Category Archives: Culture – Values

Book Review: Junkyard Wisdom

junkyard-wisdomRoy Goble is my friend. The first day I met him, I hated him.

Ford Munnerlyn, Roy Goble, me - probably 1979 in Sunol CA
Ford Munnerlyn, Roy Goble, me – probably 1979 in Sunol CA

We met in 1977 as incoming freshman at Westmont College. He is a Giants fan; I bleed Dodger blue. One of the first things we did together was play catch. We have done a lot of things together since then and I no longer hate him (I really never hated him; we just irritate each other). All of that to say that I know Roy and therefore can say some things in this review that are first hand.

Roy is generous. An anecdote: we were each other’s best man. I married in July of 81; he in September of 81. We started our families at the same time. He went into Real Estate and I went into pastoral ministry, that is, he made money and I didn’t. Soon after the birth of our first born, Roy sent me a check for a significant amount of money (more than $20). After the second born, another check. After our third, another check. After the fourth, the standard amount + $500 with a note: “here is an additional $500, get fixed, I can’t afford this.”

Roy is smart. Roy is straightforward. Roy is bold. This is why I turn to him for advice when I need it – only a few times in my life –  and why I listen to what he has to say.

Those are all good reasons for you to read his new book: Junkyard Wisdom: Resisting the Whisper of Wealth in a World of Broken Parts.

Every person who lives in the US is wealthy on the global scale.  Roy writes for those of us who want to live lives that see beyond personal gratification and gain a perspective on how to be wise about how we manage the resources we have in abundance. Written in a direct, uncomplicated way Roy gives us a road map for maximizing our impact with wealth.

The story is told in ripple format, a modern take on ancient Hebrew chiasm. As Roy tells the story it ripples out from the junkyard to the ends of the world, he invites you to experience the ripples yourself. You can learn his lessons and apply them so that you too can fix some broken parts in our world.

Roy ends the book with apologies, as opposed to thanks, and here is a final apology: “I’m sorry this book can’t fully express the things Jesus has taught me. I tried my best, but only a few of the pages even hint at the amazing opportunities we will find if we dare to resist the whisper of wealth, tear down the walls between us, and begin loving our neighbor as God calls us to.”

I am recommending this book to all my friends who have money. That is you if you are reading this post.

Buy the book. Read the book. Share the wealth.

roy

Roy wrote a guest post on this blog entitled The Riches of Grace.

You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Google + or just call him, here is his cell phone number….555-555-5555.

Look up and involve yourself in some of Roy’s investments: Pathlight  – an educational enterprise aimed at reducing poverty in Belize and Jaguar Creek a place to stay in Belize and be filled with awe through a truly unique experience that adds positive value to  local communities.

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No, They Don’t Happen in Threes.

three-stoogesWhenever famous people die it comes up.

“Things happen in threes.”

It is called “triaphilia” – an obsession with three. But, really, they don’t.

Is it David Bowie, Alan Rickman, and Glenn Frey? Or do we include:

  • Clarence Reid, R&B Singer known as “Blowfly”
  • Mic Gillette of Tower of Power
  • Lemmy
  • Dale “Buffin” Griffin
  • Celine Dion’s brother
  • Lawrence Phillips
  • Ashraf Pahlavi?

Death happens every day. 150,000 people die every day. 56 million deaths a year. 3.9 billion within 70 years. In 100 years every person alive today will be dead.

I guess saying that it happens in threes lessens the reality of death.

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Lost Phrases

There are natural changes that come in life, some are good and some are bad.    There are a few phrases that have gone out of vogue that need to make a comeback into our vocabulary:
Ocean Liner, SS St Paul
“That’s none of your business”

Everything is now public, except of course what is done in Las Vegas…unless you are on Facebook. On Facebook it seems, everything is public. Social networking is a fascinating development in that we have a running first hand commentary on the interests, likes, dislikes and behavior of people.  I vote that we reinstate the phrase “that’s none of your business” back into our corporate psyche.  It would impact us in two ways:

First, we would be spared some of the more inane and inappropriate details of your life, as it is none of my business what you do in your bedroom, bathroom or private party.

Second, and more seriously, it will impact our relationships and conversations.  As a pastor I have had many people confide in me. It is a discipline, skill, and obligation for me to learn to keep things to myself. I am often surprised to find out how many people thing that my wife knows what people tell me in confidence.  She doesn’t, “it’s none of her business.”  I have told people in my office that I would not tell others what they said because it is their story to tell.  I might encourage them to tell it, but I don’t.

With children this is a great phrase.  It is amazing how many people think they are obligated to share inappropriate details with their children.  In parenting, “it’s none of your business” is a great phrase to keep in mind, not just saying the words to them when appropriate, but having certain conversations outside of their ear-shot.

So many conversations would be better if we adopted this marvelous phrase.

We need a good dose of “none of your business,”  not only on Facebook, but in all areas of life.

“You’ll have to take that up with….”

This corollary of “That’s none of your business” helps to communicate with other people that the conversation they are trying to have with you is misplaced.  This phrase is a good “stopper” for gossip. It draws a boundary that directs back to the subject, as in the topic of conversation.

I find that most people have no desire to draw these people-subject boundaries.  Since we have lost the art of confrontation, it is much easier to vent with a third-party.  This venting serves the purpose of letting off steam, expressing the anger that we might have, and possibly gaining an ally in our battle with another person.  None of these things leads to a reconciliation that needs to occur.

We do one another a favor when we recognize this behavior and redirect the person back to the source by saying “you’ll have to take that up with…”

Practice these two phrases, it makes you a better human and you will make the world a better place.

 

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An Evangelical Papacy?

I just wanted to sit down, watch some football, read the last in the Hunger Games series and enjoy a Sunday evening.

But the “evangelical leaders” (whoever they are) went and almost ruined my day.  Last night, just in time to make the announcement for Sunday morning, an anonymous group of “almost 170 conservative leaders” met in Houston, Texas and decided that Evangelicals are endorsing Rick Santorum as the Republican nominee for president.

I don’t know if I could have said it any better than Jim West at Zinglius Redivivus in a post entitled Endorsements by Clergy Are Meaningless (And Evil), but he was brief, and I want to expand on why this meeting and this action is so wrong.

The term “Evangelical” refers to a particular form of Christianity, ie, the Church.  Churches are not political entities, nor should they be.  Pastors should not “endorse” candidates, nor should they involve themselves in political activity.  Pastors and “churches” should hold themselves apart from the political enterprise.  Christians, as individuals, can and should involve themselves as free citizens in a free and democratic society.  And they should be guided by their convictions.  Their convictions are guided by the church.  But the direct involvement of the church/pastor muddies the waters and weakens the church.

These 170 or so “leaders” may not all be “pastors” but I venture to say that many of them are, and their intention is to “influence” the votes of the “evangelicals” by endorsing Santorum.  But they met anonymously, used the media power of organizations like Focus on the Family (James Dobson and  Jim Daly)  and the Family Research Council (Tony Perkins) presumed to “speak” for the church, albeit distancing that moniker in favor of the more general term “evangelical”.  These guys want to speak for the church, but represent no particular church and are not empowered by the leadership of any particular church.  It is no wonder, any church that would promote this sort of buffoonery has no business calling itself a church.

They met “in secret” and “anonymously.”  I have looked for  a listing of this group, it should be easy to find, but have been unsuccessful.  Should I not have the ability to find out who this group of leaders who is speaking for us “evangelicals”?  This sort of clandestine meeting is shameful.

Here is the most that should have happened. This group meets and hashes out their consensus and then Tony Perkins comes out and says, “Family Research Council endorses so and so”, “Focus on the Family” endorses so and so” or “Blank Church endorses so and so” or “Pastor Blank endorses so and so”. Why did they do it this way?  Why not have one of the “organizations” endorse?  The National Association of Evangelicals may have been represented, wouldn’t it have been more “official” if they presumed to speak for us?  Why didn’t they?  What they have done appears to be an end run around behavior that might threaten their tax exempt standing.

To sum it up in a word:  Pathetic.

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Q & A: Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions?

As a pastor I get lots of questions, here is one of the more interesting ones I have received lately:

Hi Pastor Steve, I have a question I’m hoping you can help me with. What, if any, is your church’s opinion on birth control pills? I’ve been on the pill since we got married and neither of us had any convictions against it, but Sunday we were listening to Mark Driscoll’s Religion Saves and there is a part where he talks about all the different birth control methods and what is ok for Christians. When he came to the pill he said that Mars Hill hired doctors (I think 5) to do a study and that they concluded that they cannot confidently say that the pill doesn’t cause abortions, nor can they say that it does. Because of this his family decided to be cautious and not use it, they also don’t recommend anyone in their church use it. He said they certainly don’t consider it a sin or something that would involve church discipline but they do strongly caution against it. This was all news to us, we certainly don’t want to be taking any chances if the pill does cause abortion so we are praying about it and seeking counsel. So that is why I wanted to ask you if NCC or yourself had a stance.

Thanks!

Here is my response:

NCC does not have a policy regarding birth control pills.

My understanding is that the primary way birth control pills work is that they prevent pregnancy mainly by stopping ovulation. That would mean that no eggs are being fertilized hence no abortion. There are other corollary effects of birth control pills that in cases where an egg is produced and fertilized these corollary effects make it difficult for the egg to implant in the wall of the uterus and as a result of that is “aborted”, or miscarried.

This is not a new discussion, it is odd to me that Mars Hill “hired’ doctors to do this study. Randy Alcorn wrote a book on this in 1997 called Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions? The “issue” really has to do with the ability of the fertilized egg to implant with the existing conditions caused by the added hormones. You can find that information through a simple Google search, or looking in the Physicians Desk Reference.

If I were to write Randy Alcorn’s book I would title it: Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Miscarriages? (it wouldn’t sell as many books though) That seems to be the essence of the moral argument: what is the true nature of the effect that is described as “abortion” in this instance. Abortion seems to me to be a deliberate action after the fact, “I find that I am pregnant, I don’t want a child, I take steps to end the pregnancy” or a specific decision to use a device that has as its main function to work after fertilization (like the IUD or RU486).

But the main purpose and function of the pill is to prevent fertilization from occurring and as a side effect it makes it more difficult in the rare instance of breakthrough ovulation for the egg to implant – not impossible just more difficult. I would call this miscarriage not abortion. You are not doing anything in a moral sense to “abort” you simply are taking the risk in good faith that feritilization will not occur. So your decision it seems to me is are you willing to take a risk that a breakthrough ovulation might lead to miscarriage. I still think that is a decision to pray over, I just think it is inflammatory to speak of that as “abortion” as it doesn’t have the same moral qualities.

for what its worth…

Steve

For a much different perspective, here is a PDF link to Randy Alcorn’s book: Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions?

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Atheists Borrow from Theism

I loved this video, well done and funny, and ironically makes the point that is the title of the song.  I know they mean it to be tongue in cheek, but it ends up being a substantive criticism of a non-Theist position about reality, specifically how we explain the idea of beauty.

One of the strong arguments for the existence of God is the moral argument; morality is impossible in a naturalistic, materialistic universe.  There is no foundation for a normative morality without the existence of a rational and moral God.  Atheists usually counter the argument by saying:  “not true, I am an atheist and I have morals.”  Missing the point of the argument (or maybe in some way also affirming its truth) they appeal to their ability to understand and comprehend good and evil as an “atheist” as a defeater of the argument. The obvious counter to this “defeater” is that an atheists ability to comprehend good and evil does not disprove the existence of God but is actually dependent upon His existence – they borrow from theism here to establish the foundation for moral claims.  It is like saying that we can have oranges without orange trees because I bought this orange at the grocery store and there was no orange tree in sight.

The same is true for the “aesthetic” argument made here unwittingly by the song.  The arts have the same sort of quality as morality for the sake of an argument for the existence of God.  Music and art have a transcendent quality to them that is impossible to explain really without the existence of a God who is both ordered and a creator.  Aesthetics and beauty are rooted in  these same ideas of creation, transcendence and the idea of an objective sense of beauty or what is universally pleasing as opposed to dissonant.

In this regard Atheists really have no good songs, and even the good songs that they sing are based on the borrowed principles of Theism.

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Common Sense is Gone…

On my morning bicycle ride George and I stopped at Starbucks…what a surprise. This morning was a good one, leisurely (kind of, George has discovered Wheaties or something, spent all morning chasing him) in that we chatted for an extended period of time at Starbucks. George is our Celebrate Recovery director here at the church and was just back from the CR Summit, so it was a good conversation and update on the ministry. As we were talking, my straw packaging caught my eye. It had some writing on it, and I was thinking: “Maybe they have put some funny or pithy statements on the straw packaging, like a fortune cookie – or Chipotle.”

Well, as you can see, there is a warning on the straw:

“Not recommended For Use in Hot Beverages.”

I couldn’t help myself.  I started thinking about the process and motivation behind the printing of this particular warning on a straw.  I don’t think I have ever seen anyone, ever, use a straw for their hot tea or coffee.  I mean look at the lids, the holes are too small.  So, someone, somewhere got the bright idea that it would be more convenient to use a straw with “extra hot” coffee and scalded the roof of their mouth.  Having no shame they returned to the Starbucks to complain at a very minimum, or even more embarrassing they hired a lawyer, explained their stupidity and made it a public record.  In response to this stupidity, Starbucks feels compelled to print the warning on the straw.  The executive, management and production costs associated with this process would probably shock us.

And I  thought, all because we have lost common sense.

Here are some other examples of the “need” that companies or government feel to protect us from our own stupidity:

This was seen at a local car wash where the woman in front of me needed to come back and read this. She couldn’t seem to get her car to rest “just over the bump” but just kept going.  I actually got a free car wash out of it.

This next picture was taken at a crosswalk in Kirkland Washington, home of Costco:

I felt so much safer (as you can see from the photo, my bald head way ahead of the Joe the flagman who is cautiously paying attention to traffic), but as you can see, no one has been killed carrying the flag, whereas 62 people were killed or injured while flagless.

But onto a more serious example of the need for common sense in the tragic, and then unbelievably ridiculous blame shifting that is created when we concede to the silliness of common senselessness.  This last weekend eight people were killed after being struck by an out of control truck at  a truck race in the Lucerne Valley (Mojave Desert).  The California 200 is a race with amateur drivers.  The race rules state that spectators should stand a minimum of 150 feet from the track, but the track is not “clearly” delineated (?) although it is fairly obvious where the track is because spectators form a sort of human guardrail no more than 10 feet from the track as you can see in this photo.

Here is the common sense challenge:  10 feet from trucks driving 80-120 miles per hour on a dirt track with jumps is dangerous.  I don’t need a white line, a small or large fence, cones or any other demarcation, all I need is the roar of a truck going that fast to conclude:  DANGEROUS.  If I choose to stay that close, I take the risk upon myself.    It is tragic that people were killed, but the real challenge in all of this is that the driver was forced to flee the scene because irate and overly distraught bystanders actually thought it might be his fault and began to pelt him with rocks!!!

So now everyone is scrambling to figure out what went wrong and how to keep it from happening in the future, good luck because common sense has left the building.

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