Friday, February 25, 2005


Have you ever visited a really poor part of a very poor country. I have done so a few times. The outskirts of Tijuana, Southern Spain, Portugal, Venezuela, and Haiti. Haiti was the worst, but I learned the following lesson on the Coast of Venezuela.

The beautiful rolling hills there are populated by squatters. Each hill has a central staircase going from the coast to the top of the hill. On either side of this staircase are houses made of tin or cardboard or other industrial scraps. Outside the back windows of these little homes is the paper trash cascading down into the valley. Each valley is filled with this colorful litter.

Walking up and down the stairs are women with poles over their shoulders and a bucket on each end of the pole. They carry down the sewage or dirty clothes, and bring back the clean water or clean clothes in the same buckets.

After passing miles and miles of this repeating landscape, I brought up the astonishing poverty of these people to the cab driver taking me to Caracas. He corrected me: “These people are from the interior, from the jungle. They think this is heaven. They will save money from their jobs in the city to buy one brick at a time to replace the tin walls. If they really do well they will move into the city and an apartment in one of the huge apartment buildings seen throughout the city. And, of course, this will be another level of heaven for them.”

I try to imagine the amazement that one of these folks must feel on first coming to the coast.
Just seeing the ocean for the first time must be thrilling and awesome. Seeing the City must seem like going to another planet by comparison to their life. And for most, they probably haven’t any idea in advance of what it will be like.

The closest I can come to getting an idea of this into my head and heart would be seeing Niagara or flying into Honolulu for the first time. No one can explain it or prepare you for the grandeur or the beauty. But I did see pictures, even moving pictures of these prior to arrival. It was still very exciting.

Possibly, the cabby had some real incite. For those of us who have lived a middle class existence in 20th Century and now 21st Century America, it would take a pretty major increase in beauty and prosperity to compare to the experience of those Venezuelans. Everything I know about it would suggest that Heaven will have that kind of impact, but many times more so. Why do so many question how exciting heaven is going to be when we can see the potential right here on earth of moving from one experience to another.

Having said all that, check out Randy Alcorn’s book Heaven. I will do an actual book review in a few days.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

To Ponder - Sociology

Sociology is the study of groups from two to millions. Almost all of this science is involved in seeing if there is any order to how groups interact. These distinctions are almost always divided into classes, such as race, sex, socioeconomic status, nationality, religious affiliation and depth of belief, etc. However, generally it has been my experience with sociology professors and those who profess to be experts in this subject, that we are not to make any decisions based on what they purport to define. Thus, if studies show that a certain ethnic group is more likely to be very studious and achievement oriented, as an employer I’m not supposed to take that knowledge into consideration in the hiring process. Hmmmm

Monday, February 21, 2005



Every Christian does it. Jews, too. And Muslims. Most other religions, too. The goal for all of them is pretty much the same. Communicate with their creator. The methods and the underlying understanding about that communication varies considerably. For Christians, this communication is understood to be two-way. It is for the establishment of a personal relationship with God, his son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.

I am going to go out on a very big limb and offer below an hierarchy of prayer life maturity. Not much of what will follow is very controversial in Christian theology, but suggesting that one way might be evidence of greater maturity than another is more likely to draw criticism.


The new Christian, or one who has not grown in Christ, or one who is currently not close to God is going to be at level one. This level is characterized by inconsistency as to time, place, and/or passion. Some level one folks might pray every night before bed or first thing in the morning, but the prayer is without passion or even a sense that it is directed to God. It takes only a moment and might even use the same words every time.

Other who are still at level one might have different requests or reasons for thanks on various days, but only pray a day or two each week, if that. This person may have a bit more sense of connection with God as they pray, since they may be quite anxious to convey thanks or needs. It is rare that the level one Christian will have time for adoration, admission of sin, or offerings of forgiveness for others. It is also unlikely that there is any accompanying method of discipline such as journals, lists of requests, records of answers, Bible reading or devotional reading.

Level 2

As a Christian matures, they should have an increased desire for fellowship with God. This is similar to the way a person with a new friend will want to know more about the friend as the relationship matures. With God, the only way to learn more is through meeting with the body (church) of Christ, reading the Word, listening to wise counsel (books, tapes, radio), and prayer. One who is doing these things will almost surely desire to move to the second level of prayer, but they might not receive instruction in how to do it.

There are several approaches that will help a person make their prayer time more valuable. Jesus provides an answer in the “perfect prayer” also known as the Lords prayer or disciples’ prayer. A person at the first level might merely recite this each day. A more mature Christian will use it as a structure for relating to God. Each line of the prayer will act as a launching pad for things that need to be discussed with God. Adoration in the opening lines. Thanks and a prayer for God’s will on earth following. Then on to repentance and forgiveness. Followed by more acknowledgment of who God is.

There are various other methods for remembering to discuss these various things with God each day. Any book on prayer will generally offer several. However, none of these will be needed as the relationship deepens. It will be a matter of course to include all of these things in our conversation.

Then there is the question of how often we have a conversation. My mom expects to hear from me once a week. When we don’t speak that often, one of us will generally start to need to hear the other person’s voice, even if there’s not much new to talk about. With God, there should be something new everyday, more like there would be with our spouse, children who are still at home, or our best friend.

A person at the second level is probably also reading the Word (Bible) every day. For most, I think they like to read first from the Bible, and maybe a daily devotional. Then comes the prayer time. God will commonly speak through the Bible reading or the devotional, then we are responding to Him through our prayer time.

Level 3 - The Prayer Warrior

You probably know someone like this. They are constantly asking you about your life, and are very interested in your successes and needs. If you pay close attention, they probably have some kind of journal where they write down the prayer requests and praise reports of their friends and others that they come in contact with. For prayer warriors, missing the morning (most often) meeting with God would be like missing a nights sleep, only worse. They have so much to pray about each day that an hour flies by. They have to divide up there praises and requests into various days because there just isn’t enough time each day to cover everything.

In that same journal they carry there is likely to be responses to earlier prayers with dates showing when and how the prayers were answered. Their Bible is worn from being read and reread.

Level 4 - Active Listening

Yes! There is another level. Many mature Christians get stuck at the third level. Either they are never shown that there can be even more, or they just get spiritually into a rut. The next level is active listening prayer. It assumes that you will hear from God in a clear and concrete way. The hearing might be in any of the ways discussed earlier, but there will be clarity. There are two steps within this level. First is the listening part.

Those who have reached this level talk of using 5 minutes or even 15 minutes of their daily hour in Bible study and prayer for listening. Personally, I don’t want to limit this time, in either direction. Sometimes it is clear right away that the answer will come at another time. Other times, I might listen for a 10, 15, or even more minutes.

You may experience things differently, but I suggest that listening prayer time begin with specific questions or needs that you need a response to. I only do one question during each prayer session. Then be very still and listen. Personally, I like to concentrate on the wonder of the Almighty during this time. I seek His glory, knowing only this is available, not His face.

The other step is one that very few Christians ever take. I’ve asked so many if they have, and it is rare that can honestly say they have. Complete surrender. Knowing in your knower, and letting God know that whatever the answer is, you are prepared to accept it. For me, I know I have reached that place when I accept that I will even do missionary work in Haiti if God asks me to. Symbolically, that is my complete surrender. I’ve been to Haiti, and I despise it more than any place I’ve ever been. I’m not saying you have to have a similar Thing that represents complete surrender. But when you do surrender, you open the door for God to speak His unique plan into your life.

Level 5 - Constant Prayer

The fifth and final level (as far as I know from experience and reading), is constant prayer. The Bible calls on us to be in prayer constantly. This can only occur when we are so immersed in the Word of God that we are keeping out the other influences to a very large degree. When we are immersed, it is hard to make any decision without the clear voice of the Holy Spirit giving you direction. This becomes a conversation as you move in one or another direction based on His intervention.

One last thought. This level of prayer life results in a substantially heightened recognition of God’s voice. This helps you to discern whether it is the Lord who is directing you or your own mind, or even the Devil. However, even the most mature Christian need to turn to the Bible and trusted council for clarity when the direction he is receiving seems bigger than reality. God can easily ask us to do things that are supernatural or outside of our core competencies, but when He does, it seems wise to double check our own understanding.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Not Fair

Just about the time your pimples go away, you start to grow hair out your ears and nose.

When you finally have amassed great amounts of education, experience, and thus wisdom, you have already made all the really important decisions affecting your life.

Knowing God's Will For Your Life

Back in my University days, various groups of friends used to gather together and bloviate (sorry O'Reilly) about the really big questions in life. One of my hopes in starting this blog was to resurrect that opportunity for those of us who are no longer in circles that honestly debate those issues.

In my experience the question of how to know God's will for your life is one that never ceases to create controversy, but more importantly seems to be stumbling block for some pretty mature Christians. Here is my take.

#1. Pretty much everybody agrees that we hear from God through His word, the Bible. Some of that hearing is pretty obvious in that when God says "thou shalt not" or "go forth and", his will is spelled out. While some of these commands and admonitions may be open to interpretation, many are not. For the more subtle directives, almost everybody would agree that we will be taught by the Holy Spirit, or we can get wise counsel from teachers of the word, elders, or others who we believe to be wise.

#2. Another pretty universally agreed upon way we find God's will is through teachers and counselors. These individuals provide prophetic (small p) understanding that would come from the word of God, but be filled in with their wisdom gained by experience and the Holy Spirit.

#3. Prayer should be an easy one for everyone to understand and agree on, but is undoubtedly the most complex and in some ways controversial. A short paragraph here, today. A new posting in detail tomorrow or so.

Most folks spend a minute or two or 10 each day thanking God, asking for things, reciting things they believe they are supposed to pray daily, confessing sin and asking for forgiveness, praising God, and making requests for God's intervention in the lives' of loved ones. All good things. Prayer should also be a time of asking for wisdom, specifically seeking answers to life's issues, and then listening for direction.

#4. Circumstances provide clues to God's will. Doors seem to open or shut as we proceed to one or another work for God. Most who write or speak on this subject wisely suggest that much discernment is required to determine how these circumstances truly relate to God's will. It is too easy for a busy signal to discourage us from making an important call, because "that must be God closing a door." That is superstition, not wisdom.

#5. Angels are God's messengers, but ask your pastor if he thinks angels are likely to give you any direction in your life. Many will nicely direct you back to the Bible for God's will. However, the Bible provides many instances in both OT and NT of Angels being active in this world. Someday I may post some of the amazing brushes with what could seemingly on be angelic intervention that have occured in my life and in the lives of trusted friends.

However, no experience that I have heard about that seemed angelic including the angel declaring themselves during the intervention or even at the end. Therefore there was no need to discern at the time. I'd be interested in first person accounts of angelic intervention that included the angel declaring who they were.

#6. Dreams and visions are even less likely to get a surenuf from your church leadership, especially if you are from the mainline denominations. However, both of these ways of hearing from God have New Testament examples, and there doesn't appear to be any suggestion that these methods of communicating ended in 100 AD.

If you believe that God has spoken to you in a dream or vision, be certain to confirm it by: A. Does it agree with scripture, B. Asking for wise counsel to determine if the direction given in the dream or vision is appropriate.

#7. Holy Spirit leading is like a continuous prayer. If you are "read up" and "prayed up," you will be hearing from the Holy Spirit all the time nudging you this way or that. The better you know His voice, the more likely you will clearly know His will through Holy Spirit leading.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Things That Can Change Everything

In the land of journalism and punditry everybody is seeking the next big story or trying to unearth ideas that might lead to change in areas that are important to the writer or at least to their perception of what is important to their audience. No one who takes the time to create content for an audience is planning to write something unimportant. Having stated what should be obvious, most of what is produced, in fact the vast majority of what is produced, is not very important.

It is true that small changes in small issues might accumulate to produce important changes. Therefore, minor pushing by opinion makers on minor issues has its place. However, there are some really substantial issues that don’t get much ink. That is until someone bold enough and persistent enough to make it their cause celebre, gets the issue to the forefront. President Bush is doing that with the concept of freedom. He has raised that fundamental aspect of the human condition to a place where the thinkers of today are almost forced to take sides and produce new ideas or new ways of stating old ones.

I think it would be interesting to compile a list of those things that have the power to change everything. Once having compiled the list, or even as it is being compiled, those who have PASSION for one or more topics might find a significant call on their life to research, analyze and pontificate on that subject. With the size and scope of the blogosphere (is there a short way to say blogosphere?), amazing results might be produced.

Personally, while I may find plenty to contribute in a wide variety of subjects, my contribution to this list is SEX. Over the next weeks I will be posting some articles at this URL that might not be popular, but I will contend that sex is at least in the top three things that motivate people, and may be number 1. I’m not going to list my ideas for the other contenders for top three or top twenty here, because I’m hoping we will have a few thousand contributions from others who know way more about it than I do.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

How to Drive an Atheist Crazy

One of my best friends for over 25 years is a confirmed atheist. We spent hour and hours trying to convince one another of the rightness of our view. Each of us had our day. Once he said that he believes that only those who don't believe in God go to heaven. Makes you think.

But humbly as possible I report that I finally won the debate. I wish I could say it resulted in a conversion, but alas. On the other hand it has been a great tool to engage those who don't believe in God. You simply ask them to list any practical advantages they enjoy as a result of their belief. Don't give any hints as to the kinds of advantages, but it is ok to suggest that there are many advantages to being a Christian -practical, emotional, relational, eternal, etc.

If they can come up with one advantage it is unusual. In a wild debate at Skeptic magazine, the entire email list was able to come up with 10 advantages, most of which were variations on one main theme. I'll leave it there for now. Maybe you'd like to think about it.

Sex Kills Part 2

In 1993 Huntington House published my book A GENERATION BETRAYED: ITS TIME TO END THE SEXUAL REVOLUTION. The original title had been Sex Kills, and to this day I wish we had stayed with the first title. I was very fortunate to have major publicity from that book, appearing on over 200 radio interviews, and several television interviews including the old daytime Geraldo show. The Geraldo program was rebroadcast 6 times that we know of for a total potential audience of over 10,000,000. But the sales of the book were not impressive. I still blame the title. Or was that obvious.

I am currently about 1/3 finished with an update of this book, which when published, will be called Sex Kills. Undoubtedly there will be some kind of subtitle. Or maybe not. With this blog I am soliciting your thoughts on a subtitle, or the title if you are so inclined. But more importantly I would love your opinion about the benefits and detriments of sex outside of marriage. First person accounts are especially useful. If you want your real name used in the case that I would tell your story, please send a separate email giving me permission. If you don't want your name used, then I will tell any worthwhile story with names changed to protect the not so innocent.

Also useful would be any unique approaches you may know about to help teens make it to the alter as virgins. Positive encouragement or scare stories both welcome.

Other bloggers, I solicit your help in moving this message along by placing it on your blog. Since 1993 there has been a substantial drop in the number of teens having sex, getting pregnant, and getting abortions. I don't claim to have had any significant part in that, but every little bit helps. Maybe this book or your story in it will result in one, or 12, or 100, or 20,000 young people choosing purity.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Forgiving and Emotional Health

Science has done it again. After years and years of Freud, Young, and others trying to figure out what makes humans tick, most psychologists have come to the conclusion that 75% of emotional problems stem from an inability or unwillingness to forgive. The Bible figured this out a while back. Christ came to forgive. But he was pretty clear about our need to forgive others. The Lord's Prayer includes that section about "forgive my debts as I forgive my debtors." Sounds pretty clear. But if you're not convinced, turn to Matthew 6:14 "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Now that's pretty strong.

Why would God say such a thing? Does he want to withhold his forgiveness? Hardly. As is the case throughout scripture, God wants what is best for us. He knows that if we are willing to forgive even the most unforgivable sin against us, our lives will be substantially better.

People usually have one of three reasons to withhold forgiveness. One is because they don't want the other person to get off the hook. Unfortunately the other person probably hasn't thought about his sin against you for years. He may not even think his action was that bad or bad at all. You don't need to tell the person you forgive them. You just need to forgive them in your heart. Completely. Without reservation. You will feel released from the bondage of carrying around the anger, bitterness and resentment towards that person when you forgive them.

The second reason we don't forgive is that we want revenge. We want them to pay. Of course, its pretty unlikely that they are going to pay, isn't it. Are you going to punch them out, steal their identity, or tell their mommy. Probably not. So the person who is getting punished is you. You are the one who has indigestion or who gets angry at your spouse for no reason. The person you aren't forgiving is actually getting even with you.

The other major reason for not forgiving someone is that you don't want to have a repeat of the hurtful behavior. However, forgiving them doesn't mean you have to re-enter the relationship. God doesn't say, forgive them and then invite them to tea. Stay away from hurtful relationships unless you are doing ministry. Even then, there is a time to walk away.

So, psychologists and the Bible agree. If you want a better life, make up a list of those that you are still mad at over some real or imagined hurt. Forgive them in person or in your heart. Then move on with your life.