Monday, May 28, 2012

What's Really Important

A co-worker and I got into a discussion the other day about the value of unions. He was very much against them because of experiences with union workers taking much longer than is reasonable to do their job and not being able to do it himself because the task fell under the union contract. My position was that while I don’t desire to be in a union, I support the concept and I think there are a few unions that still serve a good purpose. I gave the Actors’ Guild as an example, because they use their collective power to help persuade movie producers to provide actors with better working conditions. Many of these actors work so infrequently that they would take any part, without consideration of some of the things the Actors’ Guild has taken into account.

What surprised me was my co-worker’s response. Rather than mentioning the role of the government (which may or may not apply depending on the country a movie is being filmed in), his response was that he didn’t see the Actors’ Guild as important because he didn’t see acting as an important job. All actors do, he said, is provide entertainment. In his way of thinking, a job that provides a product for use by our military is more important than acting.

Don’t get me wrong; the men and women who put their lives on the line to defend our country deserve great honor. As do our peace officers and firemen, who also put their lives on the line to defend our way of life. And if you happen to be working for a company that is providing these heroes with the tools they need for their job, I hope you are putting your best effort into it because they deserve the best. But aside from that, what can we say about the importance of one job versus another. Is a manufacturing job more important than acting? What about teaching? It doesn’t matter how much you pay teachers (currently about $47,000 for nine months of work), there are always people who say they aren’t paid enough. That must surely be a more important job than acting.

But have you thought about what it is that our men and women in uniform are fighting to defend? When we say “our country”, we don’t mean just the land and the people, we mean the ideals of this country. We mean our belief in government by the people and for the people. We mean our belief that people should have the freedom to believe what they choose and to express those beliefs to anyone who will listen.

Isn’t that what acting is all about. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t agree with much of what movie makers say through their films. I don’t agree with their assertion that fornication, adultery, and homosexuality are okay. I don’t agree with their assertion that church isn’t important. I don’t agree with those who assert that men are not to be leaders of their families, and I gravitate to those movies where the men take charge. But even though I disagree with much of what actors are saying, we send our military out to defend the right of actors to say it. And though teaching is an important job, is not acting just another form of teaching? We learn a great deal from the stories portrayed in movies.

When it comes down to it, the job of the military is only as important as the things they are trying to defend. Think about those things you would like to see in a country during a time of peace. Those are the things we consider so important that we encourage young men and women to sacrifice their own lives to create an environment in which we can have them. The land that we envision is one in which kids can play outside without fear. It is one in which we can debate the nature of our Creator, what is required for salvation, and whether there is a God at all, without fear. It is one in which we have the freedom to print books and newspapers, and to make movies that support our point of view without someone coming along and carting us off to jail. The reason our military is so important and the reason we take time to remember those who have lost their lives in the service of our country is because those things are so important.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Same Old Story

Some people really don’t like the idea of writing the same plot over and over. They say things like, “Publishers just want to force us all into the same genre. They won’t even look at something new.” But look at how many times Cinderella has been told. There must be thousands of variations on that story. And look at the Romance genre. Forget the strict rules about what makes a book romance novel, most books in the genre follow the same plot. Two characters with problems meet. They are soon at odds with each other. But as they discover that they need each other and that they are better together than apart. But that plot isn’t limited to the Romance genre or characters who fall in love.

In spite of the evidence we have a tendency to think that if we could just come up with a plot that no one has ever done before then it would shake up the literary world. People who try that end up with is a poorly done variation of an existing plot. What do we make of all of this?

First, people like a familiar plot because they like to know where the story is headed. When we’re telling stories with our friends, people usually have an idea where the story is headed. “How did you get that dent in your car?” “Funny story, let me tell you.”

But I think there’s more to it than that. I believe we can safely say that there are no new plots possible. Whether you say there are seven plots, or ten plots, or twelve plots, or one plot, or whatever number, it is just a way to categorize all of the possible plots. Every possible plot fits into one of the categories.

However, that doesn’t mean stories have to be old and tired. The variations on Cinderella range from the original to stories set in a high school involving the “popular kids” versus the geeks. Some variations on the story have male characters in the place of Cinderella. The changes make the story fresh, but we still want to see Cinderella defeat the evil step-family and win the heart of the Prince. Variations that don’t do that are not the Cinderella story, though they may bear the name. They will fall into another category of story.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Here's to Dogs and Computers

Why do you want to know?” Most people try to read between the lines and most people are bad at it. That’s what happens when you try reading something that isn’t there. But that doesn’t keep us from trying.

I got involved in a conversation online recently in which several people read a lot more into my comments than what I had actually said. At one point in the conversation I said, “I wasn’t saying anything against romance. (Why is it that everyone seems to think I am?)” To this Steve Laube replied, “Agreed. You did not mention romance specifically. But there have been comments on other posts where the genre was mentioned by you.” I suppose I should be grateful that people remember what I’ve said (apparently better than I do), but you would think I have a vendetta against romance or something. That is not the case.

For some reason, people are most interest in our motive for saying something or asking something than they are in the words we use. “How is your mother?” we might ask. “Okay, I guess. Why do you ask? Have you heard something?”

Unfortunately, it is hard to convey intent through the written word. It is made even harder because there always seems to be someone in every discussion with a chip on their shoulder. Take the traditional publishing vs. self-publishing debate, for example. Say something in favor of self-publishing and someone who prefers traditional publishing will take offence. Say something in favor of traditional publishing and someone who prefers self-publishing will take offence.

That’s what I like about dogs and computers. If you ask them to do something, they don’t ask why. They assume that you have their best interest at heart.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

How Much $ is Enough?

How much money should you make? The question came up on Steve Laube’s blog Goodbye to Traditional Publishing?. Apparently, Ann Voss Peterson (no, I don’t know who she is either), is upset because she only made $20,000 on 170,000 copies of a book. That is roughly 12¢ per copy. The cover price is $4.50. So allowing for the store to get 40%, the publisher gets $2.70, so Ann Voss Peterson receive only 4.3% of what the publisher received, or 2.4% of the cover price (by her figures). Sounds terrible, doesn’t it?

Okay, backup. I think you missed something. Ann Voss Peterson made $20,000 from a book she wrote. Given that an author writing full-time can crank out four books a year, that is the equivalent of $80,000 per year. You won’t get rich on that, but I know a lot of people who think that is a good salary.

We usually measure what we consider to be a good salary by what other people are making. If someone is making $50,000 a year but he sees a co-worker making $60,000 a year, he feels like he is underpaid. On the other hand, if everyone else in the office is making $45,000 and less, he feels good about himself. The same is true for books. The reason $20,000 isn’t good is because there are other authors who are making more than that. Why, some authors pull in $100,000 per book. On the other hand, there are many books that never make the author more than a few hundred dollars.

Instead of worrying about what other people are making, we ought to look at the who compensation package. No, I don’t mean the publishing contract; I mean the whole compensation package. It is God who provides for our needs. Are those needs provided for? Then consider over and above that. Has he also provided for that? If God is providing everything we need and more, then our main concern should be to do what he would have us to do, no matter how much money we might be able to make from it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

It's About the Children

Aproximately 1.7% of Americans describe themselves as homosexual. Now that means that roughly 2 out of every 100 people you encounter are gay. That’s not that many, but it is enough that you are likely to find some among your friends or at the very least you know people with them in their family. Being the nice person that you are, you might not see anything wrong with gay “marriage”. After all, it isn’t like it will change anything for you. If they want to get married, what’s wrong with it? As long as they keep what they do behind closed door—and isn’t that true for heterosexual relationships also? So what’s wrong with gay “marriage”?

For the sake of argument, let’s forget what the Bible says about homosexual relationships. The thing is, every sin that exists manifests itself in the form or something harmful, so if there is any merit to what the Bible says, then there ought to be a harmful manifestation. If that isn’t the case, then maybe the Bible isn’t right.

As an example, consider the sin of gluttony. Even without the Bible, we can see that gluttony is a bad thing because it results in obesity, which can cause heart problems, diabetes, and may even lead to cancer.

Can we also see a harmful manifestation that is caused by gay “marriage”? Yes. Gay “marriage” creates homes in which children are raised without the tutelage of a parent of one of the sexes. Imagine a child being raised by two women as his parents. He would not have the benefit of seeing how women ought to treat men and men ought to treat women. He wouldn’t know what it means to be a man and would be missing a role model to guide him on his way. Often, homosexuals are disenfranchised with the opposite sex, so a young man growing up in such a home is at risk of thinking that he is part of a worthless gender. Or if he were raised by two men, he might come to believe he is of a superior gender. In either case, the proper balance is missing in his life. Gay “marriage” harms children.

But what about heterosexual marriage? Is it any better? Some men beat their wives and children. Some marriages end in divorce. There are many things that can go wrong there too. This is certainly true, but two wrongs don’t make a right. Instead of asking whether homosexual “marriage” is any worse than what can happen in heterosexual marriage, what we ought to be asking is what the ideal situation is. Divorce is also a sin, according to the Bible. Abusing one’s children is also a sin. But what is ideal is that the biological father and the biological mother living in a loving relationship with their children.

That kind of relationship is ideal because it gives balance to what children learn about men and women. It is ideal because parents have a natural affection for their biological children. And children have a natural affection for their biological parents. There is also the practicality of it. Two men cannot have children without the aid of a woman outside the “family”. For that matter, neither can two women, though they could go to a sperm bank. A child in such a family will naturally side with the parent he shares genetics with, causing him to prefer one over the other, while a child living with both biological parents will be more likely to love them both equally, though differently.

It may be tempting to think that if that’s what they want to do then let them do it, but let’s not forget the children. We have a great responsibility to protect children because they lack the ability to protect themselves.

Monday, May 14, 2012

How Can We Know We Are Saved? How Can We Communicate That to Others?

The book of I John was written for the express purpose of helping us determine whether we are saved or not. Here are some of the tests:
  1. Do we walk in darkness? (I John 1:6) That is not to say that we do not sin because John tells us in I John 1:8 that if the say we don’t sin then the truth isn’t in us. Rather, we should ask ourselves whether we desire to do good or not.
  2. Do we keep his commandments? (I John 2:3) People who are saved are no longer under the law, but they have a desire to do what God has commanded anyway.
  3. Do we lust for the present world? (I John 2:15) What is important to you? Do you want to make lots of money so you can buy a nice home, have the latest technology, go to all the parties, or would you rather be serving the Lord?
  4. Do we believe that Jesus is the Christ? (I John 2:22) Are we trusting Jesus and Jesus alone for our salvation or are we relying on things like the money we give to church, the number of times we read our Bible, the things we do for the poor, even whether our parents were Christians or not?
  5. Are we habitual sinners? (I John 3:6) Those who lead a sinful lifestyle are not saved. Those with are righteous lifestyle are.
  6. Does the world hate us? (I John 3:13) Do the people who love this present world like us or do they think we’re weirdoes because of our commitment to the Lord? We can expect the world to hate us.
  7. Do we love the brethren? (I John 4:20) People who are save have a natural love for other people who are saved. Do we love God and keep his commandments?
  8. Is the Holy Spirit living within us? (I John 5:12) Everyone who has fellowship with the Holy Spirit of God. We feel his guiding presence, telling us the difference between right and wrong, helping us to desire the things of God. Anyone who doesn’t have that isn’t saved.

As for how one can communicate that to someone else: anyone can say that they are saved and on the surface we would take their word for it. However, the Bible says that we will know them by their fruit. If a person says they are saved, but they have no desire to get involved in church, they have no desire to win others to the Lord, they have no desire to study the Bible, they so no indication of a love for God or other people, and they live a sinful lifestyle, people will begin to doubt that person is saved, no matter what the person might say.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Who Deserves to Live?

No one deserves to die,” or so is the claim made by a television show I watched recently. The series is based around a man who was once a hit man. His then boss and father figure in his life taught him that it was okay to kill the people they were hired to kill because they deserved to die. But then he was given the assignment of killing a woman whose only fault was that she had witnessed a crime and those who had done it didn’t want her to testify against them. That was the turning point that caused the main character to begin a crusade to protect the innocent.

But is it true that “no one deserves to die?” It sounds good. With that battle cry we would have reason to protect both friends and strangers. Instead of saying, “no one deserves to die,” how different it sounds when we say, “everyone deserves to live.” They are both saying exactly the same thing and yet, with the second, we aren’t as quick to agree. Life is a privilege, is it not? It is a thing of great value. It is so valuable that billionaires will give their fortune away for just a few more years of life.

We might ask ourselves, “what have I done to deserve life?” We were born into this world having done nothing to earn life. We spend our early years relying on others to keep us alive. We spend our middle years, mostly just going to work to stay alive. Then in the latter years, we’re dependent on others again. If there were something that we could do to deserve life, what would it be?

One of the tenets of the Christian faith is that none of us deserves to live, with one exception. Adam sinned in the garden and we, the descendants of Adam, are all sinners. While we may find it uncomfortable to say that we deserve to die, the fact is that we have dirty hands and dirty minds. We don’t deserve to enter into the purity of God’s heaven. We will all die someday.

What the creators of the show missed is that though we all deserve to die, that still doesn’t give a hit man the right to kill us. Granted, it would be harder to build a show around that concept. So there’s no point in faulting the television show too much, since it is just a TV show. But in real life it is important to realize that life is a privilege that we have for a very short time and only the one person who deserves life but gave it up willing can give us the right to live. It is also he alone who has the right to decide who deserves to die.

Who is this person? None other than Jesus Christ. Jesus, God who became man, lived a sinless life, helped those in need, created the world. He deserves to live, but he chose to die. He died as a man because there is no remission of sin without the shedding of blood. It was not for his sins that he died, but for ours. It is by his choice and his choice alone that we are allowed into heaven are we are cast out into outer darkness. There is nothing that we can do to deserve to be chosen. The best goodness we have is not enough to convince him.

Who then does he choose? As he looks out over the world, looking for those he will save, who does he pick? “Whosoever will,” the Bible says. The people Jesus picks are those who trust him in faith for their salvation. He doesn’t pick those who are trying to be good enough, but those who trust him.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Most Hated Book of All Time

There are some people who will take every opportunity they can find to criticize the Bible. On one of the forums, someone asked the question “What is the most overrated novel of all time?” Among the divers answers, someone wrote, “The Bible.” Someone else wrote, “As a NOVEL, the Bible is actually quite good. It’s just a shame that people waste time reading it as nonfiction.”

It should come as no surprise that people hate the Bible, and Jesus, and us; Jesus told us it would be so. But why is it people hate it so much? With most books, if the topic came up, someone might say, “I didn’t really care for that book.” Even with the Koran, even though some Muslims think we’re out to burn their holy book, people who don’t see it as a holy book mostly ignore it. They don’t go on a forum that is discussing another topic to talk about how much they dislike it as a book. The same is true of the Book of Mormon. There’s plenty of people who have taken the time to state what is wrong with it, but they don’t take the same level of effort to criticize it to anyone who will listen. The Bible is without question the most hated book in the Universe. Let me ask again, why do people hate the Bible so much?

One reason is they don’t like what it says. The fact is, I don’t think any of us really like what it says. Even the most devout Christian can find plenty of things he wishes weren’t in the Bible. Sure, we love that it tells us how to get to heaven, but there are things that are hard for us to accept. Why must our loved ones who have not accepted Christ, for example, go to hell? We don’t like that they do, but the Bible tells us it is a fact.

A second reason people hate the Bible is because it is true. Think of the dystopian books and movies out there. Often, the hero struggles and barely makes it out alive. Along the way, many other people suffer and die. And yet, as long as the story is well written, people don’t hate the book or movie. We don’t like what is happening to the characters, but we don’t hate the book. What makes the Bible different is that people aren’t able to prove the Bible to be fiction. In fact, based on the evidence, it is possible to show that the Bible is more accurate than any non-fiction book ever written. We expect to find mistakes in historical accounts. Historians work from several different sources to account for this. There is always the possibility that someone recorded something incorrectly, because he misunderstood what someone said, he accidently wrote the wrong name, or he was trying to make the rule of his country look better. Not so with the Bible. While there is plenty in the Bible left to be verified, archeologists and historians keep finding more and more evidence that things happened just like the Bible says they did and they’ve never found an instance where the Bible was inaccurate.

A third reason is that people don’t like other people to be happier than they are. People hear Christians talk about the Bible and how thrilled they are with it. Not everyone is so thrilled with it, so they don’t like hearing about it. But Christians aren’t going to shut up about it because they really are thrilled with the Bible. People who don’t like seeing this have no other way to quiet these people, so they resort to name calling tactics. They can’t discredit the Bible, so they make fun of it and call it fiction.

The fact that the Bible is hated so much more than any other book is hated is one more reason for us to see that it isn’t just an ordinary book. Strong emotions surround the Bible. It is not a book that can be ignored.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Jesus the True Husband?

It would cause so much less pain if more women were to see Jesus as their true Husband.
What?! I saw this statement on another blog. I’m purposefully leaving off the name of the person who said it. If you really want to know, Google it. Women are supposed to see Jesus as their true husband? Do people even take the time to think about what they are saying?

First, where does the Bible say that Jesus is to be women’s true husband? It doesn’t. What it does say is that the church is the bride of Christ. Now right now, that applies to each local individual assembly that can rightly be called a church. By the time we get to the marriage supper, there’s only going to be one assembly. The church is the first and the only bride of Jesus.

Second, if Jesus is a woman’s true Husband, that makes her a bigamist.

Third, if Jesus is a woman’s true husband, then what is Jesus to a man. Is Jesus the man’s true wife? Is the man also the wife of Jesus? The whole thing breaks apart when you try to make the same application to men that some women want to make to themselves.

Fourth, it devalues the relationship between a man and his wife. The Bible says that a man is to leave his father and mother and become one flesh with his wife. Obviously, Jesus isn’t going around becoming one flesh with all the Christian women, but that’s not the point. There is a special bond between husband and wife. Once the wedding takes place, that bond is supposed to be even stronger than that of blood relatives.

Fifth, it deludes the true nature of our relationship with Jesus. Jesus isn’t the guy you go shopping with, spend your evenings with, and discuss your kids’ failing grades at school with. That’s not to say you will never do those things with Jesus, but Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords. Jesus is the creator of the world. Jesus is the Judge. Jesus is the Savior of men. He’s so much more than a husband can ever be.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Role of Women and the Responsibility of Men

The other day, I got into a discussion about women under appreciating the contributions of their husbands. It started with Kristin Billerbeck saying that many housewives see their life as not far from slavery. I’m sure she meant that tongue in cheek—at least I hope she did—but it highlighted an attitude that I don’t believe is beneficial. I do think that some women have the attitude that because their husbands aren’t helping with the housework that they aren’t doing anything. I’m reminded of my mother telling me that she had to resist the urge to dump us kids on Dad when he got home. Here, he’d been at work all day, he comes in the door ready to sit down and read the newspaper, but what she wanted to do was pass us kids off on him because he hadn’t been around all day.

Now, in some cases, women are working outside the home. My grandmother was a schoolteacher and my grandfather was a carpenter. Some women in that situation think that it isn’t fair that they still end up taking care of the kids and housework when both man and wife come in from work. But I don’t recall my grandfather doing nothing, back when I remember them both working. She did the housework. He was busy working outside.

Anyway, as I considered the comments of Kristin Billerbeck and others, I remembered Proverbs 31 and what it says about the virtuous woman. It paints this picture of a woman who is hard at work taking care of her household. It doesn’t say much about her husband, but I’ve never thought he was doing nothing, just that she was busy doing this stuff while he was busy with his own tasks. One thing it does mention is that “he is known at the gates and sitteth among the elders of the land.” In other words, he is meeting with the city leaders. Perhaps he is one of the city leaders. The reason he’s able to hold a position like that is because he knows his wife is taking care of things at home while he’s busy doing other things.

God never intended that men and women would be doing the same jobs in equal amounts. He equipped men and women with different skills and gave them different responsibilities. Also, there is no reason to think that we have to compare only what is done within the home to see if both are doing their “fair share.” Maybe the man is the teacher of a Sunday school class, the chairman of a committee, or an elected leader in his community. Such a man would have less time to help around the house, but he is doing his part. Without his wife being willing to do the work at home, he might not be able to do those things. If he were sitting around playing video games, that would be one thing, but if he is following God by becoming a leader in his church and community, he is working hard. His contribution is no less valuable than that of his wife.

And what about his responsibility to his family? Part of a man’s responsibility is to be the spiritual leader of his family. Sure, part of that is taking his family to church, but it also includes family Bible study and being there to answer questions about the Bible that his kids and wife may have. He won’t be worth much as a spiritual leader if he doesn’t spend significant time in God’s word. If he is reading his Bible while his wife is cooking supper, is that such a bad thing? He is busy fulfilling his responsibility, just as she is fulfilling hers, they just take on two very different forms. To me, that is a far cry from slavery.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Marketing Silliness: Plant a Tree

One of the banks I do business with tells me that if I will sign up a certain feature, they will plant a tree in my honor. This is one of those things that looks good on paper, but it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. As I stated on Facebook, since they aren’t going to plant it in my yard, I don’t see the point. Now that might upset some of you green hugging environmentalist types, but have you really thought about it?

Suppose for a moment that I signed up and sure enough, they plant a tree in my honor. Now, you realize that banks don’t have workers who plant trees. So to plant my tree, the bank will pay someone to plant a tree. That’s what makes it sound so great. We need trees, don’t we? The more the better, right? But who are they going to pay? The stated goal of the bank is to plant 25,000 trees. If they are planting the trees 12 feet apart, they will need about 83 acres for the trees. I very much doubt they are planting them on the lawn at corporate headquarters. Instead, I suspect they pay some tree farmer to go plant some trees.

Now here’s what’s really silly. The tree farmer is going to plant the trees whether some bank asks him to or not. After a forest is cleared of its timber, worker plant young trees to replace the mature trees that were removed. This helps prevent soil erosion, but the primary reason is so that there are trees for the next generation to cut. What father would want to hand off his logging business to his son and say, “sorry, but I cut all the trees and there aren’t any left.”

But let’s suppose there weren’t people out there already planting these trees. It would still be silly for me to have a bank plant a tree that I will never see. Both of my next door neighbors have oak trees growing in their yards. Every year, in the spring, I start seeing these thin wooden stems coming up in my yard with oak leaves on them. I mow them off.

If I did let them plant a tree for me, it might be fun to walk into their corporate headquarters and say, “I’m here to see my tree.” I’m sure they would think I was crazy. Unfortunately, they are located several states away. But if I ever happened to be in their area, I wonder how they would react.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Bully

You’ve probably already heard about high school students walking out on a lecture by “anti-bulling expert” Dan Savage when he launched into a diatribe against Christians and the Bible. In fact, his remarks are quite viscous and were aimed at the Christian students who were in the room. This from someone who has been described as “President Obama’s anti-bullying czar.” Obviously, President Obama would do well to try to distance himself from Dan Savage.

This type of thing is what has bothered me since the beginning of this emphasis on anti-bullying. The problem I see is that people are not as concerned about bullying as they are about someone disagreeing with them. Also, there is the problem that bullying is not clearly defined. I’ve read that 71% of people believe Dharun Ravi using a webcam to show Tyler Clementi involved in homosexuality is bullying. That’s what the news media called it from day one, so that number doesn’t surprise me. But how many of those people would be able to state why it is bullying? Is it because Tyler Clementi committed suicide? Is it because Tyler Clementi didn’t want people knowing he was involved in homosexuality? Just suppose for a moment that Tyler Clementi had been a Baptist preacher who was working to reduce college age drinking, but someone streamed video of him at home with a beer in his hand. Would that also be bullying? We would be less likely to call that bullying, but it is essentially the same situation.

To me, bullying is an attempt to force a person by psychological means to do a particular action. By that definition, the Tyler Clementi case would fit. I would imagine that Dharun Ravi might have hoped to shame Tyler Clementi into putting an end to his homosexuality in their shared dorm room. Perhaps he hoped Tyler Clementi would move out. I doubt he intended for Tyler Clementi to kill himself, but that’s what happened. What should have happened is that Dharun Ravi should have gone to the people responsible for the dorm, made them aware of the situation and told them that he was uncomfortable staying in a dorm room with someone who was involved in homosexuality. At the very least, he should have asked Tyler Clementi to not do that in their dorm room.

By the same token, what Dan Savage did and has been doing fits the definition of bullying. Calling people names for walking out of a lecture in which you are calling them names and criticizing their beliefs serves no purpose other than attempting to embarrass them into cowering in their seats rather than walking out. But Dan Savage isn’t concerned about any kind of bullying except that involving those who engage in homosexuality. Just read a small portion of his blog (not recommended) and you will see that is true. He wants people to stop criticizing him and others for being involved in homosexuality. I agree that bullying those suspected of being involved in homosexuality will not solve anything. But at the same time, we shouldn’t look the other way. People who are caught up in the homosexual lifestyle are hurting themselves and they need help from people who love them.

But we should be proud of those students who walked out of Dan Savage’s lecture. It is sad that it had to happen, but they will always remember it. The day will come when they are talking to their children about bullies and they will say, “When I was your age, I was sitting in a lecture being given by this guy who decided to bully Christians. A few of us walked out while he was talking, and the whole world heard about it.”

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Why No Women?

Here’s a shocker. When Steve Laube posted the list of Christian Book Award winners on Tuesday, I saw the names of nine authors only two of which were women. And one of those women was the last of three names that co-authored a children’s book, the other two were men. That works out to be 22% for the women and 78% for the men.

The thing that makes this a shocker is that to hear a lot of people tell it, Christianity is dominated by women. Some people seem to think that it’s the women who go to church. It’s the women who work in Sunday school and youth ministry. It’s the women who sing in the choir. Why without the women, the churches would fall apart, or so I’ve heard. (Perhaps they would.) Then look at all the Christian writers conferences. There’s no question that those are dominated by women. Women easily outnumber the men there by a margin of ten to one.

I really don’t believe Christianity is as dominated by women as some people think. That certainly isn’t the case at our church. We’ve got men who are eager to work. We’ve got men who are leaders of their families. Our women are active too, but they don’t have to drag their husbands to church, like some people think. The other thing is that I believe men are active doing things that don’t show up on the stats sheets. I frequently hear some man talking about something he read in the Bible, or talking about a co-worker he witnessed to during the week, or telling people about what he did to help a family in need. So, maybe he’s not helping in the nursery, or teaching the five-year-olds, or purchasing Christian novels, but he’s not a saved and satisfied Christian.

And that gets us back to why it really shouldn’t have shocked us that men would outnumber women on the list of Christian Book Award winners. I’m not going to tell you that women can’t write; words seem to come naturally to women. Rather I’ll tell you that the reason it shouldn’t shock us when men dominate a list like this is that faithful men are still taking on leadership roles. The Christian Book of the Year award went to Nearing Home by Billy Graham. He’s been leading for a long time. But when you think about it, isn’t leadership one of the reasons many of us write? We see things happening around us and we want to use the written word as a means of showing people a better way. Certainly, God has used women in leadership roles, but he gave the primary role of leadership to men. Not all leaders will write a book—most won’t—but with the call of leadership resting on so many men, it is only natural that the best books will be written primarily by men.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

I Don't Have That Right

Sometimes we see discussions about things that some churches call sin and others do not. It often centers around how much involvement a church allows people involved in that sin to have. Often we see churches trying to be more accepting of people, no matter what sin they might be involved in.

I was thinking about one of these discussions. In this case one well known preacher was criticizing another well known preacher for not speaking out against one sin that it has become taboo of late to speak against. I think you know which one it is. In fact, the pastor had no problem with two men of that persuasion to serve in the church, except one of them was still married to his wife. Rather than try to sort through that mess, I’ll leave it at that. I’ll just say, the pastor mentioned above has said that people of a particular persuasion have stated going to his church because other churches are not accepting of their lifestyle.

As I thought about it, I began to think, you know, I have no authority to give anyone else permission to sin. My pastor doesn’t have that authority. No pastor has that authority. Yet, so many times, that is what people want from their pastors. They go to some church that speaks out against some sin. Let’s say a man is living with his girlfriend, for example. After hearing the pastor preach, they don’t feel comfortable. But they want to go to church, so they find another church, one where the pastor is accepting of fornication. Nothing has changed, they’ve just found someone who is willing to say, “God doesn’t really care about things like that. He loves you anyway.”

The problem is, that pastor doesn’t have the authority to forgive sins. It’s like going to the store and the clerk says, “You owe us $100.” You don’t like the sound of that, so you turn around to the customer behind you, give them $50 and walk out of the store. Just because the someone else was willing to take less money doesn’t mean you owe the store any less. And so it is with sin. You can find a church that doesn’t say anything against your sin. For that matter, you could start your own church, as King Henry VIII did when he wanted to get divorced. But that won’t change anything. It is not within the power of a church to define what is and is not sin. Only God has that authority.

Even more than that, God wrote his law in stone, both literally and figuratively. God had the authority to change the law, but he never does. So true is this statement that when God wanted to solve the problem of being out of fellowship with man, he didn’t rewrite the law to say that what Adam did wasn’t a sin, rather he provided a system of blood sacrifice. But that wasn’t good enough to save man, so rather than developing another system, God sent his son into the world to be the perfect sacrifice. He fulfilled the law, rather than doing away with it.

So often, I find myself wanting to do something that I know is wrong. I won’t, but I could take you to a Bible verse that clearly states that what I want to do is wrong. Even so, I find myself trying to come up with a way to say that that verse doesn’t really apply to what I want to do. If I looked in the right place, I could find a few people to agree with that. They would gladly assure me that it would be okay for me to do what I want to do. But they don’t have that authority. I don’t have that authority. Only God has that authority and his word is clear.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

On What Grounds Should We Judge?

Don’t judge,” the world says, but the fact is, we don’t always have that luxury. At church, we do background checks on our leaders. Why? Because we’re trying to protect the children from wolves in sheep’s clothing. That requires judgment on our part. Parents judge their kid’s friends. People who are dating, are judging the other person to see if they are the kind of person they think they can spend a lifetime with. Let’s admit it, judging is a part of life.

But here’s the real question: What should be our basis for judging? And don’t say “the Bible.” Of course it should be the Bible, but what should be our basis for disqualifying someone? When dealing with the issue of marriage, we usually pull out 2 Corinthians 6:14. A believer shouldn’t be unequally yoked with unbelievers. But that applies to more things than marriage. It applies to churches. A church has no business having unbelievers within her membership. It applies to business. Don’t go into a partnership with an unbeliever. And I would include literary agents and writers in that. A Christian writer has no business working with a literary agent who isn’t a Christian. It’s a bad idea.

So a person’s salvation is one means of judging fitness for service, but salvation can be faked. Look at Judas. He had the other eleven fooled. I saw an interesting quote recently. Someone said, “I believe we should judge people by their actions and not their lifestyle.” I don’t think that word means what they think it means. The thing is, if a person’s lifestyle is that of a drug addict, their actions are also those of a drug addict. But in context, of the conversation, what the person was saying was, “we should judge a person on what we’ve seen a person do, rather than on what other people with their lifestyle choices have done.”

That’s an interesting thought and we might find ourselves swayed to that argument. After all, a person who stays out late may still be able to get to work on time, so don’t fire a guy for staying out late; fire him for showing up late. That’s fine in some cases, but consider the qualifications of a pastor and of a deacon that Paul wrote to Timothy and Titus. A man must rule his house well, because, if he can’t, how can he rule the house of God? Of course there are other qualifications, but the things that would disqualify a man are not necessarily those things that would be evident in his duties to the church.

It’s one thing if a guy is working on the church yard crew and you discover he is stealing gasoline for his own personal use. Perhaps you could have talked to some people and discovered he had a problem with stealing, before you let him on the crew, but a little gasoline isn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things. It would be quite another thing to put a homosexual in with a bunch of young boys. You don’t want to wait until you discover that he is luring the boys into his car after services before you decide he is disqualified. And lest you think I’m just picking on the homosexuals, the same goes for people involved in adultery and other forms of fornication. If you know a man has a problem like that, you don’t want to put him in a situation where he is leading women. His intentions may be good, but a moment of weakness can cause problems. A big part of how we should judge is in our desire to prevent problems, and it is less so in punishing people who have caused problems.