“Now to Him…”

“Now to him who is able
to keep you from stumbling
and to present you blameless
before the presence
of his glory with great joy,
to the only God,
our Savior,
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
be glory,
majesty,
dominion,
and authority,
before all time
and now and forever.
Amen.”

Jude 24-25 (ESV)

Jude 24-25

“Anatomy of an Evangelical Scandal”

What this article suggests wouldn’t be so sad if it wasn’t so true:

The point of Mefferd’s article is that when big name evangelical leaders fall, they (through multiple machinations) are not truly held accountable and often stay in the pulpit (or return quickly).

God can forgive anything. However, if you are a minister (or Christian leader) and you fall certain ways, it permanently disqualifies you from getting back in the pulpit.

Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,

– 1 Timothy 3:2, NIV

For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain,

– Titus 1:7, ESV

Certain sins make it so we are (permanently) no longer “above reproach” and, thus, disqualified. If we repent, we are forgiven, but that does not wash away the disgrace we brought upon our ministry and, worse, upon the name of the One we serve.

“Why We Love the Church”

Just posted this on my new AI: Alan Intelligence blog:

“For I am sure…”

For I am sure that
neither death nor life,
nor angels nor rulers,
nor things present
nor things to come,
nor powers,
nor height nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us
from the love of God
in Christ Jesus our Lord.

– Romans 8:38-39 (ESV)

Scripture verse

Scott Adams’ Happiness Formula

Although I would put this “happiness formula” first…

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matthew 6:33, NIV).

…this one from Scott Adams (in <em>How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big</em>) seems pretty good:

Book cover
Image from Amazon.com

Recapping the happiness formula:

Eat right.
Exercise.
Get enough sleep.
Imagine an incredible future (even if you don’t believe it).
Work toward a flexible schedule.
Do things you can steadily improve at.
Help others (if you’ve already helped yourself).
Reduce daily decisions to routine.

What do you think?  How do you rate?  (I’ve got a ways to go on quite a few of them.)

List from book

(Cross-posted on my 30 Day Quest blog.)

Just a Thought

 

“PETER HITCHENS: Our selfish dismantling of marriage has left children in a lonely Dickensian hell”

He’s right, you know…

Many modern weddings are lavish affairs in beautiful places, but they simply do not demand the commitment that couples used to make. And many modern couples, seeing which way the wind is blowing, never bother to marry at all. Such commitment is generally discouraged, even viewed as foolish.

And of course this results in much freer lives for adults in their prime, no longer tied down by crabby old rules. But the children are the ones who suffer, and whose freedom from worry and insecurity has been sacrificed to allow for grown-up freedoms to do as we will.

SDMF and Hell’s Angels

(This is a cross-post of an article from 2012 on Traditores.org. It is one of my most regularly viewed posts on that site. The kindness that the Texas Hippie Coalitiion showed me reminded me of it.)

Black Label Society logoAlthough I can appreciate almost any style of music that includes a melody, I am especially drawn to tunes with heavy guitars. Over the years, Ozzy Osborne has had a knack for not only putting out songs with great guitars—he also attracts especially talented guitarists. (For those not familiar with Ozzy, he first became famous as the lead singer of Black Sabbath—another guitar-laden band.)

Perhaps Ozzy’s most famous guitarist is Rhandy Rhoads, who is considered one of rock’s best even though he died at the age of 25 in an airplane accident. Rhandy’s death was hard on Ozzy…but life does go on, and Rhandy was ultimately replaced by Jake E. Lee, who was later succeeded by Zakk Wylde.

Which almost gets us to the acronym in this article’s title. 🙂 Read More

Texas Hippie Coalition

Yesterday, I had the honor of meeting, and listening to, the Texas Hippie Coalition. All I can tell you is that they were the nicest bunch of guys (band and their supporting cast), and that Big Dad Rich provided a prayer before the concert that was an incredible testimony to Jesus. Big Dad Rich’s brother, Terrance, and THC’s drummer, Joey, especially showed me above-and-beyond kindness.

Yeah, I paid for the meet-and-greet :-), but that doesn’t explain how congenial the band members were to all of who had…nor how Terrance and Joey were so friendly outside it.

I will have fond memories of the night long into the future.

Alan Fahrner and the Texas Hippie Coalition

Before I share a couple of video snippets from last night, I’ll admit THC presents a conundrum for me. If you look at the liner notes from their last album, at least four of them call on the name of Jesus. Additionally, from talking to Terrance and Big Dad Rich’s prayer, it’s clear their faith is much more than that of a “cultural Christian.” Yet, as a minister, I can tell you that there are things that Big Dad Rich says, does, and sings about that would cause me to counsel a congregant who said, did, or sung about.

That is, I am blessed to call Terrance, Big Dad Rich, and some of the other band members brothers in Christ, but I do not know how to harmonize aspects of their behavior with what I believe Scripture teaches. Neither my conversations with Terrance at the merchandise table nor the meet-and-greet were appropriate venues for asking about the apparent disconnects, and it is unlikely I’ll ever have the opportunity to do so, but it would be a great conversation…and I will be regularly praying for Big Dad Rich, Terrance, and the band. God watch over you and yours brothers.

Now that I’ve shared my conundrum, here are a couple snippets from “Hands Up” last night at the Wild Goose Saloon in Parker, Colorado (which deserves five stars for being an incredible venue with friendly staff). Coarse language warning:

UPDATE: Egad! I just realized I forgot to say that they were stunning on stage. Amazingly talented band.

Joey, if you ever read this: First, thanks for the friendliness. Second, I don’t know how you do with the drums what you do with the drums. Wow. Third, and finally, you cause me serious hair envy as you whip it around playing the drums. 🙂

To Bid Dad Rich and the rest of the band: You are as equally talented as Joey, and thank you again for your kindness and your music.

Finally, to Terrance, there is nothing I can say that would measure up to the hospitality you showed me. Thank you!

Sean Feucht Versus the Texas Hippie Coalition

Who did it better, Sean Feucht or the Texas Hippie Coalition?

By “it,” I mean: Give God credit.

Exhibit A, a screenshot of the “About” page on seanfeucht.com, searching for all references to “God”:

Screen shot

Exhibit B, the liner notes from the Texas Hippy Coalition’s latest album, “High in the Saddle”:


Liner notes

So, who did it better?

Obviously, my two exhibits prove nothing, but you gotta admit it makes you wonder. Do popular Christians ever consider whether the promotional materials people create for them show the correct amount of humility? Whether people see “Soli Deo Gloria” (glory to God alone) in the words?

Thought for today: Don’t be manipulated

Thought for today: Don’t be manipulated

Today’s thought for today was inspired by this Leo Tolstoy quote:

“Only during a period of war does it become obvious how millions of people can be manipulated. People, millions of people, are filled with pride while doing things which those same people actually consider stupid, evil, dangerous, painful, and criminal, and they strongly criticize these things—but continue doing them.”

Leo Tolstoy quote

It’s God’s Pulpit

Interesting article in today’s NYT:

NYT article

Fellow ministers…and Christian churches in general…it’s not your pulpit, it’s God’s. We need to treat it with reverence. Not just the pulpit: any association that could be rightly considered blaspheming His name.

Final note: I am not commenting on the legitimacy of the 2020 election nor whether one should question it.

Father Stu Gets It Wrong

Although he recently said some great stuff about redemption, I think Mark Wahlberg is mistaken here:

The problem with his view is that there is an assumption that kids can just figure it out for themselves. We don’t do that with non-spiritual things (“Hey, he’ll pick up piano on his own…”) and if we honestly believe there are eternal consequences to making the right decision, as parents we must lay the foundation for a correct choice.

Church surrounded by treedNow, that isn’t forcing them to believe. Someone either believes or doesn’t. You can lead the horse to water, but you cannot force it to drink.

You can force your kids to go to church with you (and you should), but…in the end…you cannot force them to drink the living water (see John 4:10). If you dont “force” them to do what is spiritually beneficial, it’ll be like allowing them to choose between a healthy plate of vegetables or ice cream. The likelihood that they will choose wrongly is huge, especially since the worldly buffet is not just vegetables versus ice cream…it is vegetables versus myriad other unhealthy options that “taste better” to our fallen natures.

Also, don’t forget, when you are avoiding “forcing” your kids into faith, the devil has no compunctions against evangelizing the young ones under your care into hell. He’s not out there saying, “Let’s just let Sally decide on her own.”  (“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8, NIV)

My parents gave me a choice when I was 6-ish whether I wanted to continue to go to Sunday school (I don’t think they were attending at all). You can guess how I (regrettably) chose. Praise God He didn’t give up on me, and I found faith later in life. But, I didn’t know him in the most formative years, and that is a tragedy of sorts, not just for me, but for those who I hurt.

P.S. I discuss the “great stuff about redemption” Wahlberg said here: Read More

Season 1 Episode 4 – Social Media & Bearing False Witness

The fourth episode of Aletheia Quest with Alan Fahrner is “Social Media & Bearing False Witness,” where I look at…perhaps…the Commandment most broken on social media.

S1 E4 YouTube ThumbnailI’ll also look at truth in context of a current event and have our Logical Fallacy or Cognitive Bias of the Week.

0:00 – Intro
1:09 – Current Event
3:26 – Logical Fallacy or Cognitive Bias of the Week
5:06 – Social Media & Bearing False Witness
24:23 – “If You Got Love” by David Britt

A few shout-outs:

Scriptures in this broadcast (all “English Standard Version”):

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor (Exodus 20:16).

You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit (Exodus 23:1-3).

A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will not escape (Proverbs 19:5).

A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will perish (Proverbs 19:9).

A false witness will perish, but the word of a man who hears will endure (Proverbs 21:28).

Be not a witness against your neighbor without cause, and do not deceive with your lips.  Do not say, “I will do to him as he has done to me; I will pay the man back for what he has done” (Proverbs 24:28-29).

And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them (Luke 6:31).

And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 19:16-19).

Please let me know what you think!

– Alan

P.S. You can watch David sing “If You Got Love” right here:

(Cross-posted on my Aletheia Quest blog.)

Is Reading Fiction Important?

I said, more than a few times, that I prefer non-fiction books over fiction ones. Why? Because with non-fiction, if you get 100 pages in and realize you don’t like it, you can just stop reading it and move on. Not so with fiction. If you are 100 pages in, even if the writing is horrible, you are committed. You want to know how it all plays out.

Maybe not for you, but it’s true for me, and I read relatively little fiction, because of it. (Although, I probably could be happy reading a mix of Sherlock Holmes and H.P. Lovecraft over-and-over. :-))

Stolen Focus book cover
Image from Amazon.com

That’s why I had to take a step back when I read something about a beneficial effect fiction has (that non-fiction does not) in Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention–and How to Think Deeply Again, by Johann Hari. After writing this:

I like the person I become when I read a lot of books. I dislike the person I become when I spend a lot of time on social media.

He continued…

But I wondered if I was getting carried away—these were just my hunches, after all—so later, I went to the University of Toronto to interview Raymond Mar, who is a professor of psychology there. Raymond is one of the social scientists who has done most in the world to study the effects that reading books has on our consciousness, and his research has helped to open up a distinctive way of thinking about this question.

This is where it gets tricky to elaborate on, without copying too much. 🙂 Basically, Mar and his mentor, Keith Oatley, wondered:

When you read a novel, you are immersing yourself in what it’s like to be inside another person’s head. You are simulating a social situation. You are imagining other people and their experiences in a deep and complex way. So maybe, he said, if you read a lot of novels, you will become better at actually understanding other people off the page. Perhaps fiction is a kind of empathy gym, boosting your ability to empathize with other people—which is one of the most rich and precious forms of focus we have.

(Emphasis mine.)

So they figured out a way to study it…and…

When they got the results, they were clear. The more novels you read, the better you were at reading other people’s emotions. It was a huge effect. This wasn’t just a sign that you were better educated—because reading nonfiction books, by contrast, had no effect on your empathy.

Hari then shares Mar’s explanation for why this is true, including:

Each of us can only ever experience a small sliver of what it’s like to be a human being alive today, Raymond told me, but as you read fiction, you see inside other people’s experiences. That doesn’t vanish when you put down the novel. When you later meet a person in the real world, you’ll be better able to imagine what it’s like to be them. Reading a factual account may make you more knowledgeable, but it doesn’t have this empathy-expanding effect.

Thoughts?

I’m convinced enough that I am going to purposely mix more fiction into my reading. You?

I would buy Stolen Focus and read it…even if you already imbibe plenty of fiction. Perhaps you’ve avoided the attention-ruining effects of modern Internet, social media, and smartphone apps, but I suspect not. Although I haven’t finished the entire book yet, it is helping me understand why it is such a battle for me to sit and read more than ten minutes, and will give me some tools to correct it.

Well, enough writing…time to prep for my next podcast!

(Cross-posted on my Data Guy (Me) blog.)

Why You Should Read “Why Would Anyone Follow Jesus?”

Why Would Anyone Follow Jesus?: 12 Reasons to Trust What the Bible Says about JesusWhy Would Anyone Follow Jesus?: 12 Reasons to Trust What the Bible Says about Jesus by Ray Comfort
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As I lay here with a cat laying on my left arm and a dog resting under my right, I have a renewed hope that I’ll finally go out and evangelize as I should. Not only have the 12 chapters (and “Final Word”) of Why Would Anyone Follow Jesus?: 12 Reasons to Trust What the Bible Says about Jesus given me additional tools to do so, but Ray’s openness near the end is inspiring and encouraging:

“At the best of times, I’m not excited to witness to the lost. In fact, I never have any joy when I’m about to share the gospel. Rather, I have a measure of controlled fear.”

If what has been holding me back hasn’t held him back for 40 years, I can do this, and so can you. (By the way, he then goes on, “But I never fail to bubble with joy afterward…”)

Who are the audiences for this book? Both the saved and the unsaved.

Image from Amazon.com

– If you aren’t saved, you’ll be given ample reason to reconsider while not insulting your intelligence.
– If you are a brother or sister in Christ, you’ll be reminded why you believe, be provided tools for reaching others, and get a kind, but pointed, reminder that if you truly believe what you claim, you have to stop ignoring the lost souls God is putting in your path.

It is a relatively short book, enjoyable, and easy to digest. Reading Ray’s words are like listening to a caring, wise uncle. Regardless of whether you are a Christian or not it is worth your time. At worst, you have “lost” some hours of your life, this side of eternity. However, if Ray is right (and he is), you could…instead…gain eternal life on the other side.

Final comment: I especially appreciated the Witness Encounters. At first, I thought they were “padding” the book, but quickly realized their tremendous value. If you don’t believe, they’ll help answer your objections. If you do, then they’ll provide invaluable insights on how to spread the gospel.

Thank you Ray. To God be the glory.

View all my reviews

(Crossposted on Goodreads and my Aletheia Quest blog.)

Improving Your Decision Making

I don’t know if this is a “noble lie,” but…

  • If true: More kudos to Zelensky
  • True or false: Great advice for every politician…actually, for every human being

Image, just in case the tweet disappears: Read More

Unknown Knowns

One of the precepts of Aletheia Quest with Alan Fahrner is that “you can know truth.” However, part of doing that successfully (and honestly, is understanding its limits). This famous quote from former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is worthy of pondering:

Because, as we know, there are known knowns. These are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns. That is to say, we know there are some things we know we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns. The ones we don’t know we don’t know.

(Originally from my Aletheia Quest blog.)

There Is One You Can Trust

If you are someone who has ever experienced the fickleness of human friends or family, there is someone you can trust.

Balak (king of Moab) was trying to get Balaam to curse the Israelites. Since Balaam would only speak the words God put in his mouth, Balak learned that the Lord would not turn His back on his promises to Israel:

God is not human, that he should lie,
not a human being, that he should change his mind.
Does he speak and then not act?
Does he promise and not fulfill?
(Numbers 23:19-20, NIV)

There is One who cannot be tempted to betray you. Trust in Him.

Bible quote

(Cross-posted on my Aletheia Quest with Alan Fahrner blog.)