Archive | October, 2010

Did Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert “Restore Sanity” on Saturday?

31 Oct

What a Saturday…

The Mall at Washington became immortalized when MLK Jr. gave his stirring “I Have a Dream” speech decades ago.  On Saturday, October 30, another throng of people bunched to be heard, led this time by Comedy Central gagsters Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. 

Far from the dignity of MLK (and even that of the more recent Restore America rally led by conservative icons Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin) was this charade of political concern led by these two adolescent-acting men.  At the event on Saturday, Colbert was dressed as a type of Captain America character whose get-up looked more like Evel Knievel than the cartoon hero.  Seeing Colbert in the ridiculous costume, one could hardly resist the temptation to imagining the powerful image of Martin Luther King, Jr. who stood and spoke in the same spot.  There is absolutely no comparison.  The Colbert-Stewart presence was farcical and dumbing– an irreverent and irrelevant blip on the radar of time that will cause history to castigate them just as they have castigated history.

Colbert. Keep in mind that these are the same two men who continue to lessen and minimize the stature of the federal government and the body politic of the United States.   Colbert, on the one hand, sat before Congress recently and rather than reading his presented report, made a mockery of the government by appearing in character and demeaning immigrant workers and scandalizing entire people groups for his own self-esteem.  That same act would have one publically shot in some countries– for simply making a mockery of the government. 

Stewart. Then there is Jon Stewart.  A populist hero to the hipster crowd of 20 and 30 somethings still living with their parents while working McJobs, he insulted the President and the office the President holds by referring to Mr. Obama as “dude.”   I’m unsure why Barack Obama would ever lower himself to appear on the Comedy Channel and become the butt of Stewart’s jokes, but it was a new low in U.S. Politics- made lower by Stewart’s lack of decorum and complete distaste and disregard for the man and the office he holds.

The Rally Itself

At the weekend rally, one saw signs of Stewart appearing in a type of “Uncle Sam” poster where the venerated and sobering figure imposes his will on American would-be recruits, saying “I want you” for U.S. Army.  Instead of that stately call to service, Stewart is seen posed with both hands limp and raised in a “Whatever” shrug, simply encouraging Americans to “take it down a notch.”  Sadly, Stewart misses the point by confusing the high volume of dissent in our nation for ‘noise’ that should be silenced. 

On stage, the two men looked more like the Teller-Penn comic duo than men leading several hundreds of thousands of people in a rally.  It was, sort of like the Seinfeld show, a rally about nothing.  Rather than rousing the crowd with “shoulds and oughts” concerning citizenship and duty, the reportedly half-drunk/half-stoned crowd offered only occasional chuckles at the men making mockeries of the institution that stood behind them in the image of the U.S. Capital Building.  In fact, from news clips seen on national television, the strongest messages sent from members of the crowd seemed to be about the legalization of marijuana– not the recession, not unemployment, not the broken financial system, not illegal immigration, and not the mortgage crisis.  No, the primary and pressing issue on many attendees’ minds was their perceived right to possess pot. 

So, though there were no clear and scientific bases on which to judge the success of the Stewart-Colbert rally the day before Reformation Sunday, it seems that they feel woefully short of their intent to “restore sanity” as the gig was billed.

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Ten Tips on Blogging (or starting a blog)

31 Oct

So, you want to start a blog? 

I think that’s a great idea– but make sure you know the basics before you start.  You don’t want to lose credibility with those who think highly of you and are interested in what’s on your mind by making freshman mistakes.

 

Here are a few ideas to keep in mind about beginning blogging.

 1. Start with the right blog provider and the right address and blog name. Create an easy-to-remember web address (name.wordpress.com or similar).  Also, keep in mind that the various blog sites all have different styles and probably attract different types of people.

2. Find your voice (you should identify what all you will discuss on your blog, and be diverse enough for it not to be too vanilla and so it also won’t be too broad);

3. Provide good content (have something to say) consistently– without that, you won’t have a consistent readership;

4. Map out a blogging strategy (frequency of writing- how often you’ll write, a content schedule– like a preaching calendar… including series and topics scheduled out- mine is currently scheduled weekly through next October already);

5. Always write well, using good grammar, compelling vocabulary, never any type-o’s, using catchy images and blog titles;

6. Adjust your writing to hit the target with your readers, while still being true to yourself. Regularly check your viewing stats on Word Press so you can keep track of what’s working and what isn’t with your readers;

7. Don’t start if you won’t keep going.  I’d suggest doing 5-10 good blogs before you even launch it, to see how serious you are.  If you can’t do that, you won’t continue to do blogs or quality posts in 4 weeks– begin, schedule future ones you’re writing for the weeks to come, then keep writing behind the scenes, so you have a little grace period if you get behind on your writing schedule;

8. Promote your blog using tools you have through social networking;

9. Do a 2 for 1: Blog and Pod the same content— since the hard work is already done (creating the content).  Consider creating a cooresponding podcast that ‘speaks’ your current blogs on podcast, so you can double your audience– different groups of people do podcasts v. blogs, so that’s two for your time if you do both… I do that sometimes, but plan to ramp it back up and continue;

10. Consider Team Blogging. If you think this could be more of a fad interest than one with staying power, consider team blogging with others.  The bad news is that it lessens your personal visibility when on a team, if that’s an interest of yours– but the good news is that the team effort gives synergy.  In addition to my personal blog, for example, I’ll soon be blogging on my seminary’s blog (a new blog being started by Talbot School of Theology).  So I’ll be on BOTH a team blog and have my own personal blog too. 

I hope these ideas are helpful.  Treat it like a ministry and not a casual interest, and it’ll make waves.  But keep in mind that it takes time to reach a readership… Don’t expect lots of people to RSS feed it (subscribe) at first, as many readers will visit it when you post and let them know, rather than be groupies.

Best wishes on your blogging.  People want to hear what you have to say! 

God’s Modus Operandi (Part 2 of 5)

26 Oct

Many Christians worry and wonder why they can’t discern the Will of God and hear the Voice of God. One of the main reasons Christians can’t discern the will of God is because they don’t understand how God works– they don’t “get” His M.O., God’s mode of operation.

The next three parts of this series will focus on understanding the way that God works before seeking to understand God’s will.  The reason for thinking this way is that many Christians obsess about God’s will without thinking about “how  God works” in the first place.  Growing in discernment of God’s will requires learning more about God and how He works in our lives today.

So, what truths do you need to understand about God’s Modus Operandi? 

First, recognize that God has an ideal plan for your life. I don’t want to get into the “God’s ‘perfect, permissible, prohibited’ will” kind of talk here, as if God technically has two or three choices for your life (Plan A, B or C), because something strikes me as somewhat unrealistic or at least confusing about that.  But, however you slide it, God absolutely has a plan for you and your life.

Read Jer. 29:11-13. This passage tells us that God knows the plan, and that it’s a plan for good, not evil.  Plans, that if we participate with them, are to give us a hope and a future. You won’t find His closest intimacy and Will unless you seek Him with your whole heart.

Secondly,  God wants to do infinitely more in a person’s life than that person will usually allow Him to do. Read Ephesians 3:20; The Apostle Paul makes it clear that God is able do immeasurably more than anything you could ever ask for, more than your wildest imaginations could dream up. It’s not that God doesn’t want to work mightily in your life, it’s that you won’t let Him… or that you’re not doing what is necessary for that to come to pass.

You don’t get put on the spiritual shelf unless you choose to be– I think that, for 15 months as a young Christian, I was “on the shelf.”  I wouldn’t go forward with Him– so He was finished with me until I gave Him more of me.  It’s not that you ever get more of God.. It’s that He gets more of you.

Thirdly, God wants you to know and obey His will for your life. God doesn’t want His Will for you to be a secret. But, then again, He won’t cast pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6).  He knows if you’re ready to go to the next level, and He won’t tell you that next step unless you really are.  If the answer in your heart is not a constant “yes” then I wouldn’t expect Him to show you His plan… If you aren’t going to obey His Will or want to look it over before doing it, then you’re not ready for prime time.

Keeping these first three keys in mind is vital in understanding God’s will for Your own life. First, that God has a plan, an ideal plan, specifically for you. Second, that God can and desires to do more with you than you could dream of. If God’s not working with you, examine your own attitudes toward Him; God can work mightily in Your life. And thirdly, God wants you to know His will. He’s not trying to keep it a secret, but He does know if you’re ready to take the next step and won’t let you take it unless you are.

God can and wants to work in your life, in great ways.  In our next blog, we’ll discuss four more keys to understanding how God works.

God’s Modus Operandi (Part 1 of 5)

19 Oct

A major source of anxiety for many Christians today is how to know and do the will of God.

How can I know what God really wants me to do? How do I seek and follow His will?

Understanding God’s Modus Operandi is a vital foundation for discerning His purpose and will for your life. Modus Operandi, Latin for “mode of operation” refers to the way God works; how He operates. When you know the ways of God, meaning the template on which He restricts Himself, you begin to put the pieces of reality together and understand His workings. 

Then you can begin  to really understand how God works and begin to make serious spiritual impact.

It’s been said that the problem with human life isn’t that it makes perfect sense or even that it doesn’t make sense at all; it’s that it almost makes sense.  With the conflicting factors of grace and mercy, free will and the effects of the Fall…how life should be and how we think life should be always miss the mark of how life actually is.

Most People Are Confused by God and by Life.  Here’s Why.

Unless you know the ways of God (Psalm 95:10) and not just see His works or actions– you’ll constantly be confused by life.  And… confused by God, too. 

God’s ways are evidenced by His actions, but His ways are more than merely His actions. God’s actions evidence His character and framework of operations, but His actions are not the equivalent of His ways.

God never intended for us to live in fear and doubt, feeling pressured to make a decision or postponing until the moment of opportunity is passed.  That’s not what He intended… but that’s how many people choose to live– be it due to ignorance or deliberately.  In truth, God intended that His followers would be able distinguish between God’s voice, their own voice, and the voice of Satan. Discernment in this takes time getting to know God and developing knowledge of God’s Word and how God works.

This series will address God’s ways before addressing how to hear and discern God’s will. Understanding God’s ways and how He works is foundational to being able to discern His will for your life.

Are you ready to better understand God?  Good.  Let’s roll.

“Lifestyle Choice” Is a No-No For Describing the Gay Lifestyle

15 Oct

Well, Valerie Jarrett did it again.
The President’s Senior Advisor angered the White House and gay-rights groups by implying that the gay lifestyle was a “lifestyle choice.”

Needless to say, she has been excoriated by all left-leaning media outlets and also the LGBT (Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender) community.   LGBT devotees argue that those lifestyles are biologically imposed and that human sexuality or at least sexual orientation have no element of volition/choice/will/decision involved.

Gay watchdogs were quick to call her remarks an “obnoxious phrase” and suggested that she had been influenced by right-leaning groups like the Family Research Council that work to resist elements of the gay agenda.

 

 

Choice

Though proponents of that ideology have long argued that homosexuality (and transgender identity, bisexuality, and lesbianism) is not based on choice and is innate, no noteworthy scientific evidence has been tendered to support that claim.

When someone acts out on sexual desires (or any desire, for that matte) “choice” is involved.  Having a natural inclination to do something does not justify a given behavior.  Behaviors are not legitimized by ‘unlearned’ behavior.  For example, though a person might ‘naturally’ desire to have two or three spouses, participate in child-adult sexual relations, join NAMBLA (North American Man-Boy Love Association), or other types of human relationships “in the name of love,” those things wouldn’t be justified “simply because” there was an innate desire.

As it stands, however, that hypothesis has never been proven or even had a shred of evidence that supports it.  So it is perfectly legitimate to call that lifestyle a “lifestyle choice” since there’s no evidence it is otherwise.  Ironically, many of those who support the LGBT lifestyle are not content with non-LGBT devotees giving them the freedom to live that lifestyle– they also want our tacit acknowledgment that it is not a choice as well.  If the lifestyle was completely legitimate, ‘choice’ wouldn’t be a relevant issue.  That’s telling.

Thinking Like Einstein (Part 2 of 2)

14 Oct

Today we finish the remaining five elements of learning to Think like Einstein.

The first post of this two-part series discussed general principles of building one’s mind.  This second part gives a step-by-step approach to developing a powerful understanding of a great many subjects.  Each of the five remaining elements may appear complex, but they make a lot of sense to the discerning reader.

 

We Only Have “So Much” Time for Building Our Knowledge

They are built on my insight a few years back that each of us have time in life to read only “x number” of books and none of us are getting any younger.  So whatever our plan, we better get “on it” if we are serious about learning and growing intellectually.   Think of it this way, the average person reads almost nothing or at least nothing of real intellectual value.  Of those who do read important things, their primary mistake (in my opinion) is that the read (a) the wrong things, (b) do so in the wrong order, and (c) exhaust the number of books they can realistically read before they know all they should-could have known.

So, let’s assume you can consistently read 12 serious books a year.  If you live another 20 years, that’s 240 books.  See what I mean?   240 books is about what you can get on a bookshelf.  That’s it!  My point is that with all of the books available, you must be unusually judicious on what you spend your time reading—otherwise, you’ll burn through your 240 books and have wasted (not invested) much of your reading time on trivial tripe.

 

Where Do I Start?

So, where do you start?  Well, it’s not where you think. 

Most people would assume “Oh, so I should go to the great classics and just read the top 100 or 200 or 300 classics of all time…,” and that’s what is called a “great books” approach.  I think this is a healthy approach, but not the best one. 

Below is my suggestion.

Summary Thus Far (Steps 1-5)

If you follow my advice, by this point (using steps 1-5) you will have:

1. Developed a commitment to really KNOWING and learning, not just “being familiar” with lots of things.

2. Identified the major area(s) you are interested in knowing about

3. Discovered the best resources in each area(s) of knowledge you want to discover or master

4. Studied the “large general fields of study” from a Christian perspective.  Meaning, instead of studying “details about” or “different disciplines within the major area of knowledge” you begin to study summaries of the entire body of knowledge in that area… LIKE “theology” ITSELF (summaries of what ‘theology’ is) and LIKE “philosophy” ITSELF… NOT areas WITHIN theology or philosophy or what have you.

5. You then, having a good Christian perspective (if you are a Christian and, in fact, if you aren’t I’d still suggest it), study these topics broadly through other authors.

Now What? (Steps 6-10)

6.  Begin Studying the Major Areas Within Each Area of Knowledge.  Now that you’re “beginning” to understand each major subject area (theology, philosophy, history, leadership, management, psychology, whatever), now (since you actually understand what these subjects ARE), begin to study each major secondary area or “sub-set” of these subjects.  For example, in Philosophy—you’d only now begin to really study the major areas within philosophy, such as: metaphysics, epistemology, logic, ethics, and aesthetics.  In Theology, you’d begin to study those major areas, like Biblical, Historical, Philosophical, Systematic, and Practical Theology.  And so on.  Of course, you might ask—how would I even know these major areas within my fields of study?   Well, if you have done steps 4 and 5, you will already have an intimate knowledge that these are the major areas of study within that discipline.  But, if you don’t take this approach, you could read 40 books and maybe never realize these truths.  See what I mean? 

I know… this isn’t for the faint of heart, but for those who are serious about knowledge at a high level, keep reading.

7.  Now Focus Your Study on Each of Those Primary Branches “In Detail.”  Meaning, take your growing understanding of each of these individual fields (like biblical, historical, systematic theology… and so on, or metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and so on) and CRUCIAL, begin to identify the major movements, power brokers/idea makers/books & eras/time periods of those branches.  In fact, why not work to memorize these—commit them to memory?  Need an example?  OK, let’s take Existentialism.  Here, you might study each of the major Existentialists and their works—like Jeremy Bentham, Soren Kierkegaard, John Stuart Mills, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean Paul Sartre, and what each wrote.

8. Now Begin to Focus on Each of Those Fields and Think About The Differences Between The Major Thinkers, Books, and Movements.  For example—If you were studying the philosophical area of Existentialism, ask yourself—among those major players (identified in #7 above), what were the major differences between each of their works?  Let’s say that they all agreed on 90% of their ideas—but what distinguished them from one another?  That’s what I mean.  And you could do that for each of the major areas that interest YOU and that YOU really want to learn about in detail.

9.  Now, Finally, Begin to Read Individual Books Written By Specific Authors of Interest. Now, think of it… after all this, you have a SIGNIFICANT BREADTH AND DEPTH of understanding of all areas of your field of study… and know you are getting into the nitty-gritty of these areas.

10.  Document Your Knowledge.  Now, having invested this time—do whatever it takes to help others understand what you know.  Make and record, in retrievable form, summaries of these ideas and people and books –record insights, draw images with diagrams and tables and graphs, then identify and record relationships between and across fields of knowledge. 

Finally, most important in all of this is an often-forgotten idea: Slow Down – and THINK more than you read.  Most people spend all their time READING and little or no time THINKING.

The result of all of this? 

You will develop profound and intimate knowledge into the deep nuances of your field of study—you are becoming an EXPERT… because you have done what others have not done.

Thinking Like Einstein (Part 1 of 2)

11 Oct

One of the greatest elements of personal impact and success is the importance of developing your mind.

But how do you do it?

In my two part series, I’ll give a total of 10 key ideas to enhance your thinking as you build your mind and learn to think like Einstein. 

Here we go!

1. Redefine your understanding of “knowledge.” Knowledge is not what you happen to remember, true knowledge is that which you will never forget.  Here’s my point:  This is an area where so many people make mistakes… They assume they know more than they actually do.  But, truth told, they cannot command their knowledge and their memory of specifics (facts, details, comprehensive understandings of things, how these things relate to other areas of knowledge, etc.) is actually quite shallow.   Let’s face it, if you don’t remember it, you don’t know it.  So don’t over-estimate your knowledge.  Adopt a higher standard of what true knowledge is.

2. Identify the major or primary areas of knowledge you want to build.   You can’t know everything.  You can and should, in time, develop broad understandings of multiple areas– but you won’t be equally interested in everything.  So identify a subject/subjects, and begin to drive deeper.

3. Identify the best, most reliable sources for mastering the big picture of your topics/areas.  In other words, you need to begin studying a subject by learning about it “as a whole” and not piecemeal in small bits.  It’s hard to understand a subject if you start by trying to understand one tiny piece of the subject then try to go broader.  Instead, start by trying to develop a truly comprehensive, general understanding of the subject.

4. Start with secondary Christian sources if/when possible (of large general areas).  Some won’t agree with this- so they can write their own blog. I understand that perspective, but generally disagree.  From a Christian perspective, after one understands the big picture and broad understanding of something (astronomy or civlization or evolution or higher criticism), I think ‘most’ could benefit from reading about that broad subject from a Christian perspective– not so they can be indoctrinated, but because a Christian perspective will at least give them some perspectives and hot button issues of which to be aware.  Without this, I’ve seen lots of Christians lose their way because they stumble into dangers unawares, simply because their minds haven’t been properly trained to think critically and biblically just yet.

5. Then move to secondary “secular” sources of those large general areas.  Now is the time to move into the deep.  Now that you have a general understanding of the topic– and at least some biblical-Christian perspective, you’re ready to learn about the topic from other perspectives.  Keep your head on straight and go for it.

OK, so that’s a start… tune in next post for part 2 of this two-part series.