such a test is
easy to run, and if we are honest with ourselves we can discover not
only what we are but what we are going to become. We'll soon be the
sum of our voluntary thoughts....

The best way to control our thoughts is to offer the mind to God in
complete surrender. The Holy Spirit will accept it and take control
of it immediately. Then it will be relatively easy to think on
spiritual things, especially if we train our thought by long periods
of daily prayer. Long practice in the art of mental prayer (that is,
talking to God inwardly as we work or travel) will help to form the
habit of holy thought. Born After Midnight, 44,46-47.

"Oh, Lord, You know the constant struggle so many of us have with
our thought life. You know how often our thoughts do indeed settle
on rotten carcasses. Take control of my thoughts today, and move me
along in the development of the habit of holy thought. Amen."

I've heard it said about men that if you want to know what we're thinking you can pretty much guess that it's sex, sports, or food. Unfortunately, that's often the case with me. However, I do find that I spend quite a bit of energy thinking about how I can get done what needs to get done without compromising the time I spend iwth my family. I guess that's not so bad, but it's not the most noble pursuit either.

I am reminded of Phil 4:8 again. The thought life seems to be a huge battleground for me (and I suspect all men). Over time I've developed good habits of not giving in to temptation. The problem is that I need to make sure I have the inside of the cup clean as well.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Tozer on the Inner Man

This was so good today that I felt compelled to share:

Personal Life: People Are What They Think About

Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of
--Proverbs 4:23

Every person is really what he or she secretly admires. If I can learn
what you admire, I will know what you are, for people are what they
think about when they are free to think about what they will.

Now, there are times when we are forced to think about things that we
do not care to think about at all. All of us have to think about
income taxes, but income taxes are not what we want to think about.
The law makes us think about them every April. You may find me humped
over Form 1040, just like everyone else, but that is not the real me.
It is really the man with the tall hat and the spangled stars in
Washington who says, "You can't let it go any longer!" I assure you it
is not consentingly done! But if you can find what I think about when
I am free to think about whatever I will, you will find the real me.
That is true of every one of us.

Your baptism and your confirmation and your name on the church roll
and the big Bible you carry--these are not the things that are
important to God. You can train a chimpanzee to carry a Bible. Every
one of us is the sum of what we secretly admire, what we think about
and what we would like to do most if we became free to do what we
wanted to do. Faith Beyond Reason, 96.

"Lord, You know the secret thoughts of my heart; nothing is hidden
from You. May those thoughts be pure thoughts, pleasing to You, completely under the control of Your Holy Spirit. Amen."

As usual, he succinctly hits the nail squarely on the head. This is why counseling must be about real heart change and not just about behavior modification. It's not enough to clean the outside of the cup!

What We're Up Against

I had my Biblical Counseling class last night. We continued talking about how Systematic Theology affects counseling. It was actually very interesting as I had a hard time thinking of too many practical applications when I was taking Systematic.

The last 10 minutes were probably the best as we clarified what we mean by being anti-psychology. In fact, I kept thinking about the linguistics book that we're reading for Greek class. The word "psychology" has become packed with meaning. The distinction that helped me was to say that we are fighting against any counseling practice built on humanistic theories. For example, Rogerian psychology offers no answers, but just helps the patient find the answers from within his own goodness. Of course, this stands in stark contrast to the biblical view of man. We need to fight the influence of that kind of thinking in the church.

However, there is nothing wrong with something like educational psychology that seeks to understand how best to teach children. There is nothing wrong with industrial psychology that seeks to study what practices help people get the most productivity out of their time. And so on. What we need to be careful about it is anything that seeks to treat the "inner man" or the "heart" as Scripture calls it.

It is always good to go back to the gospel, amen?

Thursday, January 24, 2008


We learned how to diagram Greek passages last night. It feels like I have finally learned some secret, arcane art. What is really exciting is that the outline you get from the passage will often turn into a sermon outline. I'm all about making sermon preparation easier.

I'm excited to try this out now. Of course, that means making time for it too, doesn't it?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Moving On

I applied for a management position at my work. I didn't get it, but my manager was extremely gracious in giving me the news. He explained that I made the choice very difficult for him and that he went so far as to write out the pros and cons of both me and the other candidate. She got the job because of her greater familiarity with the team, the technology of that team, and some more previous management experience.

It was nice to make the short list at the end. It feels like this is a theme with me and with my sports teams, but that's OK. At least I was being considered.

By the way, I tend to think of lots of good blog topics during the day, but don't have a chance to write them out. Perhaps I need to journal my journaling ideas.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Conviction of Tozer

As I've written before, I get the Tozer Daily Devotionals sent to my email. I realize that I may not always agree with Tozer on every jot and tittle of theology, but I can't get around the conviction that some of these send my way. This past week has been on the virtues of solitude. I realize how little time I have where I can just "be". I don't journal, though I feel like I probably should. I don't have a vibrant prayer life, though I do spend some time with God every day. I just feel like I either need to stay on the bullet points or else I need to open up the flood gates. In the same way, I am very faithful about my daily Bible reading, but I don't go deeper or wider.

Then again, I do have my time out jogging 3-4 times/week where I do have meditative time. I don't quite feel like I'm a spiritual train wreck about to happen anymore either. Again, I guess the pursuit of more is good.

It feels like I've written this exact post about a hundred times. If anyone out there has any ideas about this subject I am all ears (or eyes, as the case may be).

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Proper Grammar

We're reading a book on linguistics by David Allan Black for our fourth semester of Greek. I read something in the first chapter that I think is worth blogging on. In fact, that last sentence really speaks to this truth.

He makes the point that sociolinguistics doesn't care about what is "proper". Grammar books may define proper, but in "real life" what works for communication is proper. I think of the famous Winston Churchill line that he delivered after being challenged regarding a dangling preposition in which he said, "Madam, that is the sort of nonsense up with which I shall not put." In other words, there are plenty of idiomatic phrases that are just fine. "Ain't" may seem abhorrent to the proper grammarian, but it is not truly improper if it communicates meaning clearly to the intended audience.

It's something to think about since I have been known to be a bit of a grammar snob at times. I also find that all this Greek study has changed the way I speak English. Although my speech may be more "proper" it is also a bit highfalutin too. That doesn't really help me to win friends and influence people.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Core Elements of Biblical Counseling

Here are the seven core elements as proposed by Jay Adams:
  1. God is at the center of counseling
  2. Commitment to God has epistemological consequences
  3. Sin, in all its dimensions is the primary problem counselors must deal with
  4. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the answer
  5. The biblical change process which counseling must aim at is progressive sanctification
  6. The situational difficulties people face are not the random cause of problems in living.
  7. Counseling is fundamentally a pastoral activity and must be church-based
I imagine that many who read this blog might think that this is an over-simplistic view of the problems man faces. However, I've worked with Setting Captives Free for too long not to believe in the truth of these elements.

The key, I think, is how we communicate the timeless truths of Scripture to those who need to hear them. I am firmly convinced that these elements are correct, though of course there are times of doubt. However, I also know that if these elements are not true I would have to throw out a lot of what I believe. That of course does not make anything true or false, but if I am really sure about other beliefs then that helps to cement what I believe about this.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A Hard Passage

I came across this in Genesis 30 today:

37 Then Jacob took fresh sticks of poplar and almond and plane trees, and peeled white streaks in them, exposing the white of the sticks. 38 He set the sticks that he had peeled in front of the flocks in the troughs, that is, the watering places, where the flocks came to drink. And since they bred when they came to drink, 39 the flocks bred in front of the sticks and so the flocks brought forth striped, speckled, and spotted. 40 And Jacob separated the lambs and set the faces of the flocks toward the striped and all the black in the flock of Laban. He put his own droves apart and did not put them with Laban's flock. 41 Whenever the stronger of the flock were breeding, Jacob would lay the sticks in the troughs before the eyes of the flock, that they might breed among the sticks, 42 but for the feebler of the flock he would not lay them there. So the feebler would be Laban's, and the stronger Jacob's. 43 Thus the man increased greatly and had large flocks, female servants and male servants, and camels and donkeys.

What do we do with this? Did the sticks really make a difference? I realize that the Bible is not supposed to be a science book, but what do we do with this? Do farmers do this with poplar sticks to encourage breeding in their livestock?

When I took Old Testament I last semester I don't recall my prof really saying anything about this. Someone may have asked and he just kind of dismissed it with a non-answer of some sort.

Of course, as I give this a more careful read, the passage does not necessarily give explicit causality to this. It is sort of implied, but there is nothing to say that the sticks definitely did anything. It just says what Jacob did.

If I've learned anything in seminary it is how to be a bit more careful in how I read Scripture. I am starting to get more out of conjunctions that I once did. I have heard for years from various teachers and preachers how conjunctions link things together. It is starting to really hit home with me now. It definitely makes my Tuesday morning Bible study better when I realize these things as we try to unpack passages.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Biblical Counseling

I started doing some reading for the semester yesterday. I'm excited about my Foundations of Biblical Counseling class. We have to read one book by MacArthur and another for which he wrote the foreword.

There is a part of me that still questions the nouthetic model. I guess that is the pragmatist in me. I know that drugs will often produce results right away, and they are often OK. Of course, there are tragic exceptions as well. I wonder about diagnoses of schizophrenia as well as bipolar. How can we counsel someone when that person is not rational?

I am thoroughly convinced of the problems with psychology. I do believe it is a competing gospel. I think this is an area where my faith will have to stretch a little bit. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, January 14, 2008


I got a note from a friend about a church party that concerned him. It was advertised to the church and held at an elder's house. He was concerned because everyone was drinking alcohol but the pastor and my friend's family.

The question is -- is this OK? It would be a little strange to sponsor a churchwide kegger, for example. However, is it bad for church leadership to be seen drinking (albeit responsibly) in front of the flock?

My theory is that geography dictates this somewhat. This is obviously verboten here in the South or in Texas. Would anyone even care if it was in Seattle?

I don't have any easy answers about this, but it is something worthy of some consideration.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Another 2 Hours Done

Yesterday marked the end of my Theology and World Religions class. Our professor was really on the ball for this one and had emailed us our grades shortly after we turned in the exams. It was clear that he was grading quizzes while we took the exam. The exam was only 50 questions long and I don't think it took me more than 30 minutes to do. I was kind of worried going into the test because I figured that I had to get at least a 96 on it to get an A in the course. It turns out that is what I got and I did manage an A. Kind of stressful for a week class. I think I'd rather have a paper or a take-home final to work on.

Looking back, I can see that I now have a much better understanding of various major world religions. I now know the basic difference between a Sunni Muslim and a Shi'ite Muslim too. Incidentally, neither one is particularly fond of America, but Sunnis are better in government since they believe in a separation of church and state.

It's nice to have 5 out of 7 evenings back now. I suppose I can crack open my books for next semester now.

Friday, January 11, 2008


We talked about Hinduism on Tuesday. So far, our quizzes have been a bit challenging because of the details that I couldn't quite remember. However, on the first two our professor gave us a "freebie" at the end of each one. The one on Hinduism was a short-answer on something we found interesting about Hinduism. I wrote about karma, but I was really tempted to write about the Kama Sutra. I wimped out though. When we were discussing the paths to enlightenment we learned that you can either go the way of asceticism or of pursuing pleasure. He said that the path to pleasure had some "real raunchy stuff" and he kept trying to say "Kama Sutra," but he seemed unsure about the pronunciation. I helped him out.

I wrote to a friend that it is possible that my prof wasn't just playing dumb on this one. Perhaps I'm just a bit more worldly since I was not raised in the church and used to be addicted to porn.

We also learned about the new Hindu temple in Cary. It seems that they start off by digging a hole and burying something that will represent the god they want to worship. He asked us what we thought was appropriate for Cary. After some silence I said, "prosperity," which was the right answer. It seems that they buried a box with jewels, cash, etc and then they put the idol over where the box is buried. After a pause I asked, "They don't have a god of uniform architecture?" You have to live in Cary to get that one.

At any rate, it's been a good class. We had some good discussions as we tried to understand the various faiths more. One thing that has become quite clear is that we think like Westerners, which means that logic is important to us. This is not the case for followers of many of these eastern religions.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

A Short Funny

My Theology and World Religions class began last night. It kept me from getting to Bill & Tiffany's house until 9:30, but we eventually caught up to reality with the game. I was disappointed after OSU's strong start, but last year helped me learn how to deal with defeats more easily. I'm not happy that I now owe a coworker lunch though.

Last night in class we were talking about the groundbreaking for the Hindu temple in Cary. Apparently they buried an idol that was appropriate the community which will eventually become the centerpiece of their worship. Our professor asked what would be an appropriate idol for Cary. I said, "prosperity," which was the right answer, but I was thinking something else. As he told the story there was a pause and I interjected, "So they don't have a god of uniform architecture?" which got some chuckles around the class.

If there is one thing we value in Cary, it's our uniform architecture.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Galatians in Greek

I decided that I didn't want to get too rusty over the Christmas break, so I started reading through Galatians in my Greek New Testament. What I'm finding is that I'm just glad when I can translate what I'm reading. I'm happy just to parse the verbs correctly. What disappoints me is that the finer nuances that we learned last semester are pretty much lost on me. I have no idea if a certain dative is instrumental, for example. I'm still translating like a first-year student. I sure hope that this semester helps to firm things up a bit.

On a completely different note, I am very excited about OSU's chance at the National Championship tonight. It's going to be tough to sit through class while this is going on. Fortunately, Bill is going to DVR it. Here's hoping that things go better than last year.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Happy New Year

It's time to restart the bible reading plan. I'm using this one with my little compact ESV. The problem is that I can't find a calendar for it anywhere online, so I'm going to transcribe what is in my bible into a spreadsheet. Amanda has indicated some interest in joining me in it this year.

Edit: The good folks with the ESV have posted all their reading plans here.

I really like the idea of going through the Psalms twice in a year. As I read through my daily readings I realize that I need to work a little harder at these familiar passages. It feels like seminary has really beaten Genesis 1-3 into me almost ad nauseum. It bothers me that I can get to complacent and bored with Scripture. It is God's revelation to us, after all.

I am getting more accustomed to praying for help with my attitude. It is not easy, but it feels good.