Saturday, July 30, 2005

Vote for Jimmy

If an election were held tommorrow, or in 2008 as it will be, and all of the guys on the list I gave were running, everyone should vote for Jimmy Carter. I know most of you won't read all of this post, as it's lengthy, but hear me out.
What if we could put a man in office in 2008 that was a conservative Southern Baptist, yet was politically in the center, a Democrat? He doesn't polarize people, and fights for many of the values that Democrats hold dear, while keeping faith in Christ and leading this country morally. What if we had a President who sought to bring people and nations together in consensus, worked hard to make peace with and help the developing world, really cared about the environment, and listened to a wide range of people's opinions instead of just the few of his political base. Sound too good to be true? Well, that man is/was Jimmy Carter. The man was 30 years ahead of his time.

A peanut farmer made good.
Jimmy Carter is a great man, and was a good President. Yet, Republicans scorn him, and Democrats don’t like to claim him as their own. If he were running for office today, I would vote for him hands down. The man was 30 years ahead of his time. Here’s why:

1. He was a Southern Baptist Sunday school teacher from Georgia (and an ordained deacon). He taught SS both before and after his presidency. Can you imagine an evangelical active SBCer getting elected to the White House now? Impossible. Carter has since broken off from the SBC (at the height of the bad press over the 2000 SBC convention), but still holds to his Christian beliefs. He believed in leading by morals, and not by politics.
Here’s a quote from an interview in Playboy magazine during the 1976 Presidential campaign:
“I try not to commit a deliberate sin. I recognize that I'm going to do it anyhow, because I'm human and I'm tempted. And Christ set some almost impossible standards for us. Christ said, 'I tell you that anyone who looks on a woman with lust has in his heart already committed adultery.'
"I've looked on a lot of women with lust. I've committed adultery in my heart many times. This is something that God recognizes I will do--and I have done it--and God forgives me for it."
Show me any other President that will quote Matthew 5, and recognize that even lust is adultery.
Carter could talk about his Christian beliefs, in a way that wasn’t nearly as awkward or polarizing to people as it is now.

2. He worked for peace. Carter saw his duty as a Christian to be a “peacemaker.” He was all about building consensus and finding common ground with people. He further normalized relations with China. He condemned the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and build a global coalition protesting it. He started the SALT II anti-ballistic missile treaty with the USSR, an important step in arms reduction. He oversaw the Camp David Accords which brought a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt that still exists today. He still works for peace today. The Carter foundation works today to monitor elections, and provides conflict mediation for countries at war.

3. Jimmy Carter was GREEN, before a Green Party existed. “Acknowledging the physical realities of our planet does not mean a dismal future of endless sacrifice. In fact, acknowledging these realities is the first step in dealing with them. We can meet the resource problems of the world -- water, food, minerals, farmlands, forests, overpopulation, pollution -- if we tackle them with courage and foresight.” He said this in his farewell address. President Bush only a few weeks ago admitted that the environment might be in trouble. 25 years before, Jimmy Carter had already turned down the thermostat at the White House in the winter, and turned it up in the summer, to save energy and promote conservation. No President has done that since. (Japan’s government just this year started to do it, and make it mandatory for businesses to do it as well). He also proposed immediate development of alternative energies, including green ones. Carpools, and development of mass transit systems, were all things he strongly encouraged.

4. Despite his strong religious beliefs, he was seen as a centrist. A pragmatist without Washington “good old boy” ties. He was the governor of Georgia. He upheld things like welfare, and believed in the whole “Great Society” concept of government doing what it could to help the poor of this country. That’s how he was and still is a Democrat. If he ran today, he’d say he was a “compassionate centrist.” I think that’s what we need in the White House. Someone who is not about serving big business and maintaining global empire. Someone who is not about just appealing to the “base.” But, someone who also isn’t so far left that he alienates the religious right. He was from the Deep South, yet Californians could trust him.
He set precedents for appointing women and minorities to government positions. He created the Department of Education to promote what he saw as the means to helping achieve equality in public schools.

5. Carter in many ways was a fiscal conservative. He pushed for a tightening of government spending in response to rising inflation. He believed that the President should be a man of the people, and should therefore live fiscally responsibly. He sold the presidential yacht. He refused to add elaborate renovations or decoration changes to the White House that all administrations do to their liking. He also stripped Air Force One down so that it wasn’t nearly as luxurious as it is today. Reagan/Bush changed all of that by adding in the luxuries and spending money, telling people it was okay to be rich again. Clinton followed suit. Carter also proposed welfare and tax reforms which were never passed by Congress (which had Democrat majority at the time).

6. Carter was a friend to many third-world countries. He’s the only President to have visited sub-Saharan Africa, one of the poorest and most desperate places on earth. He saw the best way to keep the peace and keep people’s view of America as great was to respect and help less fortunate countries. He truly saw America’s need to be humble with its neighbors. He put through a treaty with Panama that essentially gave Panama control of the Panama Canal, which is key to U.S. security and commerce interests. He trusted President Torrijos, and respected Panama’s right to sovereignty. His pushing through of the Canal Treaty is still controversial, and people still write him letters letting him know. Carter says that “It was more difficult to get the Panama Canal Treaties ratified by two-thirds of the Senate of the United States than it was for me to get elected president in the first place…but it was a good thing to do.”
However, as Thomas Perkins alleges in “Confessions of an Economic Hitman,” the Republican administrations and business interests never forgave Carter for this, and eventually orchestrated the assassination of Torrijos, and the takeover of Panama during the Bush administration when we invaded and captured Manuel Noriega.

Carter also offended Americans in 1994 when he said he was “ashamed” of how the U.S. had neglected Haiti, and had treated it so poorly. This was when the country was on the verge of collapse, and U.S. soldiers were required to enter and restore order. The Carter Foundation was there to pave those agreements and forge peace.

7. Carter listened to a wide range of people for advice. During the 1979 energy crisis he invited people from all over the country and all walks of life to give him advice for 10 days. He then, transparently, told the entire nation what they said, and how they’d criticized his poor leadership. He wasn’t afraid or too proud to seek advice and help.

8. Carter wanted to challenge the nation to sacrifice their comforts and seek alternative ways to doing things, for the long term. This is seen in his denouncing of materialism and his promotion of finding a way to decrease our dependence on foreign oil. Many Democrats today have pushed the idea of a “Manhattan Project” for switching to alternative fuels. Columnists like Tom Friedman have proposed that the President lead, and set a goal for Americans to cut fuel and find alternatives by a certain date. Jimmy Carter did that in 1979, and had a large amount of his energy proposals passed by Congress. The man was just 25 years too early to have his points followed up on. (The problem was that Carter told people that this meant personal “sacrifice,” see below).

9. Carter was a veteran of the U.S. Navy. He earned a degree from the U.S. Naval Academy and served 11 years. This gave him a wide range of experience and increased his view of the world.

Carter’s weaknesses.

No person or President is perfect. Some of the strengths I listed above perhaps helped Carter become very unpopular. I’ll be fair and list some that I can think of.

1. Carter was seen as doing too much preaching, and not taking enough action. His response to the energy crisis of 1979 was to get on TV and say this: “In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does but by what one owns.”
This is a sermon heard in many churches today. He was telling people to stop thinking about themselves, and stop basing their self-worth on their riches. Amazing! His poll ratings actually shot up a little after this speech.

As I mentioned before, the Reagan/Bush/Bush administrations have essentially said “It’s okay to be rich,” which is the opposite of Carter’s message. Republicans have essentially said: “It’s okay to drive a gas-guzzling SUV, okay to increase drilling for oil, okay to cut taxes and increase spending.” You can hear this theme at every Republican convention. Americans love it, it feeds our desire to find prosperity, and we vote for it.

2. Carter’s humility and desire to seek a wide range of advice made him an easy target. A person with many advisors may look like he’s hesitant to make decisions. The opposite of this is President GW Bush, who has a small number of trusted advisors and makes decisions on what he calls “gut instinct.” This can be very dangerous, but it has helped him win 2 elections because Americans like to follow people who lead strongly with strong convictions.

3. Carter lacked the support of most of his cabinet and administration. At one point, he asked for all of his cabinet members’ resignations at one time.

4. In response to issues like the energy crisis, Carter asked Congress to pass new taxes and increase the authority of government to cut through “red tape” in ways not seen since WWII. He saw this as government’s role to get things done for the long-term benefit of the American people. This helped his creation of the Departments of Education and Energy. Republicans saw it as just another tax-and-spend initiative.

5. Carter was seen as weak militarily. This came in the post-Vietnam era where our nation’s morale was weakened by facing up to the mistakes of the war, and Watergate. When the Iranian revolution broke out, the puppet Shah of Iran was deposed and revolutionaries seized our embassy and held 66 Americans hostage, it was like Iran was holding America hostage. Every day on the news, the hostages were shown blindfolded and it was another slap on the face. Carter authorized a U.S. Special Forces operation to free the hostages, but it ended with a helicopter crash and disaster. No subsequent attempts were made to do anything, and eventually a deal was reached to unfreeze Iranian assets in the U.S. in exchange for their release. He canceled further production of the B-1 bomber, and development of the neutron radiation bomb (as part of non-proliferation principles). It’s worth noting that he did do other things to strengthen the military such as approve spending on cruise missiles.

“Those of us who have advocated for the resolution of international conflict in a peaceful fashion are looked upon as being unpatriotic, branded that way by right-wing religious groups, the Bush administration, and other Republicans” (Carter quoted in Carter’s Crusade by Ayelish McGarvey).

In a new book, Prelude to Terror by Joseph J. Trento, it’s said that senior members of the CIA itself helped plot Carter’s re-election defeat.

6. Carter asked Americans to really sacrifice. “I do not promise you that this struggle for freedom will be easy. I do not promise a quick way out of our nation's problems, when the truth is that the only way out is an all-out effort. What I do promise you is that I will lead our fight, and I will enforce fairness in our struggle, and I will ensure honesty. And above all, I will act. We can manage the short-term shortages more effectively and we will, but there are no short-term solutions to our long-range problems. There is simply no way to avoid sacrifice.”

Americans don’t like to hear that. They want to hear that tax cuts and rebates and such will fix the problem, and we can keep roaring ahead and keep the status quo.

7. Carter was seen as weak on economics. Inflation was high, gas lines were long, and no hope was in sight. In 1976 he invented the “Misery Index” which combines inflation with unemployment. It was 13.4% when he took office, and 20% when he ran for re-election. The index was a noose of his own making. Much of this was not Carter’s fault. OPEC decided to increase oil prices, again to punish America for its support of Israel. Carter’s response was to challenge Americans to conserve, and look for alternative fuels. This was a long-term solution and not something to remedy the problems of 1979.

8. Carter boycotted the USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan by boycotting the Olympic games. There were no economic or other immediate actions taken. This was highly unpopular since popular athletes trained long and hard for this event, and at the time it was a much anticipated event on TV.

Like all Presidencies, the Carter administration was unable to push through all of its proposed government reforms and legislation. If it had been more successful in doing so, perhaps his place in history would be more secure today. Had he inherited a better economic situation, he definitely would have had higher popularity, and probably would have won re-election. But, he was not a man for the 80’s. I just think he’s a man for the 2000’s.

I know that Jimmy Carter is a man of great moral conviction and principle. His administration believed in fiscal prudence, and believed that war should always be a last resort, and making peace should be a top priority. It understood that our nation is strong militarily, and should use its might to defend the nation at all costs, but must truly be humble when dealing with other nations. He saw that it was important to tie promotion of human rights into the treaties and deals we make with other countries. His administration led the way in promoting equality among women and minorities. He showed that we must work to fight poverty and build democratic structures in poorer countries to help make friends. We must build coalitions around these ideals. He realized that Africa’s problems must be addressed if we’re to make any progress anywhere else in the world. He told America that the environment needs help, and that America is too dependent on oil. He recognized the need to do something in this area and promoted ways to fund research into alternative fuels, even to the point of setting targets and dates. He understood that sometimes it’s necessary to ask people to sacrifice for the greater, long-term, good. He was morally tilted right, and politically moderate.

This is the kind of administration we need today to face the moral issues that are prevalent in our country, and to build the coalitions we need among Americans and other democracies abroad. It’s the humility we need in dealing with other nations, and the challenge we need to conserve energy and decrease our dependence on oil (i.e.: foreign countries like Saudi Arabia that produce the oil). It’s also the wake-up call we need to let the world know that America is serious about the environment, and its President is going to lead its people, and the world, in confronting the problems. It’s also the type of administration that lets you know you’re not excluded, whether you be black, white, Hispanic, conservative, or liberal. Everyone has a voice, and the political “base” isn’t catered to.
I think this is just the type of administration we need to see elected in 2008.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

A Tale of 2 Decrees

Well, you all get a special treat today. A two-for-one blogging by JTapp. This is partly because I don’t want to clean my apartment, but also because I couldn’t help but want to comment on something no one else is likely to think twice about.

I heard 2 things on the news tonight, one of which might mean something.


The IRA has said they’re disarming, and disavowing violence as a means of achieving political gains. I applaud this and think it's good. I think they just didn’t want to be put on the terrorist watchlists anymore, or be seen in the same light as these suicide bombers. I’m glad to hear it. These guys have a real beef, check out the acclaimed docudrama “Bloody Sunday” (yes, what the U2 song is about) for a riveting story.


The Fiqh Council of North America, which presumes to speak for all Muslims in the U.S. and Canada, has issued a Fatwa against people who commit terrorism or acts of violence against civilians. “There is no justification in Islam for extremism or terrorism,” they say. It calls these terrorists criminals, and not martyrs.
People are applauding this, and “waiting to see what impact it will have on the Muslim world.” Let me say this clearly: It will have NO impact.
A Fatwa is a ruling by a Muslim cleric (kind of like a bishop) that interprets the Koran and Sharia, or Islamic law. It’s not legally binding, and doesn’t mean Muslims have to follow it. There are a lot of contradicting fatwas. The Ayatollah Khomeni issued a Fatwa to kill Salmon Rushdie, but no one has obeyed it. In the ’91 Gulf War, we talked some clerics into issuing a Fatwa against Iraq for invading Kuwait, and allowing us to use Saudi Arabia as a base for launching airstrikes.

It’s worth noting that NO Muslim clerics in the Middle East have issued a Fatwa against Osama Bin-Laden for what he did, or condemned Al Qaeda outright. They wouldn’t dare.

The Koran allows for the killing of “infidels,” which can be taken as non-Muslims. Osama Bin Laden simply says that there are no “civilians,” because everyone has a stake in this war.

The thing that really gets my goat is a group like the Council on American-Islamic Relations comes out and applauds this fatwa. “We have been speaking repeatedly, clearly, unequivocally for years, even before 9/11,'' said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil rights organization based in Washington. ``But apparently some people have just started to hear us.''
The CA-IR is a Saudi-funded PR campaign for Saudi Arabia and Islam. It parades as a Muslim-American council to improve relations. The Saudis fund the Wahabbi leaders who build schools that promote radical, terroristic Islam on one hand, and then fund a group in America that denounces these terrorists on the other. This is the ultimate hypocracy and I can’t stand it.
The IRA’s leadership's call for disarmament might actually get people to disarm and protest non-violently. The Fiqh Council’s fatwa condemning terrorism as sin will do nothing but gain some PR support for Muslims in the U.S. and Canada while suicide bombings continue worldwide.

Don't buy the hype.

What's your motivation?

(I’ve changed the poll up some, so check it out).

Here’s another post that includes 20-25% of what you’d learn in your business management courses at UK.

At Allergan, I’ve noticed that the temporary employees I work with are highly motivated. They always do what the boss says, always try to find extra things to do when there is no work to be done (they don’t like just standing around), and they’re always working harder to do things faster.

My question is: Why?? What is motivating these people?

I’ve always been pretty self-aware, and pretty quick to question authority. I always analyze everything I do and why I’m doing it. When there’s little incentive, I’m not very motivated. If there’s a way to cheat the system, I usually find it. In school I said: “Why should I read this chapter just because my teacher tells me to? Why should I study longer to make a 100% when an 80% will do just fine and I’ll still keep my A in the class? Why get an A anyway, a degree is a degree.”

At work, I guess I work hard partly because I want that pat on the back from the boss. That motivates a lot of people. I also remember Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, do heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance.”
I want to be the cheeriest worker on the force, to be the guy who seems to enjoy his job the most, and encourages others. As part of this, I employ the Principles of Domination, which I will discuss in a later post closer to football season. I often want to dominate the task/job assigned.

But what about these other people, many of whom aren’t Christians? Their lives would be easier if they worked less. Production targets are based on what they’re putting out.

Example: Management says you’re expected to make 100 units of something every hour, but you consistently make 110, 114, 120 of them. So, eventually management will say you’re expected to make 110. But, if you consistently made 90, 88, 80 units, management would say you’re expected to make 90. You know you can make at least 100, but you slack off and take it easy, knowing you only need to make 90.
I remember a few management studies on employee motivation that talked about this very thing. Examples were given about how employees were exploiting this system to take it easy for the same hourly wage. It was suggested that you find ways to give bonuses to employees for increasing their output and such.

But, these folks at Allergan are always putting out as much as they can for no bonus. They always seem to want to put out more than they’re expected to. If the boss says “Please, no talking, it’s decreasing our #’s,” they’ll shut up and work faster. There are no bonuses or incentives other than an occasional “good job, team!”

The biggest surprise is this:
I would think some of them want to work well so they’ll be moved to better, or at least more interesting jobs. But, the people I see working on assembly line 3 have been there for 5 years on the same line. It’s the most menial, mind-numbing work at the plant. Every day. Yet, they work hard every day and beat production estimates, almost demanding it from one another.

Some of these workers are older, over 50. These seem to be the ones that jump at the bosses’ commands, and get real picky over every last detail. Everything has to be just right. So, maybe older people are easier to manipulate? But, how does this explain the younger workers’ outputs? Are they just following the older people? Doubtful.

This is a golden dream for management. Workers that are self-motivated, yet payed low wages, and come to work every day. Kaizen, 6 Sigma, and every other management principle can be shelved when you have workers like this that are pushing it every day for no apparent reason.

So, what’s your motivation? Why do you do what you do?

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Poll of the Week

I've changed the poll slightly, since it apparently was confusing.
Check out the Poll of the Week on the right hand side. Vote for who you think is the greatest President on this list. If an election were held tommorrow, who would you be most likely to vote for? I'll tell you the correct answer soon. You can vote once a day, so keep coming back. You can discuss your vote here if you want.

So, until then (probably this weekend), catch up on the previous posts and enjoy.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Book of the Week

I usually don't read (or listen to) fiction, but I had to make an exception for this one:

Book of the Week: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.
A #1 Bestseller. This is a great and very vivid book, narrated in 1st person, about growing up in Afghanistan during the 1970's, and then in America in the 80's & 90's before returning to Afghanistan during the reign of the Taliban.
The language and imagery brought back a flood of memories of my travels in Central Asia. The difficulties of understanding the cultures and the divisions of ethnic groups are both illustrated clearly.

It's about a rich Pashtun boy who grows up along with a poor Hazara, and then their long separation. It's all about choices, consequences, overcoming regrets, and enduring friendships. A great book for anyone wanting a rich cultural experience and a look inside of ourselves.

After reading the book, and longing to see some of the scenery (or at least something that looks like the scenery of Afghanistan), I found a great movie, Rambo III, for $5.00 on DVD and bought it. It's one of the few movies to deal with our involvement in the country, and the Mujahideen fighting the Soviets. It came with a short documentary "Afghanistan: Land in Crisis," looking back at Rambo 20 years ago, and America's involvement in the country today.

The movie is also the only one I've seen with a view of the national game "buzkashi." This is where men ride on horseback and attempt to retrieve the heavy carcass of a goat from the center of the field and carry it to the scoring area (end zone) without getting knocked off their horse, trampled, or having the goat taken from them. It's a mix of bravery, skill, and insanity.

I'm no expert on A-stan, and I've never been there.

But, one thing I know for sure is that the people who go there never really come back again. They're never the same person again. Maybe it's the sheer harshness of the landscape and conditions, maybe it's the spiritual darkness, or more. I've seen people come out of there with 1,000 yard stares, and unable to really function comfortably anywhere else but in Afghanistan.

The book of the week is dedicated to those people, because this book is really about them.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Why Joel Osteen is okay

I'm tired of hearing people harp on Joel Osteen. There's nothing wrong with him, there just can't be. If you believe there's something wrong with Joel Osteen, then you must believe that what you hear preached from your own pulpits and preachers is wrong too.

I saw an article online about the 50 Most Influential Churches in America and found it sad. I've attended the the #4 church, a Southern Baptist church, several times. I've watched the #5 church (Olsteen's) on TV several times. My question is this: What's the difference between the two?

Joel Osteen is pastor of the largest church in America. He's the author of a bestselling book (3 million copies). You can find his book everywhere but Lifeway. Why is that?

I've heard him called a "heretic," heard that he doesn't preach on sin, heard that he makes too much money. The "heretic" charge is a little tough to prove.

The Money
He's been audited by watchgroups and found to be clean. He pays the taxes on his house, unlike other Word-Faith preachers who list their houses as "parsonages" and declare them to be exempt. He gets 30,000 people in attendance every Sunday, and only makes $200,000 a year in salary. You say "$200,000 is alot!!" Go ask your pastor how much money he makes a year. Figure out the size of your church, and see how it is in proportion to Osteen's salary. I think you'll find Osteen makes less per congregant than your own pastor. God pays very well these days.
Osteen's book sold so well that he decided to quit taking his salary altogether. Does that sound like a crook?

Preaching from the Bible

Osteen's book contains Scripture references at the end. Many of his sermons do too. But, the sermons are all from Biblical truths. They're "motivational and encouraging," he says. I've heard alot of folks say that this isn't preaching. Oh, really?
I love a good expository sermon. One in which the preacher takes a passage, reads it, and then explains it or applies it to our lives. Especially if they bring in other Scripture, and it really helps if you brought your Bible to church to look things up.
But, I don't see this much today anywhere. I see plenty of other types of topical preaching, storytelling, and motivational speaking.

Every Sunday at Olsteen's church, most of the congregation stands, holds up their Bibles, and quotes a mantra that it is "God's Word," and "Truth."

At Fellowship Church (the #4 Most Influential [and SBC]), I'd say 95% of people don't bring their Bibles. "You don't need them, the words are on the screen," staff members say. Many Sundays there isn't even preaching, just a panel discussion or a video interview. Biblical truths are preached though, and they're used to encourage and motivate people.

A few weeks ago I heard a teaching pastor from Willow Creek (the #2 Most Influential) come and preach (Mike Breaux, for those of you who remember him from Southland). He preached a great motivational sermon that got a standing ovation. He used very little Scripture, but told some good stories about one person touching another person's life, that person touched another's life, and so on. It reminded me of that movie "Pay it Forward." Biblical truths, right?
So, I gather that Willow Creek's methods of preaching are about the same.

Who cares about expositing Scripture? It's my preferred method, but that doesn't mean it's right. After all, no one does it.

People who flaunt the "heresy" charge point out that he doesn't preach much on sin. They also point out an interview on Larry King Live in which Osteen wouldn't take a hard stand on who could go to heaven:

KING: Do you share Billy (Graham)'s beliefs of life after death in a sense of going somewhere?

OSTEEN: I do. I do. We probably agree on 99 percent. I do. I believe there's a heaven you know. Afterwards, there's, you know, a place called hell. And I believe it's when we have a relationship with God and his son Jesus and that's what the Bible teaches us. I believe it.

KING: Because we've had ministers on who said, your record don't count. You either believe in Christ or you don't. If you believe in Christ, you are, you are going to heaven. And if you don't no matter what you've done in your life, you ain't.

OSTEEN: Yeah, I don't know. There's probably a balance between. I believe you have to know Christ. But I think that if you know Christ, if you're a believer in God, you're going to have some good works. I think it's a cop-out to say I'm a Christian but I don't ever do anything ...

KING: What if you're Jewish or Muslim, you don't accept Christ at all?

OSTEEN: You know, I'm very careful about saying who would and wouldn't go to heaven. I don't know ...

KING: If you believe you have to believe in Christ? They're wrong, aren't they?

OSTEEN: Well, I don't know if I believe they're wrong. I believe here's what the Bible teaches and from the Christian faith this is what I believe. But I just think that only God with judge a person's heart. I spent a lot of time in India with my father. I don't know all about their religion. But I know they love God. And I don't know. I've seen their sincerity. So I don't know. I know for me, and what the Bible teaches, I want to have a relationship with Jesus.

Osteen's Apology

After many criticized his comments, Osteen wrote a letter of apology:

"I believe with all my heart that it is only through Christ that we have hope in eternal life. I regret and sincerely apologize that I was unclear on the very thing in which I have dedicated my life. Jesus declared in John 14; I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me. I believe that Jesus Christ alone is the only way to salvation. However, it wasn’t until I had the opportunity to review the transcript of the interview that I realized I had not clearly stated that having a personal relationship with Jesus is the only way to heaven. It’s about the individual’s choice to follow Him." (italics and bolds are mine).

So, what's wrong with Joel Osteen?

Is it because on national television he waffled, and wouldn't answer Larry's question the way Larry wanted?
If I forgive him (70x7) and accept his apology, then I have to believe what he says is true. He believes in John 14:6.

Let's look at his apology.
What does it mean to have a "personal relationship with Jesus Christ?"
What did Jesus Christ do for us that makes it possible for us to have a relationship with Him, or with God?
Are these worth mentioning? If so, how often? Every Sunday?

What about the Gospel?
Osteen's invitation time goes something like this:
"Pray and ask Jesus to come into your heart and forgive you. Ask Him to change your life, to forgive you. Now thank Him for the abundant life that He now gives you."

What's that... you say this sounds wrong? The Gospel is more than this? No, I don't think it can be.
I've attended several churches in the last 7 months and heard many preachers. I've heard others like Osteen on TV and on the radio. Some of them were megachurches, others were Porter and Highview, others were smalltown Baptist.
ALL OF their Gospels, at least their invitation times, go something like this:
"You can come and ask Jesus into your heart and life to be your Savior and Lord. He'll change your life, and you can have forgiveness of your sins. You just have to pray this prayer..."
"God loves you, and wants you to have abundant life. He doesn't want you to be held back by sin anymore. Just come to Him, and give Him your burdens. The Bible says He'll forgive you and cleanse you from all unrighteousness. We have counselors, they'll instruct you on how to pray and ask Jesus into your heart."

What's the difference between these other churches and what Olsteen says? If these other churches are right, then Olsteen must be right too. I used to say "Well, my church says those things at the invitation, but the Pastor knows that Salvation is much deeper than just praying a prayer." Olsteen's apology letter leads me to believe that he does too. So, does it matter what is said at the invitation?

I believe the Gospel truth is this:
All men are sinners (Romans 3:23). I can illustrate this for you by showing you that God's standard clearly shows that if you have lusted, you've committed adultery (ie: had an affair, in God's eyes). If you've hated someone or called them a fool, you've committed murder in God's eyes (Matthew 5). Because of that sin, we're all going to die (Romans 6:23). Good works won't help us out, nor will experimenting with something (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Jesus was the Word in the Flesh (John 1), who came and lived a sinless life and died on the cross. Because he bled and died, he became the ultimate sacrifice for us on the cross, and only because of His sacrifice can we have forgiveness (Ephesians 1:7, 2:13). He paid the debt that we couldn't pay. We must repent of our sins (Acts 2:38, 3:19, Luke 13:3). There's no other way to heaven but through Christ (John 14:6)
We must follow Christ as Lord and Savior, and the first sign of obedience is to be baptised (Acts 2:38, 8:36, 10:47).

When was the last time you heard the word repent used in an invitation or Gospel presentation/explanation? How often should it be heard? Every Sunday? Every couple months?

I compare Joel Osteen's words and his church service to other "influential" churches, and SBC churches, and churches that I was raised in. I don't see a whole lot of difference. So, if you believe in the same general Gospel message I've been hearing at churches around the country (as I paraphrased above), then I think you have to agree with Joel Osteen's explanation too.

If you agree with a Gospel that requires repentance, and a little more elaboration on the blood and the cross, then I want you to listen next time you hear your pastor explain "salvation" at the end of the service. Listen to what the counselor tells the interested prospect. See if it lines up with what Scripture really says.

Either get off of Olsteen's back, or get on the back of your own pastors.

Friday, July 22, 2005

A confession...

I know I'm getting married in about a month. At this part of the engagement you've already worked through the "Am I sure?? Is this really the right person??" issues. But, you only live once and so there's always that "What if...?"
Well, my "what if" crush is a very special lady that just looks more attractive every day. Smart, sexy, loves to travel, and is very single. An inspiration to women, and a heartache for men all over the world. That's right, I'm talking about ...

Condoleeza Rice... Secretary of State (Former National Security Advisor). So elegant, and so strong. She is the neverending beacon of freedom and our main representative to the world. What better person to export?
She loves democracy, and free markets. So do I. She truly cares about people in third world countries. Me too!
Everywhere she goes she quotes "The Case for Democracy" by Natan Sharansky. Bush gave it to her, and she found it relevant. She's cool enough to rub elbows with Bono, and yet brave enough to go to Lebanon to support Sa'ad Hariri.

And she's smart, with a PhD. Not only that, but she knows a lot about Russia. She's considered an expert on the Soviet Union, wrote her thesis about it. To me, that's very hot. Sizzling hot.

She's like that warm chocolate that melts in your mouth and not in your hands. You just can't get enough of it.

If that's not enough, this fact is: She's a football fanatic. She watches a lot of football every Saturday. Can talk defense with Belichek, and offense with the Sudan.

And she's loyal, too. She loves her country and her faith above all. She's loyal to the President, goes wherever he says and tows his company line. She leads by demonstrating stability and diplomacy, not by being a roaring lion like Cheney or Rumsfeld. That's what you need to make a stable home.

That's perfection. A woman who has all of that and is single, deserves to be made a Queen in a castle. Condi, now you know how I feel about you. I admire you, and my feelings are strong. Will you be the Queen of my castle while we set the world free?



Thursday, July 21, 2005

Addiction to Productivity

I have said that you could learn everything I really learned from my Business Management classes in college by attending just 1 weekend seminar, combined with one project: interview a manager of a company and ask what he does. In this post, I'll show something that's a little more scaled down to a single assembly line lesson. (You can learn about 20-25% of what you'll learn from all of your MGT classes just from this one post, really).

Increasing productivity without increasing expenditure is probably the overall goal of all managers.
In a company like Allergan (where I work), which has Kaizen, 6-Sigma, and other management philosophies plastered on its hallways, one gets the feeling that an invisible someone somewhere is trying to find ways to cut costs and increase efficiency. Increases in outputs get the manager a pat on the back, which is all anyone really wants. This addiction to that feeling of recognition and pride creates an addiction to productivity, that if left unchecked could be harmful to others.

The bulletin board in front of my Refresh Tears assembly line lists the batch # we're doing, the # of units required, and the hourly estimate of how many we're going to produce. Next to that estimate is the # we've actually produced, and whether it was greater or less than the estimate. It's a measure of our productivity.

Productivity can be maximized in the short-term by having everyone do the 1 task that they are the fastest at on the line. This works until the person gets bored doing that task, and productivity slips. Allergan actually has a rule: at every rotation, the person on the line must switch places with someone else. That way, we all learn how to do the different tasks, and we don't get so bored.
When you have new people on the line (like myself), putting them in a new position is going to sacrifice some of that productivity because he/she is going to be slow until they learn the task well. Production will slack off some, but eventually increase as all the new people get the hang of it and work more quickly.

Allergan's rule is good because it forces managers to train new people and realize that we're looking for long-term productivity, not just a great output in a single hour.

This rule will break down when a temporary manager assumes control and feels pressured to increase productivity and look good.

Our main line manager left for a meeting, which put her #2 in charge of us for an hour. Originally, she stuck to her plan and rotated us into different positions, putting me into one I'd never been in before. She explained to me how to do my task, gave the group a warning to be productive, and not to talk, and looked at the bulletin board: 1440 units expected from us this hour.
When the line started, I was slow at getting the hang of doing what I needed to do quickly. Production was lagging, and you could see the #2 manager sweat. She didn't want to be the one in charge of a less-than-normal production during her watch. She moved up and down the line, inspecting everything everyone was doing, and giving suggestions for improvement. She started giving orders. I started improving my speed, and was catching up as my fingers got nimbler to the task. But, it was too late. She wanted to be a star. She quickly put someone more experienced in my spot, and moved me back to the spot I'd already been working at quickly for a few hours and was quite bored with. She knew this was against the rules, but it was either rules or productivity, and you could tell she needed that pat on the back good productivity would give.

The move worked. We put out 1600+ units, well above our expected quota. The whole factory (if they wanted to) could come and see that from 10:00-11:00 we were a productive little bunch.
But, if rules had been followed it would not have been so productive. But, I would have learned how to do a new task, rather than having to learn it tommorrow, and in the long-term (tommorrow) we'd have been better off.

Tommorrow, as I learn this new task I should have learned today, productivity will go down, but the top manager will be okay with it because she's in it for the long-term, she knows it will eventually go up because the line is stronger for knowing all tasks. Her productivity is measured quarterly, or yearly, not by a single hour or assignment.

Remember that, and apply it to your business, personal, and spiritual lives. (This post is better than 99% of what I ever read in MGT textbooks).

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Happy Birthday

Today is my fiance's 25th birthday. I'd like to wish you a very happy birthday, even though I'm not there to celebrate it with you (see previous post).
Tommorrow we'll be just 1 month away from the wedding.

Everyone say "awwww...."

My new job

So, I have a job now...

My first "traditional" job in years, and my first manufacturing job since I was 16 and worked at Hunter. There's an odd feeling of satisfaction that you're producing a product and it needs to be quality and done quickly. There's also a numbness in your mind as it's a mindless job and a soreness in your back as you stand up all day.

Technically, I work for Adecco, a large temp agency. And hopefully, they're trying to find me a better job somewhere. In the meantime, all I've found in Waco to provide employment is the Adecco hookup at Allergan, makers of products like Refresh Tears, kind of like Visine.

I show up for work at 6:45am and join a team of temps working on assembly lines until 3:30pm. Today, we made thousands of boxes of Refresh Tears for shipping. First, the boxes are assembled, then the bottles are inspected and inserted, then the box is closed, next the seals are put on the box, then the box is inspected. The boxes are then bundled into groups of six, and placed on a conveyor belt where they're put into a machine that wraps them. Then, they're straightened out and another machine melts the wrap, making it shrink wrap. Then, they're labeled and put into bigger boxes, and shipped to the warehouse.

(For Mavistown fans, this might also be a Martin Luther King Jr. "I have a dream" situation. All ages, colors, and backgrounds are represented on the line).

Next week, I'm supposed to get promoted(?) to the Quality Assurance department and work a more normal shift. In the meantime, I'm making products.
It's not bad, and will help pay my rent for now.

What's weird is that concepts from my DIS classes (the most pointless and "what the heck is this stuff??" classes in the world) in college came back to me. (That and one of those MGT classes that's really a DIS class). Because on the wall they had graphs with projections of how much was expected, how much time was allotted, and all kinds of productivity analysis. It was Greek to me, and I realized that this is what a DIS major does. We also had a manager figuring out which tasks needed to have everyone in the line working on it (assembling boxes), and which ones we all just needed to get in line on (and which roles we'd all perform). The quest for absolute efficiency.

I now salute you, DIS majors. But, I don't want your job.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Da Bears!

I'm going to suspend my line of posts today, and get back to it sometime later in the week. Today I received the best news I've gotten in a long time. I've officially been accepted to the Graduate Studies program at Baylor University! (Especially good news since I've already moved to Waco). They're also really helping me out with tuition... I mean really helping me out. I'm pretty happy, so I just want to take a moment to praise and thank God, and let my friends know too!
I'm going to go out tommorrow (after work, that's my other praise) and buy some Baylor gear!

Monday, July 18, 2005

An example of an Emerging Church movement that I think would make a good "emerging church" model in America.

My 3rd post on "emerging church," and CPM. No one knows what a "perfect" church looks like, but we're given some good models and directions in the NT. Here's a model I've seen overseas that I like... (props to my future father-in-law who has seen something like this model in action firsthand in SW Poland).

There's a cell group planting strategy overseas that technically isn't "church-planting,"* but it is nonetheless rapidly multiplying in certain areas. I think it's applicable for areas where there is already an established "traditional" church. I like how it's growing, and think it'd be cool to see something like it take off here in the U.S.:

"They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying all the favor of the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." Acts 2:46-47

Picture a small group of people meeting in your neighborhood every week, several times a week . Families, singles, kids, colors, etc. They live near eachother, and are getting to know eachother. They meet every week for worship. They sing songs, pray, read Scripture, and share meals. Maybe 10-12 people. Different parts of the body are represented, people have different gifts. Maybe one person leads an inductive Bible study one week, maybe someone preaches a sermon the next week. They talk about eachother's burdens and needs, and learn to love one another.

Every time this group meets, it invites other neighbors to come, neighbors who don't know Jesus. They'd probably be less likely to go to a church and hang out with people they don't know. But, they might come to a neighbor's house and have a meal. This group of neighbors is really active in their community, is known for helping others, and for their sacrificial attitude. It's hard to turn down an invitation to a picnic or some other neighborhood event they may be putting on because you can see their genuineness.

There are a couple of other groups like this that meet in the neighborhood, and even more in the next subdivision over.

There's a big worship service every week at a local church building. All these home groups get together for corporate worship. They hear news of new home group gatherings, pick up relevant literature, hear testimonies from believers, and a good Bible-based sermon from a leader. There are baptisms as well.

There are new Bible studies starting on new streets. Maybe one of the home groups got too big, so a couple of families decided to meet on their own at a different address, and invite new neighbors to come. Maybe one guy lives by himself in an apartment complex, but invites as many people as he can to study the Bible with him. Sometimes he goes to their apartment, sometimes people come to his. As he takes them through inductive lessons, it's amazing how the Scriptures speak to them. Maybe they start to bring other friends and family. Some of them repent and accept Christ. That first believer has already modeled relationship evangelism and discipleship, and continues to support the new believers. Soon you have 4-6 Believers and 4-6 non-believers meeting together a few times a week. As the group eventually gets bigger, one of the newer Christians begins having a Bible study at his apartment, inviting more of his neighbors. The process continues.

One of the girls in the apartments goes to university in the fall and gets a burden for her campus. She starts a Bible study and a few of the girls in her dorm come. Some are already Believers, but are far from home. Others have no clue about the Bible. After coming to the Bible study for a semester , a couple of girls get saved, and eventually a new study is started on a different floor. Soon every floor has a weekly meeting starting.

Soon, there are hundreds of these groups meeting every week all around the city. Some of them go to the big church building for corporate worship on Wednesday, some of them on Tuesday, some of them on Friday, and some on Sunday. Eventually, they build a new building on the other side of town to help handle the services. People are being baptised daily.

"And the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers." Acts 16:5

After a couple of years there are so many groups, no one has a count of how many groups there are and how many people there are meeting in these groups.

This is a true example of what's taking place in parts of Central and Eastern Europe, and maybe other places as well. For you "traditional" SBC church thinkers, think of these home groups as your Sunday school. Just smaller and more localized in the community (and therefore more active in the community). But, the big paradigm shift is that these home groups are the primary part of the church, unlike your typical Sunday School. People often start coming to these home groups before they ever set foot in a church building. (As opposed to a traditional American church where people usually start out visiting a corporate worship service and the pastors and teachers beg them to attend Sunday School). The small home group is first priority. Instead of a FAITH strategy that sends teams randomly out to houses in the community, evangelism is done by the home group in their own community, and done primarily through inductive Bible study.

Some established churches don't like it when the home groups get so numerous. They can't keep control of what's going on. You see, churches in America like control. They're not just afraid of heresy, they're afraid of some of these home groups having different views on things like eschatology, tongues, music, etc. even when these home groups use nothing but Scripture as their model.

In the above model, the established church can keep track and root out heresies since the home group members come to corporate worship. They hear good sermons that influence what is being taught in the homes. The leaders of these home groups can even report to pastors in the church to keep track of #'s, needs, etc.

*(A real CPM looks just like this, except these small groups are independent. They do all the ordinances: baptism, communion, etc. in their homes. Elders, deacons, etc. arise from these individual house churches and serve in them. As they rapidly reproduce, they're counted as churches. They're all related together as one person leaves a cell group and starts a new one, which in turn starts a new one, and so on. This is the strategic goal of the IMB, and most mission groups in general. [But, most SBCers probably aren't aware of this goal, and it also scares many folks who fear the lack of control as these groups multiply by the thousands]).

What do you think?

Friday, July 15, 2005

Figuring out all this "emerging church" stuff (Part 2)

Yesterday I wrote why I don't like calling the "emerging church" in America THE emerging church. Today I elaborate on some of the similarities I see with CPMs overseas and this movement in America. There's also an important similarity in the questions that these movements ask at a local level (ie: contextualization).

The main similarity I see between the Emerging Church (overseas) and the "emerging church" (America):

I was recently in a Sunday School class at Porter talking about Acts and how the church pooled their resources completely to help those in need, unselfishly. A friend in the class said "Our church doesn't really do that. A few people give a lot, most everyone gives a little bit. We're nothing like we should be. Imagine how amazing it would be if our church was like that!"

I thought: This guy should go overseas and plant churches.

When you work overseas, and take the Gospel where it's never been, you have an opportunity to work with people who've never congregated in a group before, and never seen or heard of a "church." So, if you have the opportunity to tell them, or demonstrate what a body of believers looks like, what do you do? You do it straight from the Bible. There's no need to build a building (in most of these societies, it's very costly, dangerous, and unwelcome to build a church building). So, you meet in homes, or maybe at a restaurant or someplace (depending on the culture). You get to start from scratch with nothing but the Bible.

When someone asks "What's my role here?" you point them to Scripture, and let them figure out what gifts they bring to the body.
Teach a man to fish, and he can feed himself. Teach a man filled by the Holy Spirit to read the Bible, and he can grow. Teach a group of believers to read the Bible, and they'll figure out how to do church in their own culture.

The "emerging church" movement, to me, looks to want to strip away everything that's only tradition in the church. It wants to start fresh with Scripture as its guide, and say "We don't do anything out of tradition anymore." (I won't elaborate on the changes in culture that the "emerging" people point to as evidence that we need change. Every culture is different, and has to figure out what church means in its own context. What program might work in San Francisco may not work in Greenville, SC).

So, neither the Emerging Church overseas nor the "emerging church" here in America ascribe to the traditional or familiar ways of doing things. The difference is the Emerging Church has never seen a church model of any kind to have anything to compare it to, but the "emerging church" has, and has rejected that model as being outdated.

Here's a quote from Baptist Press author Douglas Baker that I like: "Only a return to Scripture can cure a wandering church in need both of repentance and resolve to accurately and passionately preach to people in great need of the salvation of God."

I think to find elements of a healthy church you can look at Acts, but also the New Testament letters. The Apostle Paul instructs Timothy and Titus on how to select leaders, and how to run certain day-to-day aspects of the church. Much is written about how each member is a part of the body, and brings different gifts, and how the people in the church are to act. No church is perfect, because it will always struggle with sin.

Both movements struggle with something called "contextualization." What aspects of the church are cultural, and what aspects are purely Scriptural?

American Examples:
In the Dallas-Ft. Worth area it's hard to attract younger people with a "traditional" setting (a standard church building with pews, Sunday School, a choir and hymns). People are young and move at a different pace. If you have cool multimedia powerpoint, more people will come, because they desire quality tech stuff (the i-pod generation). If you take "Baptist" or "Methodist" off your sign, even more people will come (no matter what your program is). If you have a live band with new music, you're going to appeal to that 40-something-and-under generation that makes up the majority of the Metroplex.
If you just build a church that has Baptist in the front lawn, pews, a good organ, etc., this demographic probably won't come, and you'll have much less people.

It doesn't mean that one is better than the other. It's simply a cultural choice. The Bible doesn't have anything outlawing multimedia, or even mention denominational labels. It doesn't say you have to use a live band with new music, either.

Overseas Examples:
The culture may expect you to do certain things, and Scripture might not say much about it. The culture may be home-based, so all the churches meet in homes. People don't have musical instruments, or electricity, so maybe they don't even sing songs (maybe they don't know any songs). In Muslim cultures Christians constantly ask "Is this tradition Islamic and in conflict with Scripture?" For example, do you perform the Muslim burial rights for a loved one even though you know much of it goes against sound Biblical teachings? Do you say "May God have mercy" when you hear of someone's death, even though you know it's too late for that dead person? Do you meet on Sunday, or some other day? Do you meet in a mosque, or start a Jesus Mosque to reflect Christ worship? Do you segregate men and women during worship, because the culture abhors the 2 sexes meeting together?

The 2 movements should both ask: "What does Scripture say exactly? Is what we're doing Biblical and in agreement with culture, or Biblical and in conflict with culture? How can our church look more like the church in Scripture (and be healthier) and also fit into our culture?"

Maybe I'm waaay off-base about the "emerging church" in America, but I feel like I have some understanding of the Emerging Church overseas. Maybe I'm missing the point altogether, but I see sooo many "theologians" on their blogs asking questions about how to do church, and thinking that these questions are revolutionary. If they would just look to their brothers and sisters overseas, they might see them struggling with the same questions on a deeper level. They also might see what a church looks like without "tradition" or "reformation" but just a bunch of believers with only the Word and the Holy Spirit as their guide.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Trying to figure out all this "emerging church" stuff (Part 1)

Alot of my friends and people whose blogs I read go to seminary (most of them Southern). By leaving the country for 2 years instead of pursuing an MDiv, I gave myself a different perspective on the world, particularly the role of the church (and what the church looks like) and missions in general. While I'm thankful for this perspective, I find that I can't figure out what all these seminary folks are talking about these days. Particularly the whole "emerging church" conversation. I've spent some time since I've been back trying to wrap my head around the issue. (If I'm waaay off-base or clueless, then just let me know and I'll delete my post).

This post grew out of my response to Adam Neel's blog posts of July 1st and 14th, in which he thankfully clarified an issue for me. (I don't think I know Adam Neel, but some of you do).
I'd like any of you pastors/seminary students/internet lurkers to help me out with this, as your comments are appreciated.

Adam, I agree with you that a goal of "Let's win 1 million souls this year" is not Scripturally sound, and that good theology should always be the basis of missiology. I also wholeheartedy agree that witnessing is not nearly the same thing as discipling. My questions for you (and for everyone reading) are: How would you define discipleship? What does it look like? Are you being discipled in that way by your own church, or do you know of a church whose idea of discipleship is the same as yours?

My issue is with the whole "emerging church" discussion. According to the "Internet Monk" Michael Spencer, these rising SBC theologians like Al Mohler "take a chilly attitude toward the non-traditional, missional conversation going on in the emerging church and among innovative church planters and pastors."

First of all, I don't consider anything in America to be, by definition, THE "emerging church." The fact that people call large megachurch programs and every outreach to the alternative, or post-modern culture "emerging church" is very American in view, and doesn't keep in mind the rest of the world. Most Americans (even Christians) only really care about what goes on in America. (If you want proof of this, watch CNN or FoxNews, then watch a broadcast of the BBC. You'll be amazed at the difference a worldview makes).

To me, the emerging church is what's happening in China and parts of Central and Southern Asia, where thousands are now coming to know Christ in places where the Gospel had never travelled. What's it look like? Well, it's different in each area, but it looks alot like the Church in the Book of Acts. People meeting in houses, coming to faith in large numbers, reproducing themselves by the thousands, using Scripture as their only source of inspiration, and being led by lay leaders, and not pastors or theologians. Here's a link to some simplified info on CPM's, as provided by the IMB.

In most of these instances we have no idea how many churches there are, or how many believers. They grow too rapidly to count. Hundreds of thousands of people, and thousands of house churches, in a single year. It's rapidly approaching "every tribe, tongue and nation" having heard the Good News.
This is very bothersome to most people in the SBC, in particular to Seminary professors that question when we call a group of people meeting a "church." That many of these house churches don't answer to a chain-of-command leads many to believe they foster heresy. What we do know is that when an outside body tries to institute a chain-of-command presence, the movement of churches dies out. We also know that in these instances where the groups are based soley on Scripture, they follow Scripture and it defies heresy. BUT, they don't look or act anything like a typical SBC church, and this bothers many folks who give their money to the Lottie Moon offering.

That's an entirely different debate. I've found that most overseas workers don't even try to engage in any discussion here because there is a HUGE disconnect between what most churches say should happen and what the Church should look like overseas and what it actually looks like. If I were to tell you that I know people who prophesy, or were raised from the dead, or were miraculously freed from prison, or healed, you'd answer with skepticism. There's a large part of the SBC, particularly theologians, who say "This stuff can't happen, " or "These churches aren't really churches." As if the book of Acts doesn't apply anymore. Suddenly, theology outweighs missions really quickly, but not for the right reasons. You become real scared that what I'm telling you is true, and great, because it blows your paradigm away. It means that stuff in the Book of Acts is still seen today.

I think the whole American "emerging" movement is simply asking this question: Where in Scripture does it say that I have to meet in a church building, on Sunday, have a Sunday school class, worship in a "sanctuary," present a FAITH outline of the Gospel, wear my Sunday Best to church, and sing hymns?

Scripture doesn't say a person has to do that, but many people in the traditional church will argue that a person should do that. The alternative blows their paradigm away. I agree with anyone who asks this question. The house church movement overseas is based on Scripture, yet most of those house churches look and act NOTHING like a typical SBC church.

Yet, the "emerging church" of America has many aspects that I don't like, and many aspects I don't think are scriptural.

Tommorrow I'll write about the issues I see with America's "emerging church" that I don't like, and some that I do. I would argue that the "emerging church" here still doesn't look like the emerging church overseas.

Let's get some discussion going.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Book of the Week

I still haven't found a job in Waco. I've looked for 3 days and have applied many places. I haven't heard back from any of them. So, I just keep driving around, listening to my books. If I spoke Spanish, I'd have a good job anywhere I wanted.

Book of the week: House of Bush, House of Saud by Craig Unger. A good book about the relationship between many high-ups in the Republican party and the royal family of Saudi Arabia and the Bin Laden family who own a large construction company. An unexpected star in the book is actually Bluegrass Airport. On 9/11 many rich Saudis, members of the royal family, Bin Laden's family, etc. were in Lexington, KY buying horses. While the rest of national airspace was closed, someone high up in the U.S. gov't authorized the evacuation of Saudis from around the country. They flew first to Lexington, then got on a big 747 and flew away, eventually to Saudi Arabia. Some of these folks would have been worth interrogating, particularly those related to Bin Laden, and others who had ties to the bombers.

The book is sad because it shows how we're so tied into Saudi Arabia that we'll never be able to fully fight terrorism (see my previous posts on this subject).

Movie of the Day: Young Guns I bought this on the cheap yesterday and enjoyed it. I used to have it memorized. Remember when Charlie Sheen, Emilio Estevez, and Lou Diamond Phillips were cool? (I know DC does). A great, and somewhat true story of the life of Billy the Kid.

Memorable quotes:
"You dirty Mexican greaser!" and "Navajo!" and "Did you guys see the size of that chicken?!"
(spoken by Dirty Steve).

"I'm a pugilist. But, then again I don't expect you to be understandin' the meaning of that, HOG BOY!" (Charlie).

"I'm her butterfly, and she's my flower. Yeah!" (Doc, played by Kiefer Sutherland)

"I'm darin' ya Billy." (Dick)

"The sacred hoop is broken." (Chavez E. Chavez)

"Did you know we're in the Spirit World?"
"There's many a slip twixt a cup and a lip."
"If you've got yourself 3 or 4 good pals, then you've got yourself a tribe."
"Court's adjourned."
"Reap the whirlwind, Sheriff Brady.... reap it!"
(Billy the Kid)

What's your favorite quote?

Monday, July 11, 2005

Another shout out to a friend

I want to give props to another friend of mine, Tariyel. Tariyel was, and probably still is, my biggest fan from when I roomed with him and a couple other guys for a while in Qusar.

Ay oglan! Ne qeder kef chekmek olar?
Tariyel wants very much to improve his English and computer skills to improve his chances of getting a good job. He's from a village, where the summers mean taking care of the livestock and cutting hay to store for the winter.
Instead, this summer Tariyel is taking even more English classes. His family bought him a desktop PC (this is a first for the village. It'd be like me buying a space shuttle or something).

Here we see him dancing (center) with 2 of my other roomates, Habil and Tahir. This was a common pasttime at our house. Whether it's 3pm or 3am, dancing is always fun.

Tariyel (and many people in Azerbaijan, for some reason I have yet to figure out) loves a group called Modern Talking. These guys are the epitomy of "cool." They're from Germany, and were popular in the early 80's. They sing songs in English that your 5 year old cousin could write better. But, their beat is very popular, and heard often on the radio. No one in the USA has ever heard of Modern Talking, and not many people my age in Europe have either. But, no one in AZ knows that or believes it. These guys made a brief comeback in the 1990's, remixing their 80's songs to a techno beat and adding a rapper. They kept their cool hairdos and tight leather outfits though.

Do a Google for "Modern Talking" and you'll understand why Germans love David Hasselhoff! As you can see, the epitomy of cool!

So, Tariyel dostum, I've posted you on the Net. You'll probably use this to show off to some girls, and I hope that goes well for you. I hope you find a good job somewhere soon, but more importantly, find God. If you're reading this and don't know him, please say a prayer for him.

Friday, July 08, 2005

On the road again...

Well, I packed up my 10-foot U-Haul last night (took forever), got a few hours of sleep, and hit the road for an 11-hour haul to an undisclosed location outside Dallas. I'm exhausted. I often say that Kentucky is a 3rd world country compared to Texas (no IHOP's in KY, for example).
I don't know what that makes Arkansas. I don't have any economic data in front of me about that state, and I don't need any. I know that some of the poorest places in the country are right there. Stuff blows me away every time I drive through it, and I thank God I was born in KY. It's hard for me to believe that migrant workers come from Mexico just to work in Arkansas. Wow.

The only highlight about Arkansas (birthplace of Bill Clinton and Wal Mart) are the cropdusting airplanes that buzz the interstate while they do their stunts and spray pesticides on the surrounding fields.

Anyone got any funny stories about driving through Arkansas?

G8 Conclusion

A brief post on the end of the G8 Summit.

Bono and Jeffery Sachs got their magical $50 billion aid commitment for Africa. With not much else settled as far as accountability or transparency with it. Bob Geldof said he was pleased though, he can go back to his old-rock-star-has-been life.

Here are some statistics taken from the Guardian Unlimited newspaper. (The italics are my thoughts on the facts).

· Double development aid to $48bn (£28bn) (for Africa) by 2010.
Again, no accountability or new strategies here, and this is just a pledge, not reality.

· Write off debt initially for 18 African countries.
This was done a couple weeks ago, no changes here.

· Provide "as close as possible" universal access to treatment for HIV/Aids; tackle malaria, TB and polio; education; and train a further 20,000 peacekeeping troops.
This will involve a whole host of work with pharmaceuticals, NGO's, and governments. Why is it that these countries are eager to train 20,000 African troops but almost no one wants to lift a finger to help us train Iraqi troops??

· Open dialogue between the G8 and emerging countries on climate change, with the first meeting in London in November, but no targets for cutting carbon emissions.
Bush agrees with scientists. A first for sure.

· Provide $3bn a year for the next three years for the Palestinian Authority to help build up institutions.
This has been done before. When Arafat was dictating we threw all kinds of money to him that went nowhere. The current prime minister seems good, but also seems afraid to make real changes in the system. The cease fire is holding, but every day Palestinian kids are still bombarded with anti-Iraeli propganda in schools, TV foments more of their anger, and Hamas says they're just letting the people get a much-needed breather. There is real hope for democracy in Palestine, but we must tie aid to government, education, and election reforms, (and a resolution for Hamas to disarm and become a political force instead) for this to have ANY hope of doing anything but arming terrorists or just buying more time before the next Intifada.

· Establish a "credible end date" for a trade agreement to eliminate export subsidies.
This is the biggest solution to poverty in Africa. When we allow these emerging democracies to trade with us, to sell us their goods, then they'll be able to grow economically. This resolution needs to be done soon and seriously.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Tired of Terror

I was stunned to turn on the TV and see the tragedy in London this morning. My prayers for the victims and their families. It puts all the stuff we post on our blogs in perspective. London is one of my favorite cities. It's completely international; walk a couple blocks and you'll hear a dozen languages. But, I've never been any place where people on the street were so friendly, helpful, and hospitable as they were in London.

Certainly political differences and cynicism have no place here now. So many leaders of the world are together in Scotland to try to solve problems of poverty and inequality that fuel so much of these terrorists' anger. It shows the evil nature of the terrorists to try and disrupt such meetings by taking innocent lives.
May the world's resolve be strengthened to fight the madness of terror. May God draw people to Himself in this.

I'm packing up a U-Haul today to head back to Texas, so there won't be many posts for the next few days.


British food, emissions standards, truth and lies.

Jacques Chirac made some pretty bold comments a couple days ago about the British. While his insults about mad cow disease were clearly jokes, everyone in the world knows that he's exactly right about British food being like garbage.
If you go to England and ask someone who lives there what to eat they will tell you "Don't eat British food, it's nasty" (someone once told me this before I went to London). They have alot of other good international cuisine there (over 50% of London's population is foreign).
But, it's possible justice was served because of these comments on the eve of the 2012 Olympic venue selection, London was awarded the 2012 games over Paris. Good job, Monsieur Prime Minister.

From what Jacques Chirac said:

British food is nasty.

The only significant British agricultural export is Mad Cow Disease.

People around the world, and particularly Europe, are upset that the U.S. refuses to set emissions caps, and refuses to join the Kyoto Treaty. Bush has pledged not to curb emissions, like carbon, because it could cause a big change in industry that would hurt the U.S.economy. The whole world depends on how well our economy is doing, so it makes sense that he doesn't want to curb emissions.

The U.S. is the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases which contribute to global warming. We account for something like 36% of emissions.

Ratifying the Kyoto treaty is the right thing for us to do, and will also clearly help solve the world’s problem of global warming.

The original Kyoto Treaty was created in 1997 to reduce emissions, primarily Carbon Dioxide by all the countries of the world, but primarily the biggest polluters (incl. the U.S.). Clinton knew that Congress would never ratify it, so he didn't bring it up. It fell in Bush's lap and when he said he wouldn't submit it to the Congress the world got mad. This was pre-9/11, and Bush was also pushing the missile defence system, and the world was angry. Bush and his staff originally said things that sounded like "Global warming doesn't exist."

From what Bush used to say:

We won't sign the Kyoto treaty.

False (not exactly a lie, because Bush probably doesn't know):
Evidence for global warming is suspect. Maybe it exists, maybe it doesn’t.

Now Bush says (at least while he's in Denmark):
"I recognize that the surface of the earth is warmer and that an increase in greenhouse gases caused by humans is contributing to the problem” (G-8 Talks Begin with Bush Defending Foreign Policy, NY Times, July 6 2005).

In 2002 the treaty was revised. Now there are 39 industrial countries who have signed on, pledging to reduce emissions to 2% less than what they were in 1990 by 2008. A big, expensive task.

Japan signed the treaty and is on course to have an INCREASE in emissions of 26% by 2009.
France also signed on, and blasts us for not signing on, while they're on course to increase emissions by 9% by 2009. They're not actually following the treaty, but at least they signed their name on a piece of paper.

Bush is saying that this is ridiculous, and we're not going to sign a treaty impossible to keep.

From what Jacques Chirac says:

France signed the Kyoto treaty.

France is actually going to do what they promise in the treaty.

Europe doesn't have to go as far as the U.S. to reduce emissions. In 2002, Western Europe grouped themselves with Russia and Eastern Europe (which has lost a lot of polluting industry since 1990 anyway, and is itself less populous than the U.S. with alot of carbon-reducing forest land) in the treaty and that's why they only have to reduce emissions by a small amount.

So, sure Europe is keen to push their image of being "green" and America's of being dirty. America will have to reduce emissions by 30% to meet the Kyoto standards, clearly impossible unless we shut down most of our factories and stall our production.

Dr. Robert Mendelson argues that the treaty is useless because it is not long-term, and unfair because it doesn't say anything about developing countries that are big polluters (An Economist's View of the Kyoto Climate Treaty, NPR, Feb 8, 2005). He also points out that greenhouse gases affect people disproportionately depending on what climate they live in. Since the overall net effect of the damage to the world is fairly small, the standards should be more modest and applied moreso to countries where emissions reductions would do the greatest good, and should take into consideration countries that are most effected.

Others argue in various blogs that the scientific effects of emissions reduction and its effect on the atmosphere and climate are almost impossible to model. Thus, any benefits of reducing emissions and any harmful effects of not reducing them can't be properly measured or predicted. Thus, it's hard to advocate such a wide-reaching treaty like Kyoto.

An Economic Solution?
With Kyoto's encouragement Europe has created something called an "emissions trading" system. It's simple: Each country has a limit for how much of a gas, like CO2, it can produce, and permits are given out to companies that emit. Companies who are emitting above their amount can buy permits from companies that are under the limit and have permits to spare. Eastern European countries have plenty of permits to spare and sell to bigger emitters like Germany and France. Eventually, emission limits are lowered, and permits become more scarce and expensive. Thus, companies can save money by reducing their emissions, by cleaning up their acts, and by finding alternatives to the carbon heavy fuels they're using (like coal).
The idea actually originated in America with sulfur emission permits. Sulfur emissions were causing acid rain problems, and companies needed an incentive to clean up. The U.S. put a cap on how much sulfur could be emitted, and lowered that cap over time. Eventually, permits to emit became more valuable (expensive) and therefore firms had real economic incentive to clean up their act. (Thanks to NPR's website for this info).

But, Bush doesn't want to put ANY caps on emissions right now, even a large one (and neither do the energy companies that helped put him in office). He claims he wants to investigate controlling and reducing emissions per the size of our economy. According to the Economist magazine, the effects that emissions trading would have on our GDP would be very minimal over the next 20 years.

According to BBC science reporter Susan Watts, Tony Blair's task is to get Bush to:
1) Admit the science of global warming is credible. (I believe Bush finally did this today in Denmark, to clearly head off criticizm he'd face at the Summit).
2) Get Bush to make a commitment to reduce emissions, and make it a priority. (Blair's G8 Climate Change Challenge, BBC News July 4)

Bush's Solution:
Encouraging energy companies to research alternative and clean energy sources voluntarily. He readily points out that our country already leads the way in alternative clean energy research. But, this usually means passing legislation to subsidize energy companies (as Bush's present energy bill does) to research alternative energy sources. In other words, we pay them money to do what should be done. I think that's a bad idea.

A Christian Perspective:
As a born again believer in Christ, and a God-fearer, I think it's important to protect the creation that God put under man's care in Genesis 1. I believe that if every idle word that comes out of our mouths (Matt. 12:36) will be judged by God, then so will the pollution we put into the planet. It's about discipline and responsibility. I also believe we have a duty to be informed of the facts, and to test everything (1 Thes 5:21). So, I believe our country should do its part to reduce emissions, but should not bow to or believe any other nation that says we have to adopt radical restrictions, like Kyoto's, which would be insane for our economy.

That said, I don't believe in subsidizing the energy companies to develop these technologies. I believe in setting a reasonable cap with an emissions-trading market, and a long-term goal that's feasible for our economic growth. This will allow companies the time, but also the economic incentives they need, to begin cutting emissions. It allows us to clean up honestly without being harmed by some Kyoto standard that Europe pushes us to adopt simply to make us look bad for not adopting it.

What do you think?

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Is Debt Relief a Farce?

Let's think about it...

One of the biggest topics of the G8 conference and the biggest push of Bono and the Live8 Concert contributors is debt relief. The illustration they want you to picture goes like this:
Suppose a bank lends you $2,000 at a fair interest rate for a computer that is projected to increase your income by $200 a year. You need the loan to get the computer, to make money, so that your wife won't leave you and your kids won't starve. It'll take you a while to pay it off, but in the long run you'll be in great shape. The bank will even lend you more money as you show that you're trustworthy.

After you get the loan, and the computer, you realize that you don't really know how to use the computer well enough to make $200/year. Your computer gets a virus, and you have to spend some money to buy anti-virus software for it. Maybe the IMF or someone else gives you a loan to do that. Then, your family hates the computer and keeps you from using it effectively. Pretty soon, the interest piles up and you're even more in debt than before. You have to work twice as hard to feed your family and still have to pay off the bank. You're strapped and kept from making money and moving forward like your neighbors are.

Statistics show that for all the money we’ve given in international aid, the poor countries have just gotten poorer over the decades as far as GDP growth.

So, it makes sense to Bono to have your debt forgiven. He has pushed for a Year of Jubilee, based on the Old Testament economic principle of forgiving debt every so often. Just erase the debts and these countries can move forward. You can keep your computer and make profit off it, feed your family without worrying about paying the bank anymore. Sounds great, right? It's certainly got people paying attention, and it's selling concert tickets.

John Perkins writes in his book that the people who told you you could make $250 a year were lying. They knew that you could really only make $150/year. They also knew that you'd need someone to help set it up, and someone to fix your virus problems. The set-up company made money from setting up your machine (you paid them), and the anti-virus company continues to make money from you. The bank was in on this from the beginning, and knows that you're so much in debt that they own you. So, they say "Spy on your neighbors for us. Let us sleep with your wife, too. Do this and we won't foreclose on your house and take your kids." That's why they gave you the big loan in the first place.
He also writes that by forgiving your debt, the bank may make you change your house around. You might have to sell your computer to someone else, and divorce your wife. You get your debt cancelled, but the cost is pretty high, and someone else owns your assets.

A gross illustration, but allegedly true in many countries. So, things may be more sinister than they appear, or they may just be more complicated than they appear. I doubt that it's more complicated.
According to Adam Lerrick, it's actually pretty simple, and nothing like Bono says it is.

You see, even decades ago, development and lending agencies lended out a lot of loans that couldn't be repaid. In fact, 70% of World Bank projects in the poorest countries over the last 50 years have been failures. However, these agencies count their bad loans on their balance sheets as assets. In reality, it's revolving in perpetuity. Every year the country makes a loan payment, the lending agency lends them an amount equivalent to what they're paying back. So, the result is a net transfer of $0 from poor African countries to any lender. No farmers are laboring away to pay off a debt burden.
"The debt burden is phantom and imposes no demands on impoverished economies. For the last 20 years, each and every HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Country)... has benefited from an annual net inflow of official funds" (The Debt of Poor Nations: A Gold Mine for Development Aid, 2005).

Truthfully, lending agencies wrote off the debts as uncollectible long ago. But, they use the "debt relief" slogan as blackmail to get rich countries to fund their failed loans. Agencies such as the IMF and World Bank have claimed that without these loans being covered their agencies will become discredited, and it would raise the cost of lending to poor countries. Prof. Lerrick argues that this is a complete farce, these agencies will always have the resources to function, and that "there is no financial cost to debt cancellation" (Lerrick, 11). Institutions like these, and the African Development Bank have more than enough reserves and provisions to cover bad loans, and are nowhere near insolvency.

Here’s another illustration of what the lending agencies are asking for:
Suppose there’s a charitable organization that wants to give 0% interest loans to American homeless people. The loans will go to pay for training, new clothes, etc. You volunteer to donate $100 to the loan fund, knowing that they’ll lend it out and the homeless will pay $100 back. The next year, the charity calls you and says “Sorry, but the homeless aren’t paying back their loans. We can’t pay your $100 back to you. Would you like to donate more?”
You say “Okay, that’s fine. I’ll just give another this year $100 and we’ll call it a gift for the homeless.” The charity says “No, we can’t accept that. You need to pay us $200. $100 to pay off the debt of the homeless, and the other $100 will go to the homeless as your gift.”
Make sense? They’re wanting twice as much, even though they know the original $100 is a lost cause.

So, what's a solution to all this madness?


Let the big lenders take out an eraser and eliminate those debts from their balance sheets. They've already written them off in reality anyway. Let them own up to it, report their real assets, and don’t expect the big donor countries to pay them extra for making their bad loans in the first place. Stop calling all of this rhetoric “debt relief.” The reason it’s being passed off as “debt relief” instead of “More aid” is because, as Dr. Gillette would say, is because debt relief just sounds sexy. All the talk of Jubilee and everything else has gotten the world’s attention, instead of just promoting more “We Are the World”-style aid like we saw in the 80’s. No summit wants to talk about more aid, since trillions have been spent on Africa alone.

(Another solution involves taking gold now in the care of the IMF that was given in the pre-1971 era by member countries, and returning it back to its respective owners. Those countries, many of them the poor countries of Africa, could sell the gold and raise millions to help themselves. There are other issues with this that I won’t discuss here).

Second, change the rules of the game

A New Era of International Aid?

President Bush has some new principles for aid. One word: accountability. We will GRANT you money (as opposed to lending you money) providing that you show progress in 3 areas: good governance, investment in health and education, and sound economic policies. You’d better be a democracy, you’d better have a good human rights record, and you’d better demonstrate compliance first. If you show us you’re a good candidate, then we’ll grant you money. Make sense? It sure does, what a grand idea! It’s called the Millenium Challenge Account.

Here’s another real solution that will be bandied about at the Summit: Elimination of protective tariffs in both America and in Europe. This allows African countries to compete in the global market. Jacques Chirac and the EU folks, and liberals in America often scream that Bush and the U.S. aren’t doing enough to eliminate tariffs and other protectionist barriers. The truth is, Europe has consistently had much higher tariffs than we do. We’ve had to raise tariffs in recent years just to compete with Europe’s high tariffs. When Europe puts up protectionist barriers, no one says a word, but when America responds in kind the whole world goes in an uproar.
Bush has done a good job of calling the EU on the carpet and giving them their fair share of the blame.

The IMF and others often force African countries to open their markets up to Western imports and to eliminate their protectionist policies in exchange for loan money. This is what is termed “unfair trade,” because it exploits the poorer countries. We’re rich, but we force them to buy our stuff. In return, we don’t buy their stuff. Elimination of these policies will help poorer developing countries (but will create a stink among farmers in Europe and people like the sugar collectives in the U.S. who rely on protectionist policies to stay in business, and have big lobbies in Congress and Parliaments).

Bono has applauded Bush for his aid increases to Africa and for the Millenium Challenge Account. He gives credit to America for providing “a quarter of all aid,” whereas the media often doesn’t. However, it appears that he’s not quite aware what exactly he’s asking for in raising $50 billion more in aid to cover the costs that lending agencies say is needed for “debt relief.”

There are plenty of worthy things to be talked about in relieving poverty in Africa. I’ve mentioned a few solutions here, and taken apart the most popular solution bandied about by the rock bands. Above all, let’s call for transparency, both from the aid agencies who talk about “debt relief”, and from the governments who accept aid.