Archive | August, 2011

Why You Should Be Informed (And 8 Tips to Become Informed)

10 Aug

We live in the age of information.

Between 1750 and 1900, the total expanse of human knowledge had doubled .  At that time of pre-technology human history, it took 150 years.  Today, the growth of knowledge is occurring some 100 times faster.  It is said that the entire sum of all known information, i.e., human knowledge, doubles every 1.5 years.  By 2020 it is estimated that it will be doubling approximately every month and a half (72 days).  Think about that…

This Information Age is one in which the average illiterate person, one unable to read or write– but who can understand language and watch videos, can easily learn more about science than those towering figures of centuries past like Louis Pascal and Isaac Newton.  Another example: a 5 year old child holding a smart phone possess more technology than was required to send a man to the moon only 40+ years ago.

In a recent study by the University of California, San Diego, researchers found that we swim in a boundless sea of information.  All total, Americans consume 3.6 zettabytes of information collectively every day– that’s 34 gigabytes per person, every day– be it through TV, radio, the Internet/computer, reading, and other digital devices.  Ironically, with this enormous access to literally UNLIMITED data, one in which we can learn everything about everything, the average American is not very informed about the world in which we live.

Note that I’m not saying that Americans don’t know very much– because we do.  It’s just that the “average American” is simply uninformed to a large degree about the ultimate things that matter and that affect his or her life.  Whether this ignorance is apathy, indifference, or something else– I do not know, but it’s hard to believe such a high level of societal ignorance exists in this world awash in an infinity of information.

For example, while most people have instant recall on trivia like their friend’s speed dial numbers, their favorite TV shows’ times, nuances of their favorite wines, beers, coffee beans or marijuana strains (I live in California), most live without a working knowledge and, sometimes, only a vague familiarity about civics, economics, and politics– not to mention spiritual truth.

You might say– “Who really cares?”  It may seem that not knowing virtually ANYTHING about the stock market, the strength of US currency, trade deficits, political processes, the separation of power, representation and taxation, and things like that “makes no difference.”  Some think that ignorance is bliss because, they reason, we can’t do anything about it anyway.

My response is many-fold, but if I were to reply, I would use these three brief answers.

1. Christians shouldn’t be ignorant about the world, because Jesus wasn’t.  For Christians, we should keep in mind that (of all people) Jesus himself had a working knowledge of those things, and he informed His disciples about them.  He spoke more about money than he did “heaven!”  In the gospels, Jesus shows familiarity with the Roman Empire and its government, the geo-political set up present in Judea and greater Jerusalem, and a deep familiarity with law, justice, economics, and even taxes.  If Jesus did that– and frequently taught his own disciples on issues of those sorts, it can be argued that we must do the same as Christians.

2. Being Uninformed Leaves You Open to Exploitation and Victimization.  Second, ignorance of the primary currents of our culture leaves us vulnerable to those things. Being unaware and disengaged of what is happening in any given area (say, government spending) is a sure-fire way for those who have authority in those areas to act with impunity.  An informed populace means that people can rise up and protest, shape public opinion (through free speech such as this blog), communicate with their senator, hold rallies, organize political movements, or a host of other things as a response.  If we are ignorant, we don’t respond because we are, well, ignorant.  We should keep in mind that an INFORMED MINORITY is always more powerful than an apathetic majority.  For example, in the former Soviet Union, only 24% of citizens were Communist, but they controlled approximately 1/5 of the world.  Informed minorities are always stronger than apathetic majorities.  What is funny is that some people say “I can’t do anything, so why bother?” I say that we can do more than we think– but even if that were true… even if we were powerless subjects being acted upon by the powers that be, at least by understanding what is going on we can play defense and perhaps be better off than if we didn’t.  Let me give an example.  If I were to be an 85 year old man and have to face a 23 year old Mike Tyson in a boxing ring– I may not be capable of successfully fighting him, but the fact that I couldn’t win by playing offense doesn’t mean that I would lower my arms and take a merciless beating… instead, I would AT LEAST put up my gloves and pull in my elbows and try to protect my vital organs and my face, head, and chest.  Then, even if I didn’t WIN, I might at least survive.  Similarly, when we don’t know much about our world, we are defenseless because of our indifference.

3. Be Informed Because You Are Greatly Affected By These Forces, Simply Because You Are a Living Citizen. Third, we need to be informed about the world– because we are citizens in that world.  It is where we live.  It is where we exist.  The condition of the world affects our lives.  The things happening in our world affect our families.  These things affect our children’s children and loved ones, friends, relatives, acquaintances and neighbors. And when I say that these things (civics, politics, economics, and so on) affect our lives– I mean that decisions made by people having authority who are not held accountable by informed, thoughtful, engaged people, affect you nearly every moment of the day.  So while we live in an apathetic state being brainwashed by time-wasting novelties, decisions and actions in the stock market, bond market, futures, congress, judiciary, by the President, governmental agencies creating regulations, and on and on and on– while those things are going on, together they affect EVERYTHING in life: gas taxes raise your gas prices, Standard & Poor’s downgrade makes loans for a car or school harder to get or to pay, new regulations on coal means higher prices for air conditioning at home, OPEC trade imbalances means it costs more for trucks to bring products to your favorite stores, raising the price of Mac & Cheese– do you see what I mean? All of that to say that being uninformed doesn’t make you invulnerable to these bad things– it makes you and your family and everyone you care about MORE vulnerable and, yes, victims.

Being Uninformed Always Makes Us Gullible. 

The irony of being a victim, however, is that those who are both victims and who are uniformed OFTEN (almost always) blame the wrong people for their problems.  Instead of kicking themselves for being willfully ignorant– and instead of holding the right people accountable— those who actually caused the problems– their ignorance typically makes them unable to discern what actually happened.  When this happens, we become gullible.  That gullibility makes us vulnerable to slick slogans and simplistic explanations, where we are more likely to believe someone because they speak with passion or eloquence, and we begin to believe certain things because the person is “speaking loudly” or pounding his or her fist.  Gullible people are defenseless to these things because they are ignorant– and since they don’t know the facts, they fall for rhetoric and emotion instead of believing things because they are actually TRUE.  Does that make sense?

The Challenge

We all have areas of ignorance– I know I do.  But the key is to do something rather than nothing.  My advice to those who feel unable to discern what is happening in our world and who are at a loss to understand what to do is this:

  1. Read God’s Word and ask for Wisdom (James 1:5)
  2. Reserve judgment, avoid giving opinions, and stop yourself from assigning blame until you know what you’re talking about
  3. Begin to be informed by trustworthy sources (people and institutions who, by having a long track record of being fair and informed, have earned and kept your trust
  4. Build your knowledge solidly in a number of areas, as they are all interconnected (the areas all influence one another)
  5. Check your thinking against others of like-mind and who disagree, then reassess your thinking
  6. Be sure to evaluate ideas based on their underlying assumptions (the basic commitments and beliefs that led them to reason a certain way and come to certain conclusions), then evaluate whether your assumptions about things are correct or need adjusting
  7. Test your ideas with both scripture (does it agree with God’s Word/truth) and reality itself (if it doesn’t work in real life, there’s something wrong with what you’re thinking)
  8. Be slow to come to final conclusions prematurely.  But when you know that you have finally discovered what is true, become unshakeable in your convictions.

America in Shambles & Shame

9 Aug

Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach (disgrace) to any people.  Proverbs 14:34 (KJV). 

Things have gone too far.

America in 2011 stands in shambles and shame.  The once-bright beacon we know as Lady Liberty, is now tarnished.

The Statue of Liberty is a representation of American idealism.  But more than that– it wasn’t just the “ideals” themselves, but the fact that those grand and audacious commitments had, in fact, come true.  The American Experiment had worked!!   America was a success.  And due to the fact that our nation embodied those ideals, she captured the imagination of the world and her peoples.

This led France to create and to offer Lady Liberty as a gift to the United States on her centennial (1876).  This was done at great national cost to France.  It was a love offering to our government and our people, at least partially paid for by individual French citizens because of their respect for what we had become as a nation.

Back then, France had just suffered the Franco-Prussian War, and the nation lie in tatters.  In 1871, Paris had suffered a bad defeat at the hands of the Germans who left the burned-out and battered city in ruins.  As that was happening, America was soon to celebrate her 100th birthday, and France was looking for hope and inspiration.  A disillusioned French artist named Bartholdi sailed to the U.S. that same year, and upon entering New York harbor, wrote:

“The picture that is presented to the view when one arrives in New York is marvelous, when, after some days of voyaging, in the pearly radiance of a beautiful morning is revealed the magnificent spectacle of those immense cities [Brooklyn and Manhattan], of those rivers extending as far as the eye can reach, festooned with masts and flags; when one awakes, so to speak, in the midst of that interior sea covered with vessels… it is thrilling. It is, indeed, the New World, which appears in its majestic expanse, with the ardor of its glowing life.”

He later led the effort to construct the statue so France could offer it to the American people as a token of thanks for inspiring them in their darkest hour.  Sadly, though France wanted to become like us– today some Americans want us to become like France.   But that is not the answer.

America Feels Like a Foreign Land

For many Americans, the America they knew now feels like a foreign land.  We have been exiled from our own nation.  Our freedom of religion has been profaned.  Our freedom of speech has been threatened with silence.  The right to bear arms is under fire.  The list goes on.

But more than challenges to constitutional rights, I am primarily talking about the overall state of our country.  It has changed, and not always for the better.  And as these changes have occurred, Americans can literally FEEL our nation unravel.  We can feel our Union being uncomfortably stretched out of shape.  We are expected to stand down, accept, and EVEN CELEBRATE any and every idea, teaching, behavior, practice, and ethic… regardless of how absurd they may be and despite the fact that we groan and convulse from within at what we are seeing and experiencing.

To boot, there is also a profound and concerted effort among many to undermine the rule of law– to treat it with impunity.  This spirit of the age is so profoundly strong that it’s palpable.  One can almost feel a type of antinomianism or a spirit of anarchy seething beneath the surface of a thin and shallow civility.  Our nation is in trouble.

Many– a great host of Americans– know this to be true.

The Silent Majority Feels This Way

I am not alone in this evaluation of the American psyche.

Many thinking and decent Americans have thought the same thoughts.  But few have said it aloud.  These fears have remained largely unvoiced because of the tremendous pressure that rests on the general public to remain silent in order to spare themselves the vitriol and spite heaped on any dissenter who dare question or challenge the Spirit of the Age.  Even to have a conviction is to be the target of spite– and those who would disagree with the direction of our country quickly feel the resolute and seething displeasure and scalding anger that rests just beneath the surface of those who have banded together to produce what is beginning to feel like the birth pangs of a new socio-moral revolution.

This band of cultural radicals have largely been successful in silencing what is becoming a spineless populace.  Most Americans who would disagree with what America is becoming and with the direction she is taking have been conditioned and brainwashed with the idea that the only “unpardonable sin” is to actually have convictions.  Those convictions have given way to the Ethic of Politeness where the greatest offense in our culture is actually disagreeing with someone.  Many Americans have acquiesced to the point that they have almost no sense of ethics other than a painless personal morality.  This personal morality is one that governs the individual who holds it, but is one that assumes there are no universal or absolute standards at all for anyone else.

It reminds one of Judges 17:6 in the Old Testament of the Bible when we were told about a society who had no king, so they did what was right “in their own eyes.”  That type of near-anarchy leads to the deterioration of the moral fiber of a country that, at last, leads to corruption of society, weakening of government, lawlessness, cultural decay, broken families, and then the breakdown of that civilization.  I fear that America in 2011 is, itself, slouching toward Gomorrah in ways that will lead to irreparable national damage.

Shambles and Shame

That damage has already begun. Our nation is seeing visible examples of this profound rebellion that is occurring in our time.  This “rebellion” as I have called it, is a spirit of our age.   It is a rejection and repudiation of good.  It is a collective rejection of truth and morality that is leading to our nation in the wrong direction.  It is a disregard for principles of good.  And we see this damage when we look at what America is becoming before our very eyes.   Nearly every sector of society is compromised.  And while there is a shred of hope left, I hope Americans will, in ways big and small, begin to take back their country that has fallen and can’t seem to get up.

What Should Be Done

Remember that old truth: All that it takes for evil to triumph is for good men (people) to do nothing.

So what can we do?  What can you do?

Answer: Do something rather than nothing.  Take back yourself.  Take back your family.  Take back your church.  Take back your street.  Take back your neighborhood. Take back your country– and restore her to the beauty she once was.

Practical Tips on Expressing Faith

8 Aug

Whatever is not of faith is not pleasing to God.

–Hebrews 11:6–


To conclude this series on the psychology of faith, I have some practicable ideas on putting your faith and your life together.


1. Don’t insult God with small requests. God is able to do great things. Ask Him to do great things; expect Him to do amazing things, and He will do things that are much greater than what you ask and much greater even than your wildest imaginings. (Ephesians 3:20-21)

2. Don’t assume without asking. Faith is not the assumption that God will fulill all of your requests. You must understand how God works and seek His will before acting in faith. You must have faith in something, not just faith in the strength of your own faith. (James 4:2)

3. Ask only for things that God can bless. Do not ask selfishly, merely to suit your own convenience and desires. God does not bless your selfish requests, when you ask only to suit yourself. (James 4:3)

4. Believe that God will grant your requests and goals. Do not ask God without believing that He is capable of fulfilling your requests. God hears all that you ask and all that you do not ask. He knows your faith and your unbelief. He hears you. He is capable. (1 John 5:15-15; Matthew 9:27-30a)

5. Ask God to give you greater faith. As the apostles asked of Jesus, God can supernaturally increase your faith in Him. God can work to bring you into greater faith in Him. (Luke 17:5)


I hope this seven week series has helped you to understand faith and the importance of integrating your faith in your mind, your emotions, and your will. Faith doesn’t always work how we’d expect, but God does work and we are to have full faith in Him above all else.

Faith and the Will

1 Aug

He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.

–Matthew 14:29–


Faith involves the entirety of the soul, including the will. We must choose to believe, to have faith. It is an intentional act. You do not passively decide to have faith. You do not passively trust in God’s provision. You must intentionally act in faith.

Faith that influences our wills is not just “any old faith.” It does not come easily and is not present in all Christians. Jesus calls us to have God-sized faith. God wants to deliberate choose to have God-sized faith. God-sized faith exhausts the full resources of the human soul, which is evidence that we expect God to show up. It is deliberately choosing to believe God, and to act in a way that shows that belief. As the old adage says, “actions speak louder than words.” Saying that you believe God, but continuing to act in a way that relies only on you – your time, your money, your abilities – is NOT God-sized.

Jesus says in Matthew 17:20 that faith the size of a mustard seed is enough to move mountains. A mustard seed, if you don’t know, is tiny. It looks in significant. The mustard plant, however, is a large tree, big enough that many birds will live in its branches. Faith is played in our actions, in what we choose and what we do.

God-sized faith is one’s utter resignation to the fact that, unless supernatural activity takes place, there is no possibility that a given goal could ever be realized. Setting goals that can be accomplished by you alone does not show your faith in a sovereign, omnipotent God. We must choose to rely on God’s provision in our lives and act on that intentional choice. This is the only type of faith that gives God great glory – because only these types of things actually require God to act.