Monday, January 30, 2006

The Holocaust half a century on

Those of us born after WWII and live now comfortably in America have little understanding of the events in Germany and eastern Europe now more than 70 years ago. This was brought to my mind again by a Holocaust observance at our church in Uppsala on 25 January. Sweden has made a strong attempt to make sure that the generations following WWII do not forget.

The mind cannot really comprehend the senseless murder of six million humans whose only crime was to be descended of Abraham. It is impossible for me to fathom the thousands of large and small dehumanizing brutalities that attended these deeds.

And today there are those who deny that it ever took place.

But even more concerning is the re-emergence of anti-semitism in Europe. Anti-semitism in the Middle East is the norm: it is literally an article of faith where the Qur'an calls for the death of Jews. But Europe? What happened to the collective memory of Europeans that they have allowed this evil to rise again among them?

Sunday, January 29, 2006

I may look like an American on the outside...

....but I have the world in my heart.

After the better part of three years in Bible school, Christian university, and mission service to the church in Uppsala, Sweden, I am infected with an irreversible understanding that there are billions who do not yet know Christ. My heart has been enlarged by deep friendships with people from many lands. My sense of direction has been challenged by people who push the envelope of expanding the Gospel.

I am happy to be in Alaska and I am happy to be near our children. But my heart is restless to be pushing back the darkness. I am and will always be an American. I thank my God for this country. But I have the world in my heart.

How, Lord, shall I use the gifts you have given for enlarging your kingdom on the earth? How, Lord, do I reconcile the need to work for a living with the burn in my heart to work for your Kingdom?

How do we know the Bible is inspired

Randy Farris preaching at Anchorage City Church today offered a number of interesting proofs for the rational mind. Faith, of course, is not a matter for the rational mind -- which is a major stumbling block for many -- but that's another story.

Anyway, here are some that he suggested:
  1. Unity -- the Bible does not contradict itself, even `tho it is actually 66 different books written over a period of more than sixteen hundred years by many different authors.
  2. Accuracy -- It accurately pins historical events that we know about from other sources.
  3. Enduring popularity -- the Bible is the world's most popular book, and has been for many years.
  4. Fidelity to early manuscripts -- comparison of the scriptures we have today to recently discovered ancient manuscripts correspond amazingly well.
  5. Archaeological support -- archaeology continues to turn up new support for the words of the Bible
  6. indestructability -- a 19th century writer HL Hastings put it this way: "When the French monarch proposed the persecution of Christians in his dominion, an old statesman and warrior said to him, 'Sire, the church of God is an anvil that has worn out many hammers.' So the hammers of infidels have been pecking away at this book for ages, but the hammers are worn out, and the anvil still endures. If this book had not been the book of God, men would have destroyed it long ago. Emperors and popes, kings and priests, princes and rulers have all tried their hand at it; they die and the book still lives."
  7. Transforming power -- The Bible continues to change lives. Some are healed, some are saved, some are transformed from hopeless slavery to sin to abundant life.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

What course of action results in less wildlife death?

Alaska is locked in a seemingly unending struggle with the jihadists who oppose wolf management. ( Note that I am using the word jihadists pejoratively, of course, but I don't think it's totally inaccurate, given that jihad is loosely applied to religious war. And it strikes me that no few of those involved in this struggle have taken up the religion of secular humanism, or environmentalism. But, I digress.)

It occurred to me tonight while writing elsewhere about Alaska wolf management that controlled wolf management might actually lead to the deaths of fewer wild things in the short or intermediate term.

While that may seem counterintuitive, watch this: Alaskans harvest moose and caribou primarily for meat. Fewer moose and caribou in the larder mean more beef, pork and other domestic meat imported to the state.

Moose and caribou are raised at low environmental cost. Even with wolf control, relatively few animals die to meet the protein needs of Alaskans.

But....when moose and caribou numbers are depressed by wolves, people buy more domestic meat. Domestic animals are raised at substantial environmental cost by comparison to wild animals. The costs include: lost habitat, pollution, consumption of fossil fuels and increased production of greenhouse gases, and disease, to name a few. All of these cause the death of wild things, large and small.

I don't think it's a stretch at all to reckon that MORE wild things die in the domestic meat scenario than the wild meat scenario.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Life in the salad pot

A friend who lives in California and I were talking about how multiculturalism has taken over in California. "My daughter," he said, "has been taught that we Americans live in a 'salad bowl'...not the 'melting pot.'"

Multiculturalism is the failed social philosophy that officially stresses "mutual respect and tolerance for cultural differences within a country's borders." It is a "salad bowl."

America became great because many cultures flowed together in a noble melting pot to become a culture greater than any of the individuals that formed it. To think that we can long exist as a nation formed of several or many individual cultures is to ignore the lessons of history.

The word multiculturalism was first applied to Switzerland in the 1950's according to Wikipedia. It is true that Switzerland is a long-lived nation of four languages (German, French, Italian and Romish) and somewhat dissimilar cultures. But to think that the Swiss model can be applied generally makes as much sense as suggesting that the apparent success of the communal life style of the early Christian Church proves that Communism works.

The success of Communism is, of course, everywhere apparent.

Multiculturalism is a threat to California, and it is a threat to our republic. The "melting pot" analogy of the building of our republic is as valid today as it has ever been. And the necessity for a common language is as important as it has ever been, and today even more so.

We must make English the national language of the United States. We would do well to promote the learning of multiple languages in homes and schools, especially the languages of donor cultures. We would also do well to encourage the inclusion of cultural ways that are consistent with the larger national culture. As our nation becomes more Hispanic and more Asian in character, it seems only right that our culture would tilt in ways large and small in those directions.

The pathway from the salad bowl leads to disunity and perhaps even civil war. The pathway from the melting pot has led to greatness, and it can continue to be so if we can stay the course.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Are we having fun yet?

I'm writing this from Reno, NV, the city where the glitz meets the Sierras. Glitz seems to be writ large here. See for example the casino interior at right >>>

We eat breakfast, for example, in "the Eldorado." It's a fairly nice buffet any time of the day. But just down one level is a most impressive maze of one armed bandits. They are lit colorfully, and blink dutifully so as to attract attention. The walls are covered with mirrors, and the layout is...confusing. Turns out that there is a science to this. A maze-like layout keeps the rubes contained so they spend more.

I decided to try a bit of gambling since it's new to me. Since I had found a quarter in our room heating unit I had some cash to spare. So...I selected a likely looking machine, inserted the quarter, and waited. That didn't seem to produce the expected flood of quarters, so I hit a few buttons. That produced spinning of wheels. But no stream of quarters. I give up: 100% of my efforts failed to produce riches.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Doing the hard thing

Sometimes doing the difficult task, the emotionally daunting discussion, the daring physical act....sometimes they are best done to avoid future pain.

I hate to admit shortcomings, but one of mine is avoidance of the emotionally difficult. Today I recognized that by avoiding an emotionally difficult task I caused people that I care about some pain.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Work in the box

Most of my working life I labored inside the structure of specific working hours. I was paid whether my productivity was 100% or 50%, or whether what I did was useful or just busywork.

I have my own business now, and so I work outside the box of normal working hours. Part of the time since leaving ADF&G I have rented an office; other times I have worked at home. When we lived overseas, I mostly worked at home.

For the last couple of days, I've been keeping a log of what I am doing -- down to 1/10 hour intervals.

An interesting conclusion has come out of the first part of this: I don't work in the business as much as I thought I did. Part of my computer time turns out to be reading news, talking to friends on email or Skype, or MSN, writing, church work, etc. That's good news and bad news: I'm making more per hour than I thought, and I'm not working as hard as I could!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The spiritually asleep West - a Chinese view

Liu Zhenying - "the Heavenly Man" -- was surprised by the Western Church when he finally came out of China. Here are some discontinuous excerpts:

"Before I traveled to the West I had absolutely no idea that so many churches were spiritually asleep. I presumed the Western Church was strong and vibrant because it had brought the gospel to my country with such incredible faith and tenacity. Many missionaries had shown a powerful example to us by laying down their lives for the sake of Jesus."

"There seems to be something missing that leaves me feeling terrible inside. Many meetings are cold and lack the fire and presence of God that we have in China."

"In the West many Christians have an abundance of material possessions, yet they live in a backslidden state. They have silver and gold, but they don't rise up and walk in Jesus' name. "

"When I'm in the West I see all the mighty church buildings, and all the expensive equipment, plush carpets and state-of-the-art sound systems. I can assure the Western church with absolute certainty that you don't need any more church buildings. Church buildings will never bring the revival you seek."

"Not only is knowledge of God's Word missing, but obedience to that Word. There's not much action taking place."

Then someone invariably brings a comforting message like, 'My children, I love you. Don't be afraid, I'm with you.' I'm not opposed to such words, but why is it that nobody seems to hear a Word from the Lord like, "My child, I want to send you to the slums of Asia or the Darkness of Africa to be my messenger to people dying in their sin"?

"Of course, not all Western churches are asleep! Of all the strong churches I have visited in the West, I've noticed one thing they all have in common: a strong and sacrificial commitment to missions among unreached nations. "

These are hard words for us. There are hard words for me here. God help us -- and me -- to return to a sharp faith; a faith that is not blinded by the prosperous culture around us!

Monday, January 09, 2006

Economic death penalty for spammers?

An Iowa judge has awarded a small ISP a judgement of over a billion US dollars against spam operations that made his business operations almost impossible. It's an "economic death sentence" the ISP's lawyer said. The lawyer and his client don't expect to receive the full judgement, but do expect to obtain enough from the illegal operators to put them out of business.

I've wondered what would be appropriate punishment for sociopaths who knowingly steal small quantities from each of millions of people. This may be it: economic death. The point isn't the punishment as much as the deterrent effect.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

The question of doors

Not every "open door" is that way because God has unlocked it. Not every closed door was closed by Him. There are times when God wants us to kick down closed doors, and other times when we should not enter through those that are open. The key to knowing what to do is to listen to the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, we are merely superstitious.

In commonspeak: We should not walk through every open door, and some closed doors should be kicked in. The solution to the question of doors is to hear from God.

On being busy

Busy is better than bored, but fruitful is better than busy. The Lord reminded me of this as we prayed with some at our Church this evening. He had spoken this to me earlier.

My life is filled with work. It's not that I'm worried about making a living......I just like to work. But maybe there is a part of me under the surface that believes that by working more and harder, there will be more provision. But Jesus said "seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well"

Here's the problem with being busy: it leaves insufficient room for relationships and the work of ministry that could happen in relationship. Somehow I must change to be more fruitful and less busy.

Learning a second language ... and keeping it

I have worked on learning Spanish (early grade school in TX), French (HS and college), Russian (1990's) and Swedish (2000 to date). Only a few words remain from those early experiences. Very little remains of the Russian, even having used it for about 10 days in the Russian Far east 11 years ago.

The common denominator of loss is disuse. No big surprise there. I even found when we lived in Sweden that I was losing English. In Sweden we were surrounded by people who spoke English as a second language (or third or fourth), so we often simplified our speaking so as to be understood. For some months after our return in mid 2005 I found myself grasping for words that I knew should have been close at hand.

I continue to study Swedish, both reading and listening to the spoken language daily. Still, I find myself looking up some words more than once. Some words just don't seem to stick very well. Others seem to effortlessly find a more permanent lodging.

Interestingly, pronunciation doesn't seem to slide away. Perhaps the listening process is enough to allow the verbal mimicry necessary for reasonable pronunciation.

Speaking is the area where I get the least practice. As with understanding spoken and written Swedish, a good command of words is best accomplished with lots of practice, apparently.

Sometime in 2005 I realized that I was understanding what I read and heard in Swedish without having to first translate to English. Especially when I am reading, there is a tendency to switch back into translation mode, but it's almost switchable.

Then there is the issue of word leakage between languages. It's easy for English words to slip into my Swedish speaking, but I find that it works the other way, too. Talking to a friend tonight, I almost said goodbye with "hejdå." I find that some words cover a meaning better in one language than the other.

It has turned out to be far more pleasure and interest than I would have guessed.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Civil liberties vs terror

In the news recently we find that President Bush has authorized occasional wiretapping of American citizens. And, horrors, the White House website uses cookies.

Not surprisingly, the Bush haters, the civil libertarians, and legions of their liberal acolytes are screeching loudly.

Lost in the din is any real recognition of the war footing of the United States, and the traitorous intent of some of our citizens. It may have escaped the attention of the above, but we are locked in a to-the-death struggle with jihadist Islam.....oops, sorry....I meant to say "terrorists". I need to make that clear to the PC police.

It has now been almost 5 years since 9/11. Does the above crowd believe that the war is over, or that we can win this war by being polite civil libertarians?

We will as a nation react strongly when the jihadists strike again. We will be asking the same questions: why didn't we know in advance?

I want my government to use every legal means to ferret out and destroy the bad guys. If the legal means are insufficient, I want my government to craft new, temporary, legal means sufficient for the task.

This would be funny if not for the mortal danger. This is a war. In war, one fights the enemy as hard as possible until victory is achieved.

I say "damn the torpedoes...full speed," Mr. Bush.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The West's Last Chance

Here's a provocative quote from The West's Last Chance -- Will We Win the Clash of Civilization, by Tony Blankley.

"...I believe a case can be made, and very reasonably hoped for, that Europe's current trends of the last half-century are even now beginning to reverse. Just as America turned sharply to the right a generation ago -- returning to freer markets, a religious revival, traditional values, increased birthrates, military strength, and national pride -- so will Europe take a similar path in time to reinvigorate its culture and hold off, for the third time in history, an Islamic challenge to the West."

And another:

"Today, the challenge for America and the West is to remain alert to the fact that today's Islamist insurgency is something different from anything we have experienced before. For Europeans, it is something different from even the earlier Muslim expansions.

Because it is something new for us, our laws, tradions, ethical codes, and concepts of friend and foe have not evolved to recognize and manage the threat......Because our law and cultural institutions have not experienced a great cultural insurgency in a globalized, Interneted, and biological, chemical, and nuculear weapon-filled world, we must consider with cool logic to what extent our self-imposed historic standards of conduct are sufficient to protect us from this new danger."

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

2.6 million visitors

I hope this doesn't sound like a boast. I'm really more amazed than anything else. Our largest website, the Alaska Outdoors Supersite, has really taken off in the last two years. The number of website visitors basically doubled in 2005 over the previous year.

There were a little more than 2.6 million visitors last year. These visitors looked at around 50,000 pages per day. The reach of the Internet just continues to grow. At some point there will come a slowing of growth, but for now, it is astonishing to watch.

Monday, January 02, 2006

The Heavenly Man

We Americans might sometimes think ourselves persecuted for our Christian faith. Someone might look at us disapprovingly or denounce a comment or say something disparaging about us and our beliefs.

On a 1 to 10 persecution scale, that doesn't even rate a 1, if the top of the scale is what the Chinese Christians have endured in the last few decades. Even a short reading of The Heavenly Man by Paul Hattaway makes that clear.

Briefly, Liu Zhenying, better known as "Brother Yun," or "The Heavenly Man" is a Chinese pastor who has worked hard to spread the Gospel around Communist China. There are many pastors like him, and as a result of their sacrifice, the message of Jesus is becoming well known in China. Brother Yun is unusual because of the extent of his suffering -- even in a land where this is common -- and because of the miraculous signs that have followed him.

The book reads, in part, almost clinically. Yun matter of factly tells about beatings, electric shocks, needles under the fingernails, starvation, cold, wet, and rejection. But those are not the point of the book. Those things just happened along the way.

The point is that because of his faithfulness, the Kingdowm of God has been extended powerfully where he has worked in China. Today, the Church is growing as rapidly in China as anywhere else on the planet.

It's a powerful testimony to what the Lord can do with committed servants.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

About the name of the blog....

Visiting Israel -- even as a tourist -- was one of the most spiritually energizing activities of my life. That's a whole `nother story but I say that just to tell you that I have, in fact, seen a real olive tree, in a real Holy Land, and can now grok what Paul is writing about here:

and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root (Romans 11:17b NIV)
I'm not ethnically a Jew, but what Paul is saying that we who have taken up the cross of the Christ are now spiritually fed by the same root; that is, the Lord God.

I may be wild -- but I'm happy to be connected.