Archive for July, 2009


Friday, July 31st, 2009

Recently I was asked to summarize my ministry.

When I think about my ministry these words come to mind:

–Christ Centered
–World View Centered/Culturally Relevant
–Home school friendly
–Student Directed
–Academically challenging
–Culture Changing (not Retreating or Assimilating into)

This author is profoundly, enthusiastically about the future. Not only do I trust in our Mighty God, I am greatly encouraged by what I see in this generation. God is doing great things in your midst.

There is much need. Social critic Os Guinness in his seminal work The Dust of Death (Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 1973) prophetically argues that “western culture is marked . . . by a distinct slowing of momentum . . . a decline in purposefulness . . . Guinness implies that the ideals and traditions that have been central to the American civilization are losing their compelling cultural authority.& nbsp; There is, in short, no corpus of universally accepted morality that Americans follow. As Dallas Willard in The Divine Conspiracy (San Francisco: HarperCollins Publishers, 1997) states “ . . . there is no recognized moral knowledge upon which projects of fostering moral development could be based.”

In his poem “The Second Coming” William Butler Yeats writes

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity
Turning and turning in the widening gyre,
The falcon cannot hear the falconer.

America in the beginning of the 21st century is spinning out of control. America is stretching its wings adventurously, but drifting farther away from its God. America is in trouble. How do we know?

Whatever needs to be done, you are probably going to have to do it. You are first generation to grow up when wholesale murder is legal; the first generation to access 130 channels and at the same time to access almost nothing of value. In 1993, James Patterson and Peter Kim in their book The Day America Told the Truth (NY: Simon & Schuster Publishers, Inc., 1993) warns that 87% of Americans do not believe that the Ten Commandments should be obeyed and 91% of them tell at least one lie a day. Unfortunately I doubt things are any better today than they were over 10 years ago. This is a time when outrage is dead. This is the challenge, the bad news.

The good news is that I think we are turning a corner. It is my belief that Americans in the near future will be looking to places of stability and strength for direction. Besides, by default, those people whose lives are in reasonable good shape, who have some reason to live beyond the next paycheck will have almost an inexorably appeal. Those who walk in the light will draw others into the very-same light. My prayer is that this curricula, in a modest way, will help you walk in the light.

At the very time that 21st century Americans are searching for truth, at the very time they are hungry for things of the Lord God is raising a mighty generation! You will be the culture-creators of the next century. You are a special generation, a special people.

Young people, it is my strong belief that you are the generation God has called for such a time as this to bring a Spirit-inspired revival. At the beginning of this century God is stirring the water again. He is offering a new beginning for a new nation. I believe, you are the personification of that new beginning.

You are part of one of the most critical generations in the history of Western culture. Indeed, only the generation of which Augustine was a part comes close in importance to your generation. In both cases—today and during the life of Augustine, Bishop of Hippo”civilizations were in decline. Young Augustine lived through the decline of the Roman world; you are living through the decline of American cultural superiority. However, the barbarians conquered Rome; the Christians conquered the barbarians.

As did Anne Bradstreet and other young Puritans who settled in 1630 Boston, you will need to replace this old, tired culture with a new God-centered, God-breathed society, or our nation may not survive another century.

While a graduate student at Harvard University in the mid-1970s, I attended a chapel service where the presenter self-righteously proclaimed that we Harvard students were the next generation of culture creators. Indeed. Perhaps he was right—look at the moral mess my geneeration created!

Evangelical scholars Nathan Hatch and George Marsden argue, and I think persuasively, that you, young people, will be the next generation of elites. You will be the next generation of important politicians, inspired playwrights, and presidents of Fortune 500 companies.

It is my profound belief, and fervent hope, that you young people will be the new elite, the next culture creators. I define “elitism” as the ability and propensity of an individual or group to assume leadership and culture-creation in a given society. Theologian Walter Bruggemann in his essay “Blessed Are th e History-Makers” reminds us that culture iscreated, history is made, by those who are radically committed to obeying God at all costs.

Will you be counted among that number? Be smart, but above all, be obedient to the Word of God. In American cultural history, for the first time in 300 years, in your generation, I observe the marriage of smart minds and born-again hearts. This combination is potent indeed and has revolutionary implications for 21st century cultural American. Now, as only once before (i.e., during the Puritan era), this generation is both smart and saved, in other words, it is a spirit-filled elite, and the ramifications are exciting to say the least.

To that end, this book is dedicated to the ambitious goal of preparing you to be 21st century world changers for the Christ whom John Milton in Paradise Lost called “the countenance too severe to be beheld.” (VI, 825)

The Cry of Modern Man

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

BECAUSE I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.

We slowly drove, he knew no haste,
And I had put away
M y labor, and my leisure too,
For his civility.

We passed the school where children played
At wrestling in a ring;
We passed the fields of gazing grain,
We passed the setting sun.

We paused before a house that seemed
A swelling of the ground;
The roof was scarcely visible,
The cornice but a mound.

Since then ’t is centuries; but each
Feels shorter than the day
I first surmised the horses’ heads
Were toward eternity.

Emily Dickinson, a 19th century recluse, was the first modern American poet. She wrote in free verse and she discussed topics often ignored (e.g., birds on sidewalks). She also wrote about death.

Many think that Dickinson refused to commit her life to Christ. Perhaps that haunted her her whole life. I think so. When I read her poems I hear that forlorn cry.

Dickinson presages the cry of modern man—a cry for relevance and meaning and life in the midst of inhumanity.

IF I should die,
And you should live,
And time should gurgle on,
And morn should beam,
And noon should burn,
As it has usual done;
If birds should build as early,
And bees as bustling go,—”
One might depart at option
From enterprise below!
’T is sweet to know that stocks will stand
When we with daisies lie,
That commerce will continue,
And trades as briskly fly.
It makes the parting tranquil
And keeps the soul serene,
That gentlemen so sp rightly
Conduct the pleasing scene!

I am so glad I know who my Redeemer is! He snatches me from the tentativeness of modernity!


Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

A new book called SHORT HISTORY OF WOMEN by Kate Walbert introduces a 70 year old female protagonist named Dorothy who suddenly leaves her husband. Abandons him. No apparent reason, but she needs to be free. “I’m not cruel, just unhappy.”

No, we don’t want Dorothy to be unhappy do we? I mean what does it mean for a woman and a man to be married for 50 years and one suddenly decides he/she doesn’t want to be married? Walbert would have us think that Dorothy’s self-indulgent abuse of her poor husband as “cruel but necessary.” I call it vain, stupid, and just plain evil.

Now I understand why my Aunt Edith Fay left my Uncle John at their 50th anniversary party. He was a tough old goat and probably deserved having his marriage abrogated long ago. One would like better timing, “Happy anniversary dear… and by the way—I am finished with you!”

I wasn’t there but I heard Aunt Edith Fay and Uncle John had a typical robust fight, surprising no one. But this time Aunt Edith Fay had had enough.

But Aunt Edith Fay did not leave Uncle John because her rights were violated. Nor was she seeing anyone else (!) and she certainly does not believe in women’s rights (I don’t think she has voted Democrat in her life).

And I am not justifying Aunt Edith Fay’s actions. But separating from Uncle John is not the same as what Dorothy did. And, to her credit, Aunt Edit Fay called it what it is and stayed married to Uncle John.

We should be much gentler with one another, don’t you think? And we should work harder to preserve the sacred relationships that God has entrusted with us. We should be less concerned about our own rights and more about what God wants us to do.


Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

With General Motors fresh out of bankruptcy new GM CEO Robert A Lutz promises to turn around GM by changing its image. He wants Americans to think it is “uncool” to drive an import.

Indeed. I think, personally, I might buy a new GM when it can match the durability, price, dependability, and efficiency of my Toyota Prius. I hate to say this, because it is so un-American, I don’t really think cars and boats and candy bars have an “image” that makes me want to buy or not to buy them. Hey, GM, I’m sorry, that is the heart beat of America.

If I was to buy American, and I might, I think I would buy Ford, though. They were gutsy enough to stay steady when other unnamed auto companies had bail outs. But, what do I know. Obviously I am a card carrying, radical, dangerous, Fox News Channel Junkie terrorist. What do I know?

You know we have been trying to do this for awhile. Terrorists are not terrorists anymore, they are religious fundamentalists. Like I suppose my Amish friends who are religious fundamentalists? Not! My Amish friends might not want my son to marry their daughters but they won’t drive a horse cart into my house and blow up my family, will they? No, Islamic Terrorists are Islamic Terrorists. Period.

We don’t fornicate anymore either. We “live together” or we “cohabitate” or we “sleep together.” We don’t murder unborn children—we abort them. ; We end pregnancies.

No comment.


Monday, July 27th, 2009

Dave Schultze makes $50,000/ year as a professional yo-yoist. That rights, he plays with yo-yos and people pay him to watch. Yep. And while this avid, dedicated yo-yoist loves to see a seasoned professional yo-yo, I doubt that I would by $25 to enter a contest or to watch others perform in yo-yoing, but, hey, what does this philistine know?

The trouble is fast yo-yoing can be dangerous. I know that. I nearly cracked my front tooth when a wayward sleeper woke up and smacked me in the face. In fact, during last year’s World Yo-Yo Competition, one competitor was carried off on a stretcher (WALL STREET JOURNAL, July 17, 2009).

That’s right. A yo-yo injury—can you imagine? “Hey Karen,” I quip. “I cannot take out the garbage because my vicious yo-yo hurt me.” Indeed.

Pat Cuartero takes yo-yoing pretty seriously. He quit his job on Wall Street to pursue yo-yoing as a vocation. Does all right with it too.

Hey, I know, some of you love your Duncans and still do a few loopty loops. More power to you. You can even be a card carrying member of YoYo Nation. No joke.

I suppose, I think the whole thing is stupid. I am sorry, dedicated yo yoist. The thing is stupid! Why would we invest so much time and money in yo yoing! And the darn thing is dangerous! Mr Schultze (mentioned above) says “he’s accustomed to the numbness in his index finger” caused by yo yoing. He has a permanent injury from yo-yoing! Imagine!

Life is sort of like that, right? We take silly things too far and they cause us permanent damage? Might be some profundity in that. Or not.

Yo yos? Never was good at it—but skipping rock on a lake. Now that is a great sport. Wonder if I should quit work and form a skipping rock club. . .

Is There Anything Else?

Friday, July 24th, 2009

“The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways–I to die, and you to live. Which is better God only knows.” – Socrates in THE DEATH OF SOCRATES (Plato) (World Literature, James P. Stobaugh).

Socrates is at the end of his life.

Socrates opposed the Sophists, arguing that there are absolute, transcendent standards of right and wrong, good and bad. He argued that once we recognize what is truly good, we will act in accord with that knowledge–hence his claim that “the virtues are a kind of knowledge.” He also firmly believed that the cosmos is grounded in goodness, hence that a good person cannot suffer unduly and that death is not something to be feared.

I also oppose the Sophists, those who profane the sacred. I believe there are realities beyond our senses. Unfortunately, I do not believe that we will do what is good.

“Is there anything else?” Socrates asks just before he dies.

Most assuredly there is, most assuredly there is.


Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

“If one is to win honor in battle, he must by all means/stand his ground strongly, whether he be struck or strike down another.” (Homer, ILIAD, Book XI)

As Karen and I travel across country, we often listen to audio CD stories. In one of the stories we enjoyed, the husband (a quintessential post-modern) decided that he did not love his wife anymore and “decided it was inevitable that I end this marriage.”

I wonder why I am so happy being married to Karen for 32 years. I was thinking that particularly on July 2 (our anniversary). For one thing Karen is drop dead gorgeous—she always has been. She is a superb mom and excellent wife. But there is more to our marriage than these things. Let me explain.

Karen and I were preparing for our marriage long before we knew each other. We met in 1976 but in 1971, a few months after I committed my life to Christ, I had committed myself to Karen—even before I knew her. At a Josh MacDowell rally I promised to remain chaste until I was married. And, in a less spectacular way, Karen had made the same promise years before we met.

So, before we knew each other, much less married to each other, we had decided to live by God’s laws. If one is to win honor in battle, he must by all means stand his ground strongly, whether he be struck or strike down another.

This is an important point. We were committed to God’s law long before we were committed to one another. So, when we finally met, we had developed a “habit” of obeying God—even when it was hard to do so. Not that we were perfect, but in this area at least, we had overcome temptation and lived a faithful life.

So we were “married” so to speak before we were married. Or at least we were preparing for our marriage anyway. People ask me why I have been so faithful to Karen—well they don’t ask me much anymore—being 56 and, well, “stocky,” but some of my unsaved friends asked me.

My response is that it has been a pleasure to be faithful to her. Besides the fact she is so darn beautiful and smart and faithful herself I had decided to be faithful to her long before I met her. Much less married her. So my “faithfulness” is not about Karen so much as it is about God. If one is to win honor in battle, he must by all means stand his ground strongly, whether he be struck or strike down another.

The longer we are married the more I plumb the depths of this love I have for this woman and I must tell you that the predominate feeling I have is gratefulness. “Gratefulness?” you ask.

Yes, gratefulness. I am grateful God honored me with such a life partner. Gratefulness. I suppose that is the best way as any to describe how love is with old warriors who have loved themselves for so long. If one is to win honor in battle, he must by all means/stand his ground strongly, whether he be struck or strike down another.

Post-modernism worships the subjective, the consensus. The love Karen and I have is not about how we feel or what the majority think. It is about a man and a woman who love God, love each other, and intend to be faithful to both loves as long as they live.

Out of the Silent Planet

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

In Out of the Silent Planet, C.S. Lewis illustrates how humans on planet Earth are corrupted by and corrupt others by evil. To contrast and shed light on the spiritual plaques of Earth, the author created the planet of Malacandra to portray a utopian world where the inhabitants live together in peace instead of in fear and separation. On Earth, human beings have become motivated by selfishness and greed. Satan, the “Bent One,” rules Earth and has corrupted their souls. Because of Earth’s evil, the other planets and spirits in the universe cannot hear the cries from this “silent” planet. In return, humans cannot be healed or feel the love that is available to them from the universe. Sound familiar, Saints? Like the world before Christ our Lord came as a man? (Adapted from many quotes are verbatim from this Internet site)

Lewis has a rather orthodox view of evil. The planet Mars or “Malacandra,” is an ideal world where the inhabitants coexist in harmony and peace. They are personal friends with their God, Maleldil, and are ruled by Oyarsa, the Great Spirit who protects and watches over them.

Likewise the Malacandra’s beings, the Sorns, Pfifltriggi, and Hrossa, realize their differences but accept and love each other nevertheless: “they can talk to each other, they can cooperate, they have the same ethics” (156). While humans dishonor and compete against each other for their own selfish gains, the beings on Malacandra love even creatures that are harmful to them. “The hnakra is our enemy, but he is also our beloved” (75). The Malacandrans also respect their planet and honor the cycles and balance in nature. “I do not think the forest would be so bright, nor the water so warm, nor love so sweet, if there were no danger in the lakes” (75). They are true ecologists!

One of the major problems with Earth’s corruption is that humans compete against others in a “survival of the fittest” method. In other words the theist Lewis is critical of naturalism. They will destroy those whom they view as inferior to them. For example, Devine and Weston, the two captors who brought Ransom to Malacandra, think they can take over the planet. Devine and Weston believe they are superior to the ‘primitive’ Malacandrans. “It is in the might of Life herself, that I am prepared without flinching to plant the flag of man on the soil of Malacandra: to march on, step by step, superseding, where necessary, the lower forms of life that we find, claiming planet after planet” (137).
What Devine and Weston do not realize is that they live in fear of death, while the Malacandrans are aware that death is a natural part of life. “One thing we left behind us on the harandra: fear. And with fear, murder and rebellion. The weakest of my people does not fear death” (140). Threatening to kill off the Malacandrans cannot strike fear in their hearts. “It is the Bent One, the Lord of your world, who wastes your lives and befouls them with flying from what you know will overtake you in the end. If you were subjects of Maleldil, you would have peace” (140).

Out of the Silent Planet is a powerful apologetic piece where Lewis powerfully portrays the dangers of modernism and the potentialities of Christianity.


Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

I am at the Columbus Home School Convention. This is their 25th anniversary–I have been a part of 19 of these conventions. Congratulations to CHEO!

My wife Karen and my son Peter have graciously excused me from my vendor duties so that I can write.

As I write and meditate I look around me. To the right of me a family is spreading its home made paraphernalia on a table. Bologna, whole grain bread, apples, and water are carefully placed on the obviously aged table cloth that graces an otherwise beat up old chipped round wooden table. This family honors the old table and this old veteran with its presence. We both are blessed. The family of six corporately bows its head and gives thanks to our God.

To my left is a child gleefully throwing a red rubber ball with a corner torn out to his father. The child is screaming in joy. The dad is smiling. A little innocent game gives so much joy to its owners. And to this quiet observer who loves both of them for their gift.

Behind me is a mom quietly weeping. Around her table are four children eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I don’t know why that mom is weeping. I see she is speaking on an ancient Nokia phone. No I-Phone for this mom! Suddenly she stops and prays. All four children stop and pray too. Obviously they don’t know what their mom is saying or why she is crying but they are neither upset or curious–they grasp the import of the moment and join their mom in this sacred moment. I can’t help feeling like God is answering their prayers.

In the corner is a young child quietly reading one my books–A FIRE THAT BURNS–that my son Peter no doubt sold her.

As I look around me on this sunny morning in the summer of 2009, I can’t help but feel that history is being made. Quietly, unpretentiously, with no cynicism, a people gathers in places all over this nation. Peoria, Columbus, St. Charles, Pottstown, and Boise. Long Beach, Phoenix, Knoxville, and Birmingham. In a hundred places, thousands strong, they are changing history. And they are my people, my community, because I too am a home schooler. I bow my head with them, I eat my peanut butter and jelly, and I dream dreams with them. I see history being made.

As a River Moves . . .

Monday, July 20th, 2009

As a river moves, so too has society continually rippled along from one mindset to another with a seamless expectation of being more enlightened than the previous generation. Periodically I try to pull ashore and peer into the waters to examine bubbles of ideas as they swish around and over rocky and smooth experiences. Come ashore with me now to look at one particular trickle in mass society’s thought…

Lately there has been a flourish of articles written on our Post-Christian culture. Unarguably America is heading to become a post-western and post-Christian country. With this current has drifted a predictable negative attitude towards Christianity. If you believe in God you’re a hypocritical dope with a theatrical Limbaugh for an uncle.

For those of us who are entering into higher education or the workforce know that you are not entering a secular environment, no, it is flamboyantly anti-Christian. Atheist writer Sam Harris writes “It is perfectly absurd for religious moderates to suggest that a rational human being can believe in God, simply because that belief makes him happy.”

So what do we do as classically educated socially inept homeschoolers? Traveling around the country, a small cry is arising to abandon our culture all together and split for the countryside. There could be a no more devastating occurrence to our culture. Tides like Harris design their actions to purposefully drive a wedge between intellect and faith, “absurd… that a rational human being caan believe in God…”

Paul writes in 2nd Corinthians chapter 2 about being a “pleasant fragrance”. In Paul’s time, Rome had a special fragrance that was burned during their triumphal procession as a medium of announcing victory over their enemies across the city. Our lives are to be the fragrance, the salt and light, the witness of Christ to our culture. It is a battle to fight this attempt at separating intellect and faith. Won not by removing all moral beings but instead by permeating our colleges with individuals who are Christian as well as intellectual leaders.

Paul fought this battle everyday in synagogue after synagogue. Let us enter this world well prepared to be world changers for Christ at no more crucial a time. Refuse to stand on the shores but jump headlong into the rapids, because o ur culture’s salvation in Christ depends upon it.