Monthly Archives: April 2007

A Little IT Humor

“No Steve! File not found is not a good thing.”– John Cleese from Iron Mountain promo video

Last week while looking for various backup solutions for our company, I came across this video from Iron Mountain, a company that supplies online data backup services. I normally wouldn’t write about an advertisement. But it was so clever that I have watched it a number of times.

The video short features John Cleese from the Monty Python movies. He is the director of the Institute of Backup Trauma. I know this is a little different than my usual blog topic. If you have ever lost data, you will enjoy this little short.

 http://www.ironmountain.com/services/tours/backuptrama.asp

Is Morality a Waste of Time?

News reports recently described how research commissioned by Congress casts doubts on the success of abstinence programs. Headlines called abstinence initiatives as a waste of time and money.

Children who took part in sex abstinence classes were found to be just as likely to engage in sexual intercourse for the first time at the same age as children who did not receive these classes. The research was conducted by Mathematica Policy Research Inc. It indicates that on average teenagers first had sex at the age of 14.9 years.

The U.S. government spends $176 million on abstinence programs each year. Some goods news for abstinence programs. They did not result in an increase in the rate of unprotected sex as some critics have suggested. The USA has one of the highest rates of unwanted teenage pregnancies in the Western World.

Find out more about the report at http://www.mathematica-mpr.com/publications/PDFs/impactabstinence.pdf

All of this seems to miss the point. It doesn’t matter if people listen or not. Authorities have a responsibility to encourage people to do the right thing. Casual sex by non-married individuals is not a good idea – just ask all those young, single mothers who thought their lover would stay no matter what.  

In his book, Sex God, Rob Bell asked, “Are we just the some of our urges?” He then wrote, “A human isn’t just a collection of urges and needs, but is a being who God resides in…There is more to life than just the next fix… It really teaches that people cannot transcend the physical limitations of their existence. It views people much like animals. And so many live with a low grade sense of despair that they are helpless and this is simply how it is. 

“No where is this chronic despair more evident than in a lot of sex education curriculum. Many of which are based on the premise that the kids are going to do it. If you deconstruct that, what are you going to get? – A loss of hope. Who decided that kids or anybody else for that matter are unable to abstain? In a lot of settings, abstinence programs are laughed at…The criticism of the sex is for marriage view is generally presented as the voice of realism. Are people actually capable of restraint? But it’s not realism. It is actually the voice of despair. It is the voice that ask, ‘Aren’t we all really just animals?'”

The New Testament depicts Christians as living temples. And a temple is a holy place, where the gods live. It connects this world with the divine. If we are really temples and God really lives in us, wouldn’t we be capable of more than just the animal instinct?

One of the problems is that many “Christian” abstinence programs try to demonize sex. The human sex drive is a God-given, natural urge that is designed to force people to grow up, make a family and continue the human race. Sex is part of God’s design to bring men and women together through a beneficial, pleasurable act. But when some Christians present sexual desire as a perversion,  this makes people feel like something is wrong with them. People tend to run from God due to unnecessary shame. This makes it difficult to respond to sexual urges in proper ways.

There has to be middle ground between the extremes on this issue. It is worth the trouble to find the solution because I believe that morality is not a waste of time.

Your sin, Our Sin

It can be very easy to see the sin in another society but hard to detect it in our own nation. This comes from a general desire to like where we live and have a sense of national pride. The “blind to our own sin” reality also springs from the fact that we don’t like bad news that hits close to home.

A particular practice may seem normal or acceptable to us while others might consider it barbaric. We can be too close to our sin to be objective about it. Besides, we don’t like the word sin any way. It is far too honest. We prefer to think of them as indiscretions or mistakes.

It tends to be human nature to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt while we ascribe the worst possible motives to others. I confronted this reality in a recent interview with a businessman from South Africa. He told me that his company had to go to considerable effort to train some workers from more remote areas. They were not accustomed to using a toilet. He even tried to “civilize” some actions that were not beneficial to workers or their families. For example, this man trained his workers not to beat their wives. It is a commonly accepted practice that men in some areas of Africa beat their wives to keep them in submission. The men feel this will insure that the wife will be loyal and do a good job in their role.

My business contact said that his company held a love poem contest and offered prizes for the men to give their wives. The winners were surprised when they found out how these gifts and token of love worked better than the beatings. While hearing this, I thought about how barbaric these people must be. Then all of a sudden, I heard the Spirit say to me that we in the great “civilized” West have our own barbarisms.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks reproductive health issues, women in the United States have well over one million abortions per year. America continues to gobble up a huge amount of resources that causes others to pay the price. The United States has the largest prison population in the Western world. This is just a quick sampling of our national “issues.”

I guess my point is that we are all sinners. Each nation has its good and bad points. We must be careful thinking higher of ourselves than we ought. Some nations have more progress although there is no utopia.

It all starts with taking the huge beam out of our eye before we try to fix other nations.

Hokie Dream

While in a service this week dedicated to remembering the great tragedy and loss of life at Virginia Tech, the Spirit led me to the following Scripture. This message from Isaiah speaks to us today about the need to have God’s dream. I believe that God created each one of us to be a restorer of the things that are broken in our world. Read the following verse and consider how you can build up the old waste places.

 

Isaiah 58:9-14(NKJV)

Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’

“If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness shall be as the noonday. The LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought,  and strengthen your bones;  You shall be like a watered garden,  and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.          

“Those from among you  shall build the old waste places; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; and you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.       

“If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, then you shall delight yourself in the LORD; and I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

This Scripture is God’s dream for His people. And what God has spoken will come about in time. This passage reminds me a lot of what I have heard from the Va Tech community over the past week. People want to move on while acknowledging the past. They want to see something good come from tragedy. Hokies want restoration take place in a community that has been shaken. This is the Hokie dream. It follows God’s heart, and I believe it will happen in God’s time.

Jesus And…

It can get real easy for Christians to view the life of Christ through the eyes of a political cause or issue. Along the way, Jesus gets co-opted for man’s agenda. This is dangerous because the focus slowly moves off Christ onto something or someone else.

Typically, the thing that starts to take over may be a good thing in its own right. That is why this error can be so destructive. It is subtle. It seems right. But when you get right down to it man or earth focused religion is humanism clothed in religous verbage.

As a Christian, I believe that Jesus is THE way, THE truth, and THE life. The word “THE” in that statement makes all the difference. The entire thought changes if you insert “A” for “THE”. That is exactly what people do when the Christian faith becomes about anything other than the Gospel.

Sure, most people don’t come right out and say they are polluting the message. They would see their actions as fitting to the Gospel. The best way to tell if the person, group, movement or church has fallen into error is to see where the focus of time, money, effort and attention is placed.

Just in case you are not following the type of shift in focus that I am talking about, here are some examples:

  • Right wing politics. Left wing politics.
  • The appearance of propriety and public reputation.
  • Social justice – serving the poor and downcast of society.
  • Saving the unborn.
  • Overcoming sin and addiction.
  • Saving the environment.
  • Being culturally relevant and hip to the latest social trends.
  • Music style or dress.
  • Defending the Bible.
  • Evangelism – bringing people to meet Jesus.
  • Standing up against persecution.
  • Kid & family friendly programs and focus.
  • Healthy living.
  • Pop psychology/self help.
  • Racial equality and civil rights.
  • Religious icons.
  • Preserving the sanctity of marriage as one man with one woman.
  • Recognizing that God loves all people, including homosexuals.
  • Prosperity, healing and God’s blessings for His children.
  • Faith-based living.

Many of the things above are not bad. Actually, most people, would probably consider them good. The real problem comes when people might consider any one thing as the central focus of the Gospel instead of possibly part of it. Sure, Jesus was for helping the poor and showing mercy to sinners. You bet, Christians should be good stewards of the earth and value all human life because we are created in God’s image. But none of those issues are the totality of Jesus’ life or message.

Given enough free time, the human mind can take one passage of Scripture and create all sorts of interesting gods and diversions out of it. These things may seem good just like the fruit that Eve ate. But they can be just as deadly.

The moment we get into the “Jesus Plus ….” trap, we can easily stray into a godly cause that removes God as the center focus. Here is what one demon (Screwtape) had to say about this trick. He was writing to a fellow demon to discuss tempting a young Christian in C.S. Lewis’ book, The Screwtape Letters. The demon wrote, “What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in a state of mind I call, ‘Christianity And’. You know – Christianity and the Crisis, Christianity and the New Psychology, Christianity and the New Order, Christianity and Faith Healing, Christianity and Psychical Research, Christianity and Vegetarianism, Christianity and Spelling Reform. If they must be a Christians let them at least be Christians with a difference.” 

The essence of the Gospel is Jesus. The “And” part is where we can get into trouble and take our eyes of the author and finisher of our faith. While there are many good things for us to do in this life, there is only One way. And His name is Jesus. 

Underground Economy

A discussion at work today has caused me to think about all the money that changes hands in this country under the table. You know the kind of thing that I am talking about. Some call it kickbacks or greasing the palm of someone you want to act in a certain way.

One guy I talked to today was full of conspiracy theories. He made it seem like everyone had an angle to work. While the guy made some great points, he also seemed to be a little bit extreme. Our conversation got me to thinking about graft and corruption.

My brother, who happens to own a professional life audio business, tells stories about the music industry that you wouldn’t believe.

I am also reminded of a business associate from Europe who described how Eastern Block countries work. He said that these countries keep costs low by having government employees receive a sizable amount of their pay by people who visit them wanting something. For example, if you need a permit, you have to pay a fee for processing. But if you want the request to be processed in a timely manner, then you have to pay an extra fee to the person taking your request. This money goes directly in their pockets.

My European business associate made it seem that money under the table was the only way that things got done and people were paid in some countries. In those parts of the world, they don’t consider it corruption as much as necessary compensation for government workers. This “system” pushes the cost of the service onto the person wanting it. What we consider bad in the United States is common practice in other parts of the world.

America is not innocent when it comes to the underground economy. While our society seems to be more honest than some, we still have big companies that play favorites, special interests that give junkets to powerful people, and politicians who take kickbacks for political favors.

At what point does an action go from cementing a relationship to buying influence? This can be a hard line to identify. What seems true is that many people are all to willing to skirt that line whenever the situation warrants it.

Scripture states that God hates dishonest scales. This means we should try to be fair and not do things that show preferential treatment for unjustified reasons.

Are you scales balanced or are you a participant in the underground economy?

Prayer for VA Tech

Oh Lord, may you comfort a stunned nation due to the tragedy at Virginia Tech today. For those in Blacksburg, especially victims of the shootings, may you work miracles to restore what was intended for evil. Guide the hands of the medical professionals and authorities as they bring aid, comfort and protection. May any victims who are struggling to make it receive complete healing that no more would die in this massacre.

For all those who are physically Ok but shaken in their soul, may you speak words of love and strength. Free them from mind games that could make the situation worse. Guide them in grief and allow them to process through what could be very confusing. In times of great tragedy, we know that you are there.

At a loss for words, we contact those we love. Overjoyed to hear that many are safe, we mourn for those who have been slain. It’s a mix of feelings that is hard to explain.

For all the families who have lost loved ones, there are no easy answers. There is a deep sense of loss and shock. It will take time to recover. We are encouraged that you not time can heal all wounds.

As a nation that wants quick answers, may we be patient to support our leaders and pray for those seeking to reduce the likelihood that this would ever happen again. Help us to unite behind a common vision to see our society become a place where we don’t result to violence to “solve” our problems. Free us from the lies of  the evil one who wants to rob us of life, joy and peace.

Jesus release a great outpouring of your healing power to Blacksburg and this country. Use your Church to be your hands and feet. May we all realize that no one is ever guaranteed tomorrow. Use this tragedy to bring hope and your life to those who desperately need it. Help us to grow from this experience and to become stronger through adversity. Be glorified in this tragedy. May we rest in the healing of your wings. Amen!