Saturday, December 30, 2006

Jesus With Skin On

Linda says sometimes we just need "Jesus with skin on." What she means is that there is a time when we need divine comfort and that comes best through those who love us in some measure as Jesus did.

There was a time when Jesus had skin. It's the familiar story of the Gospels, the beginning of which is perhaps most often told in Luke's Gospel.

A recent New Line Cinema Release, The Nativity, tells a fictional account of how it could have been for Mary the mother of Jesus and Joseph her husband. It's a very human story of a young woman scarcely older than a child entrusted to birth the Messiah, but still having to bear the shame of unwed motherhood and still having to navigate the perils of Israel under Roman and Herodian rule.

It's worth seeing.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

You Have Never Talked With A Mere Mortal

I was listening to a talk recently when this C.S. Lewis quote came up: "You have never talked with a mere mortal."

Here's the sentence more in context from Lewis' book, the Weight of Glory:

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations--these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit--immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.

Lewis' point is that the spiritual beings that inhabit the physical constructs that meet our eyes in the form of our neighbors and friends and enemies and the homeless man on the street are all destined for immortality. Those who follow Jesus have God within and will be glorified just as he was. Those who do not will be everlastingly separated from God.

Since that is so, we cannot treat another human as an object. It gives us a glimpse of the grandeur that God created that is available to all who choose Jesus. And it gives us a glimpse of the unfathomable loss when people do not.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Gifts that really give

Last year, some church friends gave a goat as a gift. But the Christmas gift recipient didn't get the goat, someone else did.

Most of us wouldn't know exactly what to do with a goat, but the African recipients knew exactly what to do and were greatly blessed by it. The goat not only gives milk, but also kids, and kids can be sold or used to increase the herd. The continent wide AIDS epidemic in Africa has further impoverished millions, and the goat our friends gave will help to succor families hard hit by this epidemic.

Here's how this works: our friends called a Christian organization that is working with African (and other) partners to bring relief and help in many parts of the world. Our friends gave their credit card for a specific gift (the goat) and the organization sent the goat to the Africans and a card describing the gift to the American relative who was the gift "recipient".

Everyone was happy: our friends were pleased because they have given a triple duty gift, their relatives here in America were pleased to be part of this (and probably pleased to NOT have ONE MORE THING laying around the house that they don't use) and the Africans were pleased (probably ecstatic is closer).

So, we have done that this year. I called Global Action, a Colorado Springs-based ministry that works with worldwide partners (one of which is a good friend from Sweden) and we ordered some Bibles for Russian Jews (they have the Star of David on the cover), and a beehive to provide honey that can be sold to provide educational funds for AIDS orphans in Africa.

This is a new idea in our family, so we'll see what kind of reaction we get. But I think I can predict, knowing something about my family. They're going to be dazzled and happy!

There are other organizations doing some of the same. Two that I know about are Samaritan's Purse, run by Billy Graham's son, Franklin; and Oxfam, a UK charity.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

So many public lands from one spot

From this vantage in Chugach State Park above Anchorage,
one can see public lands west of Cook Inlet....at least the tops
of tall mountains.
In the interesting but trivial department comes this claim: it is possible from parts of Minnesota Drive in Anchorage to see from the same spot:
  • Denali National Park
  • Lake Clark National Park
  • Chugach State Park
  • Chugach National Forest
  • Kenai National Wildlife Refuge
Is there any other spot in North America where one can see so many important public lands treasures?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Divine Mark

Christians know that God in essence is comprised of three persons. The eternal community is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The concept seems mysterious. How can any being exist in three persons? There is much more that can be said here, but my pondering here is this: is “threeness” a divine mark?

We humans are likewise triune. We are body, soul and spirit. Body is that which is physical and perishable. Soul is mind, will and emotions: intangible, but real nonetheless. If we are born again, it is the Holy Spirit which comprises the third part of our nature.

We could also see the family as triune. A family comprised of husband, wife and children is one unit, but also three entities.

Finally, one could also see the church as triune. Christ is the head of the church, and according to scripture, there is within the church there are leaders and the flock.

So…..is three a divine mark? Is it a pattern that God built into creation?

Before leaving this topic, this made me think of something else. It seems to me that God has created the universe based on patterns, or templates. Suns have planets. Stars cluster in galaxies. People come in basically one size and shape.

Here’s my point: evolutionists maintain that the similar structures, even the similarity of DNA in man and apes is proof of evolution. I suggest, instead, that it is just proof that the Creator makes things according to patterns. The man-like pattern is just one of many patterns that work.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Revolution That Shot America in the Foot

The Anchorage Daily News published this in "Compass" on its editorial page on 8 November, 2006 under the title "Sexual Revolution Came at High Cost." This version has been edited slightly and some references added.

The “sexual revolution” has been part of life in American society now for a century, more or less, and it is worth asking ourselves whether this revolution has made our lives better or worse.

I should get to the confession part right away: I was a willing participant in the sexual revolution. Like many in my generation, I was a willing pawn in the struggle to divorce sex from marriage.

But today, I have discovered that the sexual revolution has costs. And today, I find myself on the other side of the barricades. I have become a counterrevolutionary.

The sexual revolution promised low-cost sexual access. Changing social mores, effective contraceptives, and abortion on demand provided unprecedented sexual access outside of marriage; access purchased before only at the risk of disgrace, forced matrimony, or responsibility for children. Today, the goal of widely available sexual access unregulated by marriage has largely been attained.

But now that the revolution has matured, we should ask whether it is worth the costs – and whether society can continue to pay its many costs.

One obvious cost is the dramatic rise of sexually transmitted diseases. Today, one in five Americans has an incurable sexually transmitted disease, and one in four is within sight. A large number of these will die early. Others will unwittingly infect healthy partners and innocents. The economic, emotional, and social costs are high.

After decades of wishful words in the popular media, we now find that the group that consistently reports the highest physical and emotional satisfaction from sex is comprised of men and women faithfully married to one another. (See Sex in America: A Definitive Survey p 131). It seems that the reality of the revolution does not match the gild with which its promoters paint it. Decreased pleasure from sexual union outside of marriage is, counter intuitively, a cost of the revolution.

Increased divorce rates are another cost. Most who cohabit and those who engage in extra-marital sex are significantly more likely to divorce. The dissolution of a marriage is expensive to adults economically and emotionally. It is especially so to children -- even for decades after the death of the marriage. It is even expensive to society at large.

There is an economic manipulation cost of the revolution. The acolytes of the revolution play on our sexual desires for their economic gain. Whether they produce pornography or sexually charged films, or sell products with the advertising aid of partially clothed men or women, they enrich themselves at our expense. We readily open our wallets to them as they twitch their strings.

Anthropological studies have concluded that societies regulating sexual freedom within the bounds of marriage have consistently been the most creative and expansive. Conversely, those that allow the greatest sexual freedom decline. These studies suggest that we allow this revolution to continue at the cost of cultural creativity and cohesiveness.

Finally, many of the ills of society today – increased crime, drug abuse, alcoholism, children killed in the womb, homelessness, and more – can be traced in large measure to the breakdown of the American family. And, the breakdown of the family can be linked in large measure to the sexual revolution. While there may be no straight line connection between a specific social ill and the sexual revolution, what thinking person could seriously suggest there is no connection whatever?

While adults continue to pay some of the costs of the sexual revolution, it is America’s children who are paying the highest price for it. Without effective voice, and unable to understand the forces that batter them, they do not cry out. If we could really hear their pain, we would retreat with broken hearts to the morality that our grandfathers understood.

The God of the Old and New Testaments laid out a simple morality that works. Our American society was originally built on it. It protects the weak, builds strong families and provides a joy that soars far above the transitory pleasures and drama of the lifestyle pandered by today’s puppet masters of sexual revolution. The pattern does not call for perfection, only repentance and turning away from sin to follow the God who hears and saves.

I regret my own part in the sexual revolution for a number of reasons. I will say this much: I have come to believe that the sexual revolution has shot us individually and as a society in the foot, and maybe in the gut. It is time for the sexual revolution to end, and the counter revolution to begin.


A particularly well written and well documented book that covers this and other subjects related to marriage is Why Marriage Matters: Reasons to Believe in Marriage in a Postmodern Society by Glenn T. Stanton.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Does "Living Together" Improve Later Marital Success?

A recent front page article in the Anchorage Daily News reported that more American couples are opting for living together than marriage. The article reported that many are choosing not to marry because of the high divorce rate all around them, hoping that a trial arrangement will lead to success.

The desire to work towards a lasting marriage is noble. But does it really work? Even noble deeds can misfire if based on bad information.

Social science continues to reveal the reasons for the tradition of lifelong marriage: it works. It doesn’t just sort of work, it works better than any other arrangement, and it works best for individuals, children and society.

On the other hand, as counterintuitive as it might seem, social science has demonstrated that couples living together before marriage suffer a 50 -100% higher divorce rate when they do marry. And it’s not just higher divorce rates that hurt: as a group those who live together are statistically less equalitarian, more violent, less successful in remarriage after divorce, more depressed, and less caring of children than their married peers, to name a few.

The reality is that while living together may be popular, it most often diminishes rather than enhances quality of life. For the sake of future happiness for millions, this misbegotten approach to relationship belongs in the dustbin of history along with other failed social experiments.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Some Wisdom on Marriage from My Brothers

I led a session on marriage for men at our church’s men's retreat recently. Part of the session involved men sharing what they had learned in their married lives. There are some powerful lessons here.

Here are some of the items on my brothers’ list to of positive behaviors for husbands:

Break soul ties – the sexual revolution took many of us in with its lies and deceit. As a result we have soul connections to past lovers. We must break those “soul ties” by firmly renouncing them and repenting of those wrong connections.

Listen – we males tend to listen little and talk much. Often what our wives need is responsive, empathetic listening rather than our simple solutions.

Prayer – who has the time to pray daily with one’s wife? But if we will do it, we will find new deep new strength in our connection with God and with our wives.

Resolve anger quickly – “don’t let the sun go down on your anger” is good advice. We need to clear it out before the day ends. We must keep “short accounts” rather than unending lists of grievances.

Focus on the good – we men will do well to focus on the good things in our wives and concentrate on our areas of problems rather than the other way around.

Recognize our wives’ strengths and let them exercise them – marriage completes us, each half bringing strengths and weaknesses. If we will give our wives the encouragement to lead out where they are strong, we will together become stronger than the sum of our individual parts.

Look past the little things – there are many small issues that can trip us up. If we will “not sweat the small stuff” our marriages will be more peaceful and we can concentrate on the really important areas.

There are also some behaviors that we husbands must be certain to avoid as well:

Fixing problems – much of the time our wives don’t want us to fix their problems, they want us to really listen.

Quarreling – instead just wrap up your wife in a loving, non-sexual embrace and say “sorry.”

Manipulation – it’s easy to force behaviors through silence, withdrawal, emotional or physical intimidation. When the day comes that one’s wife wakes up to the realization that she has been manipulated, the marriage is in deep trouble.

Disloyalty – this comes even in seemingly unimportant behaviors like speaking ill or making jokes about one’s wife. When I hear a man do that, his stock falls like a stone in my book. But loyalty is also about keeping all of our affections for our wives.

Criticism – our wives tend to be much more sensitive than we men. What seems like a little criticism to us could be huge in their minds. We can easily crush our wives’ spirits. We must be very, very careful with criticism.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Sexual Revolution Disaster in Communist Russia

We have in the West experienced the sexual revolution for over 100 years. The change in our sexual mores has been so gradual as to make it more difficult to observe the effects. It is not obvious to most of us how badly we have been harmed by this revolution.

Joseph Stalin, Secretary-general of the 
Communist party of the Soviet Union ca. 1942
In Communist Russia, however, the Sexual Revolution came and went quickly because it was a disaster. The words of a former Russian sociology professor tell the story sucinctly:

During the first stage of the (Communist) Revolution, its leaders deliberately attempted to destroy marriage and the family. Free love was glorified by the official "glass of water" theory. If a person is thirsty, so went the Party line, it is immaterial what glass he uses when satisfying his thirst; it is equally unimportant how he satisfies his sex hunger.

The legal distinction between marriage and casual sexual intercourse was abolished. The Communist law spoke only of contracts between males and females for the satisfaction of their desires either for an indefinite or a definite period, a year, a month, a week, or even for a single night. One could marry and divorce as many times as desired. Husband or wife could obtain a divorce without the other being notified. It was not even necessary that marriage be registered. Bigamy and even polygamy were permissible under the new provisions.....Premarital relations were praised and extramarital relations were considered normal.

Within a few years, hordes of wild, homeless children became a menace to the Soviet Union. Millions of lives, especially of young girls, were wrecked; divorces skyrocketed, as did abortions. The hatreds and conflicts among polygamous and polyandrous mates rapidly mounted -- and so did psychoneuroses.

The results were so appalling that the government was forced to reverse its policy. The propaganda of the "glass of water" theory was declared to be counter-revolutionary, and its place was taken by official glorification of premarital chastity and of the sanctity of marriage...

Considering that the whole cycle occurred under a single regime, the experiment is highly informative. It clearly shows the destructive consequences of unlimited sexual freedom.


See also The Revolution That Shot America in the Foot

(Pirtrim Sorokin, The American Sex Revolution (Boston: Porter Sargent, 1956) 113-15 IN McQuilkin, J. Robertson, 1989, An Introduction to Biblical Ethics Tyndale House Publishers

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Using Tantrums to Extend Islamic Sharia Law

Militant Islam is finding a new way to impose sharia law in the West without the mess of having to militarily conquer lands in dar al-harb, the house of war. (That's us, the West).

When some egregious violation of sharia law is found somewhere in the world, militant Islam throws a tantrum, riots, burns flags, and kills a few innocents. Apologies are issued in the West, and people quit doing what they were doing.

Examples: the ridiculous Danish cartoon controversy, the Pope's comments about violence in the name of religion, and most recently the Danish People's Party's youth wing mocking the Prophet.

And people quit what they were doing. For example, four performances of a Mozart opera were cancelled in Berlin (one scene of which was tasteless) for fear of offending Muslims. The fear is not entirely unjustified. With burgeoning Muslim populations, murder or mayhem in the name of Al-lah is not impossible in the West, and especially in Europe.

While there must be clear-headed Muslims who deplore all this, where are they? Why aren't they forcefully opposing this? Does not silence suggest assent?

The Jihad is on again. After a few centuries of dormancy, it's back in business.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Formal and Personal Worldviews

We are all familiar with formal worldviews. They include Christianity, Islam, paganism, secular humanism, and so forth. Each has a comprehensive worldview; a way of explaining the universe.

But what about personal worldviews? These are the little “isms” that we have adopted from other worldviews.

For example, a person may hold a formal Christian worldview, but believe that nothing happens except that God wills it. This is not Christianity – it is Islam. (If Al-Lah wills) Another Christian may have adopted the naturalist worldview that the earth and all the inhabitants of it are the result of a cosmic accident, because that is what science seems to teach.

How can we who are disciples of Jesus stop “worldview creep?”

Colossians 2:8 says ”Don't let anyone fool you by using senseless arguments. These arguments may sound wise, but they are only human teachings. They come from the powers of this world and not from Christ.” That’s worldview creep.

The only way to stop worldview creep is to continually check the plumb line. “Don't be like the people of this world, but let God change the way you think. Then you will know how to do everything that is good and pleasing to him.” (Rom 12:2 CEV) We do this by regular study of God’s word and regular communication in prayer.

How We Live and What We Believe

How I live is the real test of what I believe. What I say or write may be interesting, but you can tell what I really believe by observing how I live my life.

Do I live like I believe that Jesus was and is who He said He was?

Clearly, I make mistakes. And I sin at times. My strengths, and training and my experience make me focus on certain areas of life to the near exclusion of parts of the message of Jesus.

But – the trajectory of my life – is it aimed at “Jesusness?”

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Do you really believe that what you believe is really true?

I heard a teacher describe it as a "haunting question." Let me write this again:
Do you really believe that what you believe is really true?
It's haunting because it cuts to the heart of our belief system.

If I really believed, why do I not always do what the bedrock of my belief system (the Bible and the Holy Spirit) says?

In recent weeks, on two occasions, I have been pierced with clean through by my own unbelief. The first time I failed to act on my beliefs, and again when I heard this haunting question and recognized the depth of my unbelief.

Lord, I believe. Help me in my unbelief. Give me more faith, I humbly ask.

Are Americans Bible Believers?

The short answer, apparently, is “no.” A corollary to this, according to George Barna, is that many of the moral and spiritual problems we face can be traced to attitudes behind this answer.

The longer answer is that some of us do, a mind-numbing 4 out of 100. That’s the bad news. The really bad news is that only 9% of self-described born again Christians really believe in the Bible.

Barna calls it a “Biblical worldview.” Here is the definition that investigators asked 2,033 American adults to respond to:

For the purposes of the research, a biblical worldview was defined as believing that absolute moral truths exist; that such truth is defined by the Bible; and firm belief in six specific religious views. Those views were that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life; God is the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator of the universe and He stills rules it today; salvation is a gift from God and cannot be earned; Satan is real; a Christian has a responsibility to share their faith in Christ with other people; and the Bible is accurate in all of its teachings.


Those who had a Biblical worldview according to this definition had strikingly different views about morality than other adults.

People's views on morally acceptable behavior are deeply impacted by their worldview. Upon comparing the perspectives of those who have a biblical worldview with those who do not, the former group were 31 times less likely to accept cohabitation (2% versus 62%, respectively); 18 times less likely to endorse drunkenness (2% versus 36%); 15 times less likely to condone gay sex (2% versus 31%); 12 times less likely to accept profanity 3% versus 37%); and 11 times less likely to describe adultery as morally acceptable (4% versus 44%). In addition, less than one-half of one percent of those with a biblical worldview said voluntary exposure to pornography was morally acceptable (compared to 39% of other adults), and a similarly miniscule proportion endorsed abortion (compared to 46% of adults who lack a biblical worldview).
Barna’s summary of this investigation and its conclusions are worth a read. The summary is not long.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Church; Eritrean style

On Sunday we went with our friend Egmont Mika to visit the church in Stockholm that he pastors. These people asked Egmont to be their pastor about 18 months ago, about two years after he began teaching sessions for them on an irregular basis. They are different from most Swedes in that all are from Eritrea, a small country just above the Horn of Africa.

Their meetings are in Tigrinya and, with Egmont as pastor, Swedish. The worship was mostly in Tigrinya. Egmont preached in Swedish and his talk was simultaneously interpreted into Tigrinya. Most of the people -- refugees from years of fighting in the area -- also now understand and speak Swedish, but the language of the heart is always that learned from mother and father. Some of them spoke English. Two interpreted for us, although I found I was able to understand most of the Swedish.

We did not expect ululation as part of the worship, but it erupted many times during the singing, especially from the women. Ululation is common in Arabic countries, and perhaps this is an import from across the Red Sea. The people are a lighter brown than Africans coming from the west and south. Their facial features show a mix of other races. Their language shares roots with Arabic, Hebrew and Amharic.

During the sermon, Egmont laid out the vision that the Lord has shown him for this congregation: Jesus to Eritreans in Sweden, Europe and Eritrea. Primary vision components will be preaching, teaching, equipping and sending.

After the meeting, we went to the home of one of the members where we ate traditional Eritrean fare. The foundation of the food is pancake-like injera. These are laid on the plate and meats and vegetables laid on top. Food is eaten using torn pieces of a second piece of injera as a utensil. The food was actually quite good. We have eaten it before and approached it with relish again.

We found real kinship with these people. But it's no surprise: whatever their color or language or customs, we have found kinship with the followers of Jesus wherever we have met them on the earth.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Swimming in Scandinavia

Scandinavians love to be outdoors. This is expressed in outdoor cafes, eating in the backyard under the trees, hiking, camping, boating, swimming, and more.

Swimming opens up questions about how much of the body to expose. Different cultures have different mores, of course. In some cultures, very little of the woman's body is exposed outside her home. In others, near nudity is the norm. No one seems to care too much about men's bodies.

Scandinavians appear to be quite casual about this. When it came time to changing to swimming clothes, we observed people just simply wrapping a towel around themselves and making the change. The little people just peeled their clothes off and ran off to swim without the encumbrance of any kind of clothing. I have one memory of one little blond-haired four year old doll looking back at me as she walked along the dock wearing a happy smile, googles and nothing else.

I didn't have a big enough towel, so I just went a short ways into the bushes and affected the appropriate changes in attire. No one seems to pay any attention to these goings on, or what others are wearing or not wearing. Underwear in these settings seems to count almost as much as normal outer wear.

Scandinavia seems to have a reputation as a sex-crazed part of the world. While we have lived in the bubble of the church, for the most part, we have never really seen that. What we have seen is a society that is quite a bit more at ease about their bodies than we Americans. Of course, we Americans look like libertines to some cultures.

People often leave their shades open, even after dark, for example. No one seems to look. It just doesn't seem to be interesting, and it is probably considered rude to look. I think that's key to much of this: what we are doing or wearing is our business, and it is not polite to intrude into our personal space by staring.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Learning to speak a new language

Sometimes I marvel at the complexities of language. Until I began to learn Swedish, I didn't think about this. Most of us talk and listen without thinking about it. It's almost like breathing.

But consider this: to speak a language, one must master hundreds of thousands of actions. They include: vocabulary, word forms (e.g. sing, sang, sung), pronunciation, stress, sentence melody, word order in sentence, how to use prepositions, the way people talk, and more.

It's not enough to know vocabulary. One can't go far without a vocabulary of at least a few thousand words, but even a huge vocabulary doesn't help if the hearer doesn't understand the word because it is pronounced wrongly. Word order it is possible get by without usage perfect (you understood this?), and placing the wrong preposition under the sentence (and that?) is understandable, but marks one as a beginner.

Today, I understand much of what I read, and snippets of general conversation. When people speak directly to me, I can usually understand and respond effectively. But in the absence of regular training learning is a long process.

Talking is a somewhat separate process from listening. I have found it really helpful on this trip to talk a lot. I don't get any practice at this in Alaska. Listening is easier....I can use the Internet.

It was interesting when we were in Norway last week to be able to speak in Swedish to an older Norwegian who knows little or no English. The languages are similar enough to be able to pull this off. Our talk was mainly about the weather and family, but it worked.

More in this blog on this topic here and here.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Tunnel masters

Norwegians are real tunnel masters. In our travel from Oslo to Bømlo, we passed through a number of them, some short, others quite long. Some shorten travel through the mountains, others pass under fjords. On an earlier trip we went through a 25 km tunnel east of Bergen.

One of the most interesting was Bømlafjordtunnellen connecting the island municipality of Bømlo with the mainland. It is 7.5 km (4.7 mi) long and over 850 feet deep. There are three lanes allowing passing on the uphill climbs. It is well ventilated and well lit, with numerous safety areas.

The tunnels were paid by the nation's new oil money, and are now paid down by tolls our friends here report. We paid 85 NOK (about $14 USD) at a toll plaza.

Two large suspension bridges connect the rest of the major island groups. At the tops of the uprights are huge Viking helmets. The effectd is visually stunning.

We head south today, and I'm sure we'll pass through even more of these tunnels.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Teamwork

A Swedish friend told me once that "Americans see themselves as individuals who sometimes do things in groups, and Swedes see themselves as part of a group who sometimes do things individually."

As I have observed this society for many months, I have never had occasion to believe him wrong. In fact, if anything, I see it more clearly now.

Linda and I have been working in the church in recent days at the Europe Conference. Our job is not overly complicated, but it is helpful to over 300 people who need interpretation to their native language (mostly Swedish to English, but tonight there were 12 languages, not including Swedish). Not very surprisingly, we're part of the Interpreting Services team. It's not called a team, but that is what it is. Within that team, there are subteams doing various things.

There are other teams in operation as well. The usher team, for example, is a well oiled group of probably 40 people who smoothly take care of the practical details.

I groked tonight finally that this approach to working and life is one of the things that I really appreciate about Sweden.

Teamwork makes light work of heavy jobs. It makes burdens easier, and it is more fun, because we are working together. We're social creatures. Why do something alone when it can be done together!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Organization in Sweden

We're back in Sweden for some weeks. It's a delight to be among these friends and family (distant cousins) that we love. We've already had some delightful times in just the few days we have been here. Linda and I lived here in Uppsala for 30 months in the last few years.

This evening I was making arrangements with my cousins to visit them in Södertälje, a community not far south of Stockholm. There are several ways to get there: rented car, bus, commuter train, or mainline train. We've done all three, and our favorite by far is the mainline train.

The train, unfortunately is also the most expensive, but not out of reason. This evening, I decided to be adventurous and order the tickets online. This was adventurous because the ordering system is in Swedish. Fortunately, the system is very, very well organized.

I called up the schedule for the approximate times of our departure and return, and picked the best for us. I then entered my US debit card (Visa check card) number, email and mobiletelephone number. When I pressed the "purchase" button, my mobile signalled almost immediately with an incoming message. It was the confirmation code for our tickets, which we will pick up at the train station from a "ticket automat". A minute or two later, an email popped in with a complete itinerary.

Now I know that we're paying for this level of organization, but it delights me nonetheless when things....just....work. This is not out of the ordinary here; it is normal. Some things work better than others, of course, but orderliness is the norm in society here.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Escaping the pressure of the ordinary

That which takes us out of familiar and comfortable surroundings is often good for us. There were, no doubt, many reasons for Jesus' prayer retreats, but surely one was to escape the pressures of the ordinary so he could concentrate on communication with God.

Religion: A crutch of the weak?

Religion has been accused of being a crutch for the weak. But for the disciple of Jesus, religious faith is no simple crutch. Faith is his strength and shield and comfort. It is the entire platform on which he lives and moves and has his being.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Courts Nix Homosexual Marriages in NY, GA: Good Decisions

Decisions by high courts in New York and Georgia ruling against gay marriage-like unions are a happy punctuation mark in the struggle for reaffirmation of the value of marriage to society. While the courts' decisions were rooted in interpretation of state constitutions, they are still good news. For one thing, the judges did not try to twist the laws according to their own personal beliefs, and for another, alternatives to marriage are not lifted higher.

Families are the bedrock foundation of civilization, and much of the turmoil in society today can be traced to their breakdown. The institutionalization of other civil unions might not seem wrong at first glance, but the reality is that they would be destructive to our civilization in the long term.

An increasing number of organizations and political divisions have granted the rights and benefits normally accorded only married people to unmarried heterosexual unions and homosexual unions. While this behavior is currently popular, I am convinced that we will findthe long term negative consequences to our civilization will be painful.

The value to our civilization of strong marriages of men and women cannot be overstated. We must continue to affirm and lift up this institution for the benefit of generations not yet born.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

A marriage blessing

May the oneness of your marriage
and the joy of your lives together
reach through time to bless the lives
of your children and their children after them.

Changing profession at age 100

A close friend and I recently talked about longevity. The topic becomes more interesting for those of us in our middle years, but is well worth anyone considering.

“I’m going to change professions at age 100”, my friend said. The statement would have surprised me had I heard this idea from him for the very first time, but about 20 years ago he had told me that he was going to live to be 120.

This is not hubris, this is goal setting. What my friend was saying, in essence, is that he intends to live his life in such a way as to reach this goal. He is pragmatic, and understands that he may not attain his goal, but what he is saying is that he is going to treat his body and his soul in such a way as to be able to make it if he can.

It’s easy, I am finding from experience, to “dial down the rheostat” of life in the middle years. “This is too complicated.” “I’m too old for this.” “I’ve tried this before and it didn’t work.”

A Swedish friend told Linda and I on the occasion of our first departure from Sweden that she would miss us because so many she knew had “given up” and we haven’t. What she was saying was that so many of her friends in our mid-50’s age group have dialed down the rheostat of their expectations and activity. She certainly hasn’t given up, and one of the reasons she appreciated us was that we hadn’t either.

There certainly is a place of “surrendering gracefully the things of youth,” as the apostle Paul put it. And clearly, sickness or disability may limit our options. However, there is no reason to give up that which still belongs to us. But I have seen in myself just that behavior, and I struggle against it.

For example, I was surprised to find that gaining strength is not just for the young. I learned this in my late 40’s at a time when I had casually assumed that I was unable to gain as much strength as a young man might. But over a period of only two weeks I gained 50% more strength in specific muscle groups simply by training consistently. It turns out that science has now demonstrated that this potential for strength gain exists at every age of life.

Another example: coming down from an early morning hike into the foothills east of Anchorage, my right knee was in agony as a result of an injury 15 years ago. Later in the day, the other knee was on fire because I overused it in protecting the first knee. I was pretty miserable. The lesson was “I’m too old for this.”

But here’s the reality check delivered by my doctor: I can hike all I want, he said, I just have to build up my muscles enough to compensate for the loose knee ligaments. All the flat ground walking I do is great, he said, but it’s not enough to help with descending from the mountains (which is where the pain is).

How many other areas of my life have I ceded when in reality they still belong to me?

Linda and I applied this discussion to ourselves as we drove home from Delta Junction today. While we have thought casually in terms of what we might do in the years ahead, we are now thinking to set a goal date at which we “retire.” At that point, our idea is to have enough funds to work full time in missions or other Christian ministry.

I like the idea of setting a life goal. It will help to focus what we do. I don’t know if like my friend I’m going to change professions at age 100, but I’m sure going to change it about 65!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Wedding In A Greenhouse

Linda and I went today to a wedding in a greenhouse. Katie's friends Bobby and Daniella wanted to be married in civil ceremony, but not at the courthouse. So, they asked Katie to marry them! In Alaska, almost anyone can officiate at a wedding. It's only necessary to become a marriage commissioner. The state of Alaska paperwork makes it legal then to perform one marriage ceremony. Dani asked that I pray for them, which I was glad to do. Katie did a wonderful job.

It was a pleasant place for the ceremony with tropical birds singing and plants all around. The "Alaska state bird" -- usually present for such ceremonies outdoors here was noticeably absent.

Later, we went to a reception where a number of other friends came and congratulated the couple. We talked for quite a while to Bobby's Filipino parents -- age 95 and 79, and both healthy and interesting. Bobby's father has been in Alaska since 1951, and in the US since the 1930s.

Bobby and Dani bring together a family of four and two children. Katie made a certificate of marriage for them to keep that allowed the children to sign as witnesses.

Wealth

Yesterday was my birthday. I am 56. All of my family expressed their love in the form of birthday greetings. It occurred to me that I am indeed a rich man. I have parents, siblings, children, and many, many friends who love me. We even like each other. I have enough to eat and a roof over my head. The God of the Universe knows and loves me, and I am part of His Kingdom.

Is it possible to be wealthier on this earth?

Fighting the Good Fight and Winning the Beauty

I watched two films yesterday....which is about a 3000% increase in my normal frequency of film watching. Both were Westerns: Conagher and the Magnificent Seven, in that order.

As I was reflecting on these films, it struck me that both had similar themes, and that these themes are written in the souls of men -- which is what makes the films appealing to us, of course. I recognize these themes from the analysis of the soul of a man from a book I read last year, Wild at Heart, by John Eldridge.

The first theme is what I would call "fighting the good fight." In the case of Conagher, the lone cowboy courageously fought the rustlers, even at the cost of physical injury and risk of death. He fought for the sake of honor; because it was the right thing to do. In the Magnificent Seven, the hired gunfighters protected a small and nearly defenseless village against a force much larger than their own. It cost four of their lives. Their wages were just $20, a pittance for that kind of work, even in the 19th century.

The second theme was "winning the beauty." In both films, the "good guy" won the love of a woman.

I believe that as we men age, it is increasingly important to us to have spent our lives well, to have fought the good fight, win or lose. It is also important to us win a wife and to go through our lives with her at our side. I would say that these desires are built into us by the Creator, and it is a good thing to respond to them.

We can respond to these desires that God has placed in us at any age in life. If we are young it is possible to decide on fighting a good fight and doing so throughout life. If we are old, there are battles that even the infirm can fight. Even if we are married in a stale relationship, soured by years of failure and neglect, we can make the decision to fight for the beauty that exists in the heart of the woman beside us.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

New Directions!

During this week's church meeting, we heard some unusual and exciting news. Long time friends of our church New Directions Ministries is moving in with us, and partnering with us.

So we will be two churches in one. New Directions has a strong outreach to counter-culture youth in Anchorage, and has built up a strong ministry helping teens and young adults through great storms.

Starting Thursday evenings, New Directions is going to rock the building with their style of worship.

Starting immediately, we begin working closely together blending our strengths and working together on weaknesses.

Pressing in to the pain

Phil, the consumate butcherYesterday, Linda and I helped bury a friend. Phil Roe died earlier in the week when the Service Fuel Company truck he was driving rolled on the Richardson Highway near Meiers Lake.

We drove to Kenny Lake Saturday morning and arrived before the Celebration of Life began. The Kenny Lake community was hit hard by this death, and turned out en masse. Richard Irwin (our pastor at Anchorage City Church, and a personal friend of Phil's) told us that a number of the businesses in the area closed down so people could be at this meeting. There were perhaps 400 people gathered at the Kenny Lake School gym.

Kenny Lake Community Church and others did an outstanding job of helping the family through this and preparing for these ceremonies. We heard that on Friday night, there was two hours of testimonies about Phil at the "viewing" that had been arranged in his honor.

Over my 55 years I have been to few funerals. That will change as I age; it happens to us all. At this funeral, I came to understand that I needed to "press into the pain." It hurts to lose Phil and it really hurts to see his family's pain. But this is very human, and I am less than God designed me to be if I draw away at this time; both for myself and for them. So, I let myself weep. I let myself hug his family with tenderness.

Linda reading to Felicity and Elon, the two youngest of six brothers and sisters in Phil and Linda's familyAt the grave, we who were Phil's friends had the opportunity to spade dirt onto his coffin. Dozens of men and women came forward and whispered or spoke "good bye" or, as I did "see you later, Phil."

If there is one consolation to Phil's loss, it is that this separation from his family, and from us, his friends, is not eternal. None of us, not Phil, not me, no one is good enough to earn eternity with the Creator of the universe, but it was his gift to all who would truly believe in Jesus, the Christ. There were many tears on Saturday, but Phil's family knows, and we know, that this is not the end.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Power of Committed Marriages

This is the text of a talk that I gave at the final session of the Marriage Course at our church in Anchorage.

For the past seven sessions we have been taking an inward view of marriage. We’ve been talking about how to make a marriage work, and how to make it work well. All of us on the team hope that your marriage has been impacted and strengthened. It’s more than a hope; the team has been praying for you by name as we have gone through these months together.

Tonight I want to finish this marriage course with a look at marriage from another perspective. What I am going to demonstrate tonight is that committed marriages have power. Not only do they have power in individual families, they have power in communities and they have power in nations. In fact, we could call it four dimensional power, because not only do committed marriages impact the world around them, they have an impact through time.

What is a committed marriage? It’s a marriage that stays together for a lifetime. It’s a marriage that is going the distance, no matter what. It’s a marriage working to be more than just two people living in the same house. It’s a marriage like yours and mine where a couple is working to make a successful union of man and woman.

Now, let me stop for a moment and speak to those of us who have had less than perfect marriages in one way or another. Some here are working on a second marriage, or perhaps a third.

Please do not hear anything I say through the filter of condemnation. There is no one in this room who has achieved perfection -- certainly not me. We are all on a journey. Through Jesus, we have the great gift of reconciliation with the God of the Universe.

The book of Romans says it this way: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”

Where we have sinned or fallen short, we have the gift of forgiveness and starting over. If your marriage has been short of perfection, you can start fresh today. If you are in Christ, the old path is covered by the blood of Jesus.

Our society today is full of messages that marriage is a disposable contract. If you don’t like the terms, society says, you can just tear it up and throw it away.

That’s not the way the God of the universe looks at it. Let me read from the Gospel of Mark

Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them.

Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?"

"What did Moses command you?" he replied.

They said, "Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away."

"It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law," Jesus replied. "But at the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female.' 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."


This was a message with an impact. It stunned the disciples and it must have stunned those who asked the question.

Marriage before the coming of Jesus was a disposable item. A husband was permitted to write a certificate of divorce and send his wife away. It sounds a lot like today. Get a certificate from the court, and the deed is done. The marriage is over.

But listen again to the words of Jesus: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."

The message here is that God takes marriage seriously! Jesus is quoting from the book of Genesis. From the beginning, then, it has been God’s plan that man and wife become one inseparable unit.

A contract is an agreement between two or more parties. Contracts are common in our world today. They are important in business because they spell out expectations. Contracts often have provisions for what happens in the case of non performance. In this case the contract is nullified, and the parties are no longer bound by it.

But is a marriage a contract? I suggest to us that marriage is not a contract. Remember Jesus’ words? “They are no longer two, but one.” How can two who have become one nullify their contract? Marriage is not a contract, it is a covenant. It is not like the agreement between two business partners, it is more like the covenant relationship between God and Abraham.

If we are called to marriage, God designed us to be complete through marriage. He designed us to complement our different giftings so that together we are stronger than the sum of our individual parts. He designed us to be strong together to build functional families. He designed two to become as one.

Nations are built of communities. Communities are built of families, and families and nations can be no more functional than the marriages that form their foundation. Good, functional families build good, functional communities. Good, functional communities build strong nations.

America has been a strong nation for many reasons, but foundationally, it has been strong because the strong communities that make it up, and the strong families that comprise those communities have been built upon the foundation of strong marriages.

We are all painfully aware of the great social problems that face today as a nation. Even in Anchorage, the problems are immense. In study after study social science tells there is nothing that drives these problems more than family breakdown. It is not racial discrimination that drives these problems. It is not poverty that drives these problems. It is the breakdown of families that drives them.

If family breakdown is the driver, we can kick that driver out of the car, one family at a time. If my wife and I sow into our family by making our marriage strong, and if you and your spouse sow into your family by making your marriage strong, and if the husbands and wives of our community do the same, we are going to see a harvest of righteousness growing in our society.

There is only one more thing more powerful that you and I can do for our children, our community and our nation than to build our marriages and make them strong, vibrant and alive.

Do you want to build a legacy that will last beyond your lifetime? With our marriages God has given us the gift to reach through time into the lives of our children, and our children’s children and even beyond. Think of it this way: by the good seeds we sow today in our marriages, future generations can reap a harvest of joy.

But it’s not by our power that good marriages are possible. I said a minute ago that there is only one thing more powerful in society than a good marriage. That is the power that makes good marriages work. It is the power of husbands and wives who acknowledge Jesus the Christ as Lord. It is the power of men and women who live their lives through the leading of the Holy Spirit.

If you are not yet a believer, I want you know I am not talking about joining Anchorage City Church or any other church. I am not talking about lighting candles and any of a hundred other forms of religious behavior.

What I AM talking about is meeting Jesus in the stillness of your own heart and mind. He is waiting just outside the door of our hearts, and the Bible says this:

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

We don’t have to do anything religious to open the door; we just need to quietly let him in. We can do that in the silence of our own homes, on the top of a mountain, in a church meeting, or even right here and now.

There is strength in a real relationship with Jesus. That relationship with Christ makes the glue of marriage into an epoxy that is stronger than the materials being joined.

Watch this.

At a Marriage weekend that Linda and I attended a few months ago here in Anchorage, we heard a startling statistic. Half of American marriages end in divorce, and whether people are members of a church doesn’t seem to make any difference. We have heard this many times, perhaps. But here’s what made me sit up in my chair: There is a group of people in this country who have a better than 99% lifetime commitment rate in their marriages. It is those believers who pray together and study their Bibles together. It is those believers who have made their faith the center of their lives together.

If your marriage or mine is not perfect today, it won’t be tomorrow either, but we can start right now on the path to lifelong commitment.

Committed marriages have the power to change communities and nations. They have the God-given power to reach into the lives of generations not yet born. Let’s allow the Holy Spirit to take control of our marriages and watch the blessings grow.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

We are at war

There is an urban legend that one can place a frog in a pot of lukewarm water and gradually increase the temperature until the foolish creature is cooked. While this anecdote is not true, the message is hard to miss: things that gradually worsen can eventually kill.

A story in the Bozeman Chronicle and yesterday's indignities at the Seattle airport combined to remind me of this. The front page story was about a peace march of 1,000 individuals on Mother's Day in downtown Bozeman. The indignities were the usual airport security measures we endured returning home.

The peace marchers seemed to be saying that if we just leave Iraq and Afghanistan then all will be well. That seems pretty desirable to me, too: young American men and women would not be crippled and killed, and Iraqis caught in the crossfire would be spared. If only it were so simple, and our adversaries read slogans on placcards.

Back to the indignities: at security, I forgot to remove my PDA from my back pocket. In the process of trying to remove offending metal and stop the beeping, I took off my belt. I had already removed my sandals and fleece sweater. But the PDA was still there, I continued to set off the alarm, and I became a suspect.

The TSA man waved his wand over me and then patted me down. Another TSA man x-rayed my poor PDA. "It's just a PDA, Jack." I don't have anything against the TSA. They are just doing what the national government has decreed: reducing our liberties so the jihadists won't use airplanes as weapons.

My point is this: we are on a war footing and peace marches won't change that. The Islamic jihadists will not stop until the West bows to their god (Allah) or until they are decisively defeated.

The jihad -- briefly interrupted by colonial subjugation of Islam and modernism -- is on again. Even a casual reading of history makes it abundantly clear that Islam is an imperialist religion and aims to conquer the world by whatever means.

Indignities at the airport can be endured, but they are only one notch of increased temperature. At some point we've got to fight or surrender our culture. If not now, when?

The two shall be one

Jesus' attitude toward marriage was strongly positive. In a day when by religious law divorce was relatively easy, Jesus raised the bar and called men and women to a higher level.

Here is what he said, as recorded in Mark's Gospel (emphasis added):

2Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?"

3"What did Moses command you?" he replied.

4They said, "Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away."

5"It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law," Jesus replied. 6"But at the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female.'[a] 7'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,[b] 8 and the two will become one flesh.'[c] So they are no longer two, but one. 9Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."

10When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. 11He answered, "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. 12And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery."

One of the key points that I think Jesus is pointing out to us is that when we marry, we are no longer two individual people, we are one person. God has designed man and woman to experience a joining of hearts, minds and bodies that transcends mere living together for economic and sexual benefits.

Marriage can be just that -- a joining of convenience -- but when it is so, it misses the deep joy and satisfaction that the Creator intended a man and a woman together. God made us to be one.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Alberta wind generators pump out the megawatts

On a recent trip from Montana to Alberta, Canada, we traveled across a portion of province new to us, the SW corner. We had overnighted at Waterton Park and were traveling NE to visit some friends in Calgary.

The Energy Logics Pincher Creek project pumps out hundreds of megawatts, it turns out. The view is stunning. The picture above, and the audio below tells a bit about what we saw.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Illegal immigration

It's hard to miss the loud noises made by legions of illegal immigrants and their supporters in recent weeks. But we should not mistake loud noises for the voice of rational public policy. Legitimizing illegal immigrants would be dangerous for the United States of America.

I am the offspring of immigrants who came to America from many lands. Most Americans are, of course. We are a nation of immigrants, and that has been good for America.

But, illegal immigration should not be pardoned, and it must be stopped. Let those who come to our country come under law. It doesnÂ’t matter to me that there are large rallies supporting illegal immigrants. Legalizing those who enter illegally makes a mockery of our system of laws.

Most important to me is acculturation of immigrants. Public policy that allows our nation to contain more than one dominant culture sets us on the path to national suicide. It is wonderful that people speak languages other than English, but English must be our common language. My grandparents spoke Swedish. It is my pleasure to also understand Swedish. But my grandparents' first language was English, because their parents understood the importance of becoming part of part of the fabric of this nation.

What's the answer to these problems?
  1. Deport illegal immigrants
  2. Penalize employers who pay illegal immigrants under the table
  3. Make our borders much more difficult to cross illegally
  4. Henceforth, forever deny citizenship to illegal immigrants
  5. Require reasonable proficiency in English as a condition of citizenship
Are these easy solutions? No. Are they happy solutions? No. Are they inexpensive solutions? No.

But the alternative is worse. Generations of earlier immigrants have come legally and they have become part of the tapestry of the United States. The current generation of illegal immigrants has come illegally, and many seem intent to set up their own culture with its own language in the SW United States separate from our national culture. They are stealing a part of our country. If they came armed, we would drive them out by force. Why is this any different?

If we are to be "one nation, indivisible" illegal immigration cannot continue.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Cellular insufficiency

I am increasingly frustrated with the insufficiencies of American cellular phone service. Why can I not:
  1. Send SMS (text messages) from my Cellular One mobile phone (Simply Speaking plan) to my children's ACS Alaska Cellular phones? During the years we lived in Sweden, we routinely communicated via SMS with friends visiting in other European countries, China, and even Africa. Why can't an American cell phone send an SMS across the room when a European cell phone can SMS with any other European, Chinese or African cell phone -- even if they are offered by different manufacturers or plan providers and separated by an entire continent?
  2. Routinely receive cell phone calls when I can originate calls from the same spot? It's pretty frustrating to listen to voice mail and find that someone tried to contact me while I was in good cell phone coverage and the phone never rang.
  3. Dial once instead of three times? With my current cell phone, while travelling, I must dial the number, dial the number again, and then dial MY number.
  4. Pay only for calls I originate? Why should I have to pay for people calling me? Especially if I don't want the call, why should I have to pay for it? Our European cell phone account actually was CREDITED a fraction of the call's value when someone called.
I know, this is a bit of a rant. I'm just a bit disgusted with the way the system works. There is no technical reason for any of this; there are only policy reasons; or at least, so it seems to me. This seems like a perfect place for some Federal Communicatioins Commission regulation to me.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Pearls

As Linda and I attended Bible School at Word of Life Church in Uppsala during the 2003/2004 study year, I jotted down a number of pearls from our teachers. Here's a sampling, and a few of the revelations that occurred to me as I listened.

We judge others by their actions, but we judge ourselves by our intentions. --We have no right to judge others. That is God's job. Jesus was clear on this point: (Mt 7:1-2) "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (NIV)

The unholy trinity: me, myself & I -- This is pretty countercultural. Man has always been most interested in his own way.

The world today doesnt read the Gospels in the Bible; it reads the Gospels as they are wriiten in us. R. Ekh

Your life is not your dreams and wishes. Your life is your habits. R. Ekh (via R. Høidal)

There should be believers coming behind me. If I fail, they may not enter the kingdom.

Sin is sugar-coated poison. And when we need more, the price is raised. Åke Carlson

Joy is a daily choice. My daily walk in faith depends on the decisions I make at the beginning of and throughout each day.

Prayer is, in part: A time of letting God speak into my to do list and change it and conform it to His purposes.

God make me humble with a head held high.

I don't want to be what I have always been but instead what You have always wanted me to be.

The church is an anvil that has worn out many hammers.

It is our habits that make us holy -- Egmont Mika (cell group leader)

The areas of darkness I hide today will be the future areas of failure and bondage. -- Åke Carlson

Friday, April 14, 2006

"Gospel of Judas" -- I don't think so

The National Geographic Society has made much of the discovery and authentication of the "Gospel of Judas." Here's what the NGS website says: "The Gospel of Judas gives a different view of the relationship between Jesus and Judas, offering new insights into the disciple who betrayed Jesus. Unlike the accounts in the canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, in which Judas is portrayed as a reviled traitor, this newly discovered Gospel portrays Judas as acting at Jesus' request when he hands Jesus over to the authorities."

Well, I'm sure it's cool to have found and authenticated an ancient document, but the real question isn't its authenticity, but its veracity.

The situation is not unlike some organization in the distant future that finds an intact copy of The DaVinci Code and thinks that it says something significant about the mankind-changing events of Jerusalem in the spring of 34 AD.

That a "Gospel of Judas" was found doesn't seem especially surprising. It is especially unsurprising in light of the gnosticism that swirled around the Meditteranean in the first centuries AD. This work was likely a product of a gnostic accolyte. The writing was not totally unknown; it was referenced early on by Irenaeus, an early Bishop of Lyons.

The Church adopted a Biblical canon early on in part to specifically reject a body of writings in circulation. The "Gospel" of Judas was no doubt one of those.

Is it "Gospel?" I don't think so.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Some Thoughts on Marriage

I'm hesitant to glibly say, "the Lord gave me this," but I believe in the case of the "three P's, He did. I woke up with it. I think it's worth reproducing here:

Problems in marriages come in from man and wife. What we do (or fail to do) as husbands are not the only problems in the marriage. However, God has given us the leadership position that can bring the solution.

As a husband, you can’t change your wife. You can only change yourself. But, if you lead in a Godly way, she will follow.

These are the three "P's" that were in my heart when I awoke.

* Protect – we all bring in negatives and positives from our original family. We must protect our wives from the negatives, and encourage with the positives. Society and work is full of negatives that we must protect our wives (and families) from. We must also protect our wives and children from emotional withdrawal.
* Praise – praise your wife 50 times as much as you criticize. Whenever criticism is necessary, pray about what to say and when to say it. Never criticize in front of the children.
* Prayer – pray with her daily. Ask the Lord to bless her. Even if your prayer is only 30 seconds long, God hears you and so does she.

Read Ephesians 5:25

* We are to love our wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her
* Christ loved the Church enough to die for Her – like Christ we must die to our own selves for the sake of our wives and our families
* We are to love our wives as ourselves – feeding and caring for her, both physically and emotionally.

If we could look at an account of our verbal transactions with our wives, the amounts might look like this:

* Add 100 credits for every we time praise
* Take away 5,000 credits for every criticism not done prayerfully
* Take away 10,000 credits for every word spoken in a hurtful way

As men, we are built for work. God made us that way. We train, we study, and we apply ourselves to our work. The most important work of our lives, however, goes on within the walls of our homes. When we build up our wives and our children, we are working to give them a secure future, and we are working for our own future happiness. The self image of our wives and of our children will depend in no small measure on how successful we are in this most important of all the work of our lives.

Monday, April 03, 2006

April Fools

One of the fun things about publishing the Delta News Web is the April Fools jokes we have included over the years. Some have been improbable, others impossible, and others just improvised.

One of my favorites is from this year, the buffoose. Here's the cutline that went along with it:

Biologists have been concerned about the potential for interbreeding among moose (Alces alces) and bison (Bison bison). Delta is one of the areas in the world where these two species exist in close geographic proximity. Delta area biologist Steve DuBois captured images of what may be the first known instance of a hybrid between these two species. The body of this animal appears moose-like, but the horns appear to be typical of a male bison. It is not known whether this "bull" is sterile, as hybrids often are. Biologists and lexicophilists are working on names for the new hybridized species. Some that have been proposed are buffoose, moosalo, boose, mison, bioose, bisoose, and mooson. A debate is raging among taxonomists on what Latin name to use: Alces buffaloensis, Bison alces, or something entirely new, Aprilfoolsensis critterus. Photo Courtesy Steve DuBois

Friday, March 31, 2006

A Weekend to Remember

Linda and I last weekend were at "A Weekend to Remember," which is a seminar created by Family Life, which is in term on the ministries of Campus Crusade for Christ. It's designed to help marrieds live well together. I'm ready to recommend it for any married couple, even with as many years of married experience as Linda and me (34 years). I wish we had done this decades earlier.

Key points? Perhaps these: understanding the concept of "oneness," communication, forgiveness.

Are we there yet? I keep thinking this good and delightful union of which I am a part cannot get much better, but it does. Still, we find places of misunderstanding...as recently as 3 hours ago. So, we keep working on it, and finding ways to make it better.

Thank you, Father for proclaiming marriage and the joy of life together!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Capitalism and the environment

In Wired News today is a provocative story about saving the planet. Among other things mentioned by the author and Lester Brown, who was being interviewed:

There's a quote by Oystein Dahle close to a decade ago now, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. He was for many years Exxon's vice president for Norway and the North Sea. He said, "Socialism collapsed because it did not allow the market to tell the economic truth. Capitalism may collapse because it does not allow the market to tell the ecological truth."

Seen at a distance, the problems of socialism are many. The problems o f capitalism, seen up close here in America, are not as visible. We fish have trouble describing what water is like, as the saying goes.

Our society is constantly pushing economic costs into the future. The SuperFund sites all around the United States are just one example. We don't often pay the real costs to society of products we purchase.

And it is not only ecologic truth that is not being told. Social truth is sometimes covered over as well. I see it here in Anchorage: subdivisions are built with little regard for people movement, for example. Where are the sidewalks and bike trails and pathways to bus routes, grocery stories, libraries and so forth? It's easy to think that they have been squeezed out by the desire to squeeze in one more lot for sale. Maybe there's more to it than that. I hope so.

I miss the pedestrian access of Uppsala where foot and bicycle traffic was a priority in the community. We may be maximizing the profit of a few, and minimizing the taxes of the many, but the time will come, I predict, when many are wishing for better foot traffic possibilities.

I'm far from wanting to toss out capitalism. But we ignore its problems at the peril of our environment, our health, and our souls.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Break this heart of stone

As I listen to Annie Herring's Heart of Stone, I was reminded again of Pastor Richard Irwin's moving sermon last Sunday at Anchorage City Church about grace.

The sermon was about grace. If we could really get our hearts and minds around the concept of grace, and apply it to others as the Lord applies it to us, the impact on our communities would be stunning, he said. Out of 100 people, one reads the Bible, and the other reads the Christians. When we who are Jesus' disciples fail to extend grace to others, we are sending a wrong message. We are sending the message of the Law.

But it's easy, right? I just need to be nice to people.

Well, here I am a Christian now two decades, and here's the measure of my grace: this morning, I growled at my gentle, sweet wife over some inconsequential issue. At the time it seemed so important. I had been wronged!

Instead of extending grace to her, I growled. What if God did that to me every time I failed even a little bit?

Pastor Robert Ekh said one time we expect others to treat us based on our good intentions, but we instead treat others based on their behavior. In other words, we expect grace from others because our hearts are "good" but we judge others under the law when they fail at something or another, or cause us some hurt.

When people who are not yet believers look at the church, what do they see? People who extend grace to others? Or do they see people who hold laws in their heart by which pre-Christians are constantly measured?

Pastor Irwin's point is if he can change, and if I can change, and our brothers and sisters who are under grace can change and extend that grace to others, the doorways to salvation will be seen to be wide open, rather than held by those constantly checking for adherence to the law. God's Kingdom will advance.

Break me of my lack of mercy and grace, Lord.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

On praying enough

My wife and closest friend, Linda, has been struggling for about two weeks with an ear infection that has left her with a plugged eustachion tube. Naturally, I have asked God to heal her and "spoken to the mountain" (the ear). Twice.

But yesterday, I understood that I was essentially 1) being prayerless and 2) assuming that since nothing happened the first two times, nothing would happen. But Jesus told us we should always pray and not give up. I gave up. So....now we will pray and not give up....and we wait expectantly for the Lord's reply.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Sephardic vs Ashkenazi

I have generally thought of Jews as simply....Jews. But Jews see themselves as being part of one of at least two large groups, Sephardic (seh-far-dik) or Ashkenazi (ash-ken-ah-zee).
The Ashkenazi are mostly from Eastern European stock. They are, in North America, a much larger and better organized part of Judaism. Sephardic Jews are in North America "a minority within a minority." In a Jews for Jesus newsletter, I read that everying from language and food to religious observance differs from that of the Ashkenazim.

The Sephardim come from a much larger area: Spain, Morocco, Italy, Greece, Israel, Syria, Yemen, Tunisia, Iraq and India.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Listening

Tonight on the Marriage Course the discussion was on listening. I realized that my listening skills are not so hot. Sila Lee said there are several common hindrances to effective listening. She listed these listener types:
  • Reassurer -- the one who says "never mind, it will all be okay."
  • Advice giver -- waits for the speaker to finish and then gives advice, whether wanted or no
  • Intellectualizer -- takes the discussion into esoterica
  • interrupter -- waits for a pause in the speaker's words and then says what is on the mind
  • Going off on a tangent -- changes the subject.
I am guilty of at least the first three, and I short circuit my communications with friends, children and wife by doing so.

Lord help me to change those patterns!

Monday, February 27, 2006

More on Learning Swedish

I wrote earlier about my process of learning Swedish. There have been interesting points of discovery along the way. Here are a few of them:
  • During conversation I find that the Swedish word for a thing sometimes comes to mind before the English word. That most recently happened when speaking to my parents. I was looking for a word describing "people I work with". The first word that popped up was arbetskamrat, which was a better match than colleague, which took a half second or so longer to find in my ordförråd (literally, word storage, or vocabulary). I suspect this is no big deal for people with multiple languages. It probably happens often enough to not even be noteworthy. The reverse of this is even more true, unfortunately. When I am conversing in Swedish, English words pop up with distressing frequency.
  • Sometimes Swedish words lodge in my head and ricochet around without any apparent reason. Fanjunkare, or senior petty officer, as we would say, was a word doing that last week for a couple of days. The word appeared in Red Rabbit, a Tom Clancy novel translated into Swedish that Linda purchased for me in Uppsala a year ago. This book is a result of my sister's suggestion that this would be a good way to pick up vocabulary (she's right). Su is fluent in English, French and Spanish, and understands bits of others, so I think she knows whereof she speaks.
  • Very early this morning, I awoke from a dream that I realized was in Swedish. It probably wasn't very literate Swedish, but I was having a conversation in Swedish.
Learning languages has always had some appeal to me, and putting serious effort into this one has been fascinating and rewarding.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Skiing

Life, fortunately, consists of more than work, as absorbing and entertaining as it may be. One of the pleasures of my youth pretty much unrelated to work was cross country skiing.

One of the trips that I especially remember was a solo trip where Linda dropped me off on the ridges above Goldstream Valley in Fairbanks and I followed an old road for miles downhill until I reached the valley itself. From there it was easy to get home. Another time Ken Klopf and I skied on a winter moose hunt in the Totatlanika River drainage near Fairbanks. It was great fun on a pair of Norwegian skis with bamboo poles that I bought in the early 1970's. We didn't even SEE a moose, but we had a pretty good time anyway.

I haven't skied much since the early 1990s, but today was my second day in a row. I'm going to have to get used to these new waxless skis, however.

Waxless skis are not exactly waxless. One must wax at least the glide surfaces. But as I found today, it's going to take more than that. Yesterday was like skiing on sandpaper. It was a bit better with waxed gliding surfaces, but still I was able to ski uphill....which suggests I don't have the glide part down yet.

This workout also made me realize how much heart pounding exercise I DON'T get. I like to walk, and do a lot of it, but skiing gets the heart really rolling. It feels good.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The breath of life

Pastor Barry Mulock has been part of the congregation at Anchorage City Church for months now. He is about to launch a Four Square Church here in Anchorage. His wife has strong connections in our church family, so it was natural for them to be among us while they are getting ready to launch their new church. Pastor Richard told us about the plan last week....and even suggested that those who feel led to do so should consider becoming part of this new church plant. I told Richard that was the first time I have ever heard a pastor say something like that.

But what I wanted to tell you was a point that Barry made in his message.

The book of Genesis records that God spoke creation into being. With one exception: man. Man, he made from the dust of the earth and breathed into him the breath of life.

While ultimately all life is made from the earth...and it is to earth that we return....only man has that unique God breath.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Invasion of the culture snatchers

I watched a chick flick last night with my wife. It is fun doing just about anything with Linda. But what was not fun was watching the culture snatchers at work. Hollywood has long been doing this, of course, it just hit me worse than usual this time.

Exhibit A: when the protagonists realize that it is love at (almost) first sight, their (almost) immediate reaction is to (almost- saved by lack of a condom) copulate.

Culture Snatch Messages:
1) Love is chemical. If you feel something, you have it, if you don't feel it, you don't.
Reality check: Love is a decision, an act of will.
2) Get into bed before marriage.
Reality check: Studies show that couples who don't live together first have better marriages, and by extension, better lives.
3) Condoms make casual sex safe.
Reality check: Condoms prevent neither pregnancy nor disease.

Exhibit B: the female protagonist has two male homosexual friends with a long term committed relationship.

Culture Snatch Messages:
1) Homosexuals are nice people with committed long term relationships.
Reality check: Many homosexuals probably are nice people. But much of male homosexuality is more about multiple sexual experiences than relationships.
2) Homosexual behavior is harmless and kind of cute.
Reality check: Sexual expression outside of the marriage of a man and a woman is harmful to families, societies and nations. It spreads disease. I'm not sure I get the cute part.

Hollywood may entertain and educate at times, but it comes with the cost of having to put up with its agenda of social change.

Hijacking environmental concern

A colleague who runs an ecotourism business here in Alaska sent me a note from a potential customer who sniffily told him that she wasn't coming to Alaska until state government quit shooting wolves. She is "boycotting" Alaska.

On one level, the boycott is painful for Alaska ecotourism businesses, many of which are opposed to the state's wolf control programs anyway.

But on a deeper level, it seems to me as if "crying wolf" as Friends of Animals, etc. are doing may be doing more harm than good. The world is facing really serious environmental issues today: overfishing, desertification, global warming, ozone depletion, reduction of species diversity in many areas, and more. Some of these issues are causing irreversible damage to our planetary home.

The issue of wolf control is a matter of emotional concern, but under the laws and wildlife conservation practices of the United States is scarcely a matter of biological concern. Emotional harm is harm in any case, but when measured against overfishing, for example, seems pretty weak.

We as a people have only so much capacity for reacting to issues. I believe Friends of Animals and others like them are drawing away needed capacity for public pressure to deal with issues that have long term or irreversible consequences.

If this is accurate, then I propose that they are actually doing more environmental harm than good.