Failing or Forging

Do the fires in your life forge you into greatness, or do you fail in the heat?

The Navy Exchange at the base in Rhode Island had a plaque which read, “Some people are lost in the fires, other people are forged in them – Marines.” The finest swords are heated again and again to burn and melt away impurities that weaken the steel, making it brittle, prone to shatter, and worthless for war.

Life is full of fires, including everything from health to money to relationships. The flames of suffering burn throughout every life, waxing and waning as the days pass. No moment is completely free of pain. Ultimately, these fires will consume the mortal coil of every one of us.

During our earthly walk, some people are damaged or are even destroyed by their fires, while others grow stronger. Some fail while others are forged. A few become truly great. What makes the difference? Four factors characterize those who are forged in their infernos.

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Marketing Myopia

Businesses must recall that they do not exist to sell products, no matter how excellent those products are, but to meet customer needs. Their survival depends upon it. 

Coronado Baptist Church in El Paso, Texas hosted a banquet to raise money for Christian ministries in Africa. A church leader spoke of his experience on that continent (personal experience, 2006).

“Tell me about yourself,” an African pastor said to the American.

“Well, I own a manufacturing plant in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. We are expanding into India” the church man answered.

“Not about your work, that is unimportant,” the African pastor replied. “Tell me about your family.”

The American businessman defined himself by his work, while the African pastor defined himself as part of a family, a church, and a community. As is common in individualistic societies, the American focused on his individual contribution. As is common in communal societies, the African focused on his part of the group and their contribution. The businessman and the pastor had to understand what each meant when they asked, “Who am I?” Had they not, they never could have met one another’s needs, and the mission trip would have been a failure.

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Abortion – The Great Divide

Abortion is the largest issue dividing America, the world. The US Supreme Court is considering the biggest change since Roe. What to know?

American politics is as divided as it has been since 1856, when, in a premeditated assault, South Carolina Democratic Representative Preston Brooks beat Massachusetts Republican Senator Charles Sumner with his oak walking stick. Brooks was arrested but soon reelected, and after a prolonged recovery, Sumner also made his way back to the Senate. The issue then was slavery, and the issue now is abortion.

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Our Weltanschauung, Our Metanarrative

Weltanschauung, the German word for worldview, allows us to interpret our otherwise confusing world. Our  metanarrative, the overarching story, provides our weltanschauung, and gives meaning to our existence by answering four existential questions:

  1. Who are we (am I)?
  2. Where did we (I) come from?
  3. What went wrong in the world?
  4. Where are we (am I) going?

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Whom Do We Thank?

Thanking people for their contributions to our lives is good, but thanking God, from whom all blessings flow, is indispensable. And that is the part that we neglect.

The word “thanks” is found 73 times in 71 verses in the King James Version of the Bible. In Hebrew, four words (two same stems) are used to describe it:[1]

  1. הֻיְּדוֹת (huyyᵊḏôṯ) – thanksgiving
  2. יֶדָא (yeḏā’) – thank, give thanks
  3. יָדָה (yāḏâ) – praise, give thanks, confess, thank, make confession, thanksgiving, cast, cast out, shoot, thankful
  4. תּוֹדָה (tôḏâ) – thanksgiving, praise, thanks, thank offerings, confession

The Greeks, on the other hand, used five words (two same stems):

  1. ἀνθομολογέομαι (anthomologeomai ) – give thanks
  2. εὐχαριστέω (eucharisteō) – give thanks, thank, be thankful
  3. εὐχαριστία (eucharistia) – thanksgiving, giving of thanks, thanks, thankfulness
  4. ὁμολογέω (homologeō) – confess, profess, promise, give thanks, confession is made, acknowledgeth
  5. χάρις (charis) – grace, favour, thanks, thank, thank, pleasure

In every instance of the use of one of those words, the context refers to giving thanks to the God, the Lord of all.

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Equation of Sin

Sin can be illustrated by an equation, and that can help us understand it and reduce it.

Our Sunday School class is studying the New Testament book of James, written to the Jewish Christians of the diaspora by James the brother of Jesus in the late 40s AD. James was the pastor of the church in Jerusalem, and He provides powerful, practical advice for successfully living the Christian life. The first eight verses of chapter 1 discuss the Christian’s need for wisdom and God’s promise that He will provide it, so long as the believer asks in faith. Verses 9 to 11 mention the transitory nature of life, and the consequent even more transitory nature of riches.

James 1:12-18 takes a different track, discussing the nature of temptation and sin, and explaining that God cannot tempt or be tempted, but instead creates His people and provides every good thing for them. One could summarize these verses with the following equation:

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Where are you from?

Usually, the question “where are you from?” is not a “microaggression” but an honest effort to meet a new person. For either party to interpret it otherwise is foolish, selfish, and reduces the possibility of a relationship that could bless them both.

A stocky, white, middle-aged man stood behind the counter at the fencing school as I approached. “I am looking to take lessons. Do I sign up here?”

“Yes,” he said in a thick Russian accent.

I love to get to know people, the studio wasn’t very busy, and I knew nothing about “microaggressions,” so I asked, “Where are you from?”

“Minnesota,” he replied.

“No, where are you from originally?”

“Baltimore,” he answered.

“OK, where is your accent from?” I persisted, eager to learn about his big life adventure.

“Russia,” he said.

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Why is Research Less Respected Today?

Research brought the world scientific and technological advances that have changed the lives of men and women forever. During the period characterized by the philosophy of modernism, from roughly 1750 to 1950, conventional wisdom expected that science would solve all the problems of mankind, both material and moral/ethical. Scientific and social research, which would lead to technological supremacy over the physical world and enlightened policies in every society, would usher in a utopia. World War II, the Holocaust, and the atomic bomb shattered these hopes, demonstrating that science and technology, and the research behind it, can destroy as easily as they can save. Though we prate about following “science,” in the past 70 years, research has lost respect.[1]

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Study Discussion – Gender Disparities in Internal Medicine Residency Awards

In the March 2021 issue of The American Journal of Medicine, seven physicians, whose first names suggest that they are all female, wrote “Investigating Gender Disparities in Internal Medicine Residency Awards.”[1] The authors began by recounting gender disparities in salary, academic rank, grant funding, and awards. They performed a multi-institutional study based on survey data from academic internal medicine residency programs starting in 2009 and extending through 2019. These physicians’ initial findings are in Table 1:[2]

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The Supremacy of Scriptures

The Holy Bible is the supreme authority in Christianity, as it reflects the person and power of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Most Christians take it far too lightly, and suffer confusion and powerlessness in life as a result.

The founder of the Hindu religion is unknown, but he bequeathed a political and cultural system entrenched in thousands of lives and dozens of cities to the residents in the Indian subcontinent. Moses granted his heirs a religio-legal system and a powerful nation on the brink of conquering its Promised Land. On his death, the Buddha left behind an oral tradition of teachings as well as a network of thousands of monks and lay followers, and many monasteries in northeastern India. Muhammad left a religion, a political system, and an empire for Muslims. Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist, and Muslim religious and political leaders ended their earthly lives with books, songs, people, cities, armies, land, money, and everything else befitting a mighty character in history.

Jesus Christ left behind little, at least by conventional historical standards. He wrote no book and sired no offspring. He controlled no lands, no cities, and no armies. He developed no political structure and did not establish a religious order. The Rabbi from Galilee did not even leave a building in His name. What did Jesus pass on to history? 120 followers (Acts 1:15), a little money, and His words and actions as recorded by others. With such a slim posterity, why is He the central figure in human history and the faith that He taught, Christianity, the largest religion on earth?

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Beseeching God in Tribulation

In times of deepest trouble, how do we most effectively call on God?

In Psalm 44, the Sons of Korah beg God for help in dealing with their present trials. The singers are referring to a national trial, probably a defeat in battle during the time of Hezekiah or Josiah, but with existing evidence we cannot be certain. Since the singers make no mention of the destruction of Solomon’s Temple, and since there is no mention of religious persecution, this Psalm is probably set during or after the Babylonian exile.

The Days of Victory

Korah’s sons begin by looking back. Israel had glorious days under the watchful eyes of their loving God. Through His power, Moses delivered the Hebrews from Egypt, Joshua conquered the Promised Land, and David made them into a mighty nation. Verses 1-3 demonstrate that fathers taught their sons for generations about the awesome works of God on their behalf. The sons listened.

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Critical Race Theory

Across the United States, several teachers and at least one coach have been fired for their opposition to Critical Race Theory (CRT). Parents have rebelled at the teaching of CRT in schools, and are being hotly opposed by educational administrators and the political left. Outside the classroom, CRT has dominated the discourse about race and gender in America. It is worthwhile to investigate it.

The Tenets of Critical Race Theory

Merriam Webster defines “race” as any one of the groups that humans are often divided into based on physical traits regarded as common among people of shared ancestry.[1] Some hold that race is a modern European construct intended to “scientifically” justify white supremacy by classifying and devaluing all non-whites. In reality, civilizations have divided people by differences in cultural and physical traits since the dawn of time. The Hindu Vedas sharply discriminate between Aryans and Dasyu, the indigenous people of the Indian subcontinent and perennial enemies of the Aryans, characterizing the Dasyu as “phallus worshipers,” “dark-skinned,” and “harsh spoken.” The Bible notes the Ethiopians as a “people tall and smooth skinned (Isaiah 18:7).” The Muslim writer Said al Andalusi (d. 1070) wrote:

“For those who live furthest to the north between the last of the seven climates and the limits of the inhabited world, the excessive distance of the sun in relation to the zenith line makes the air cold and the atmosphere thick. Their temperaments are therefore frigid, their humors raw, their bellies gross, their color pale, their hair long and lank. Thus they lack keenness of understanding and clarity of intelligence, and are overcome by ignorance and dullness, lack of discernment, and stupidity. Such are the Slavs, the Bulgars, and their neighbors. For those peoples on the other hand who live near and beyond the equinoctial line to the limit of the inhabited world in the south, the long presence of the sun at the zenith makes the air hot and the atmosphere thin. Because of this their temperaments become hot and their humors fiery, their color black and their hair wooly. They lack self-control and steadiness of mind and are overcome by fickleness, foolishness, and ignorance. Such are the blacks, who live at the extremity of the land of Ethiopia, the Nubians, the Zanj, and the like.”[2]

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Revitalizing a Local Church

How leaders and members can revitalize a local church.

Each year, Southern Baptists birth 1,000 local churches per year and bury 900 local churches. Membership numbers at churches within the Southern Baptist Convention lag the population growth in the US. In part, this is because formerly Baptist churches no longer wish to be associated with the name Southern Baptist, which has unfortunate connections to American slavery.  Many of these churches change their names and continue with solid Biblical teaching as before. Christ is still being proclaimed, and there seems little reason for concern.

In America, sadly, fewer people, Protestant or Catholic, are attending church at all. Secularists rejoice, believing that religion is inherently bad.[1] Some hope that religious beliefs of all varieties will wane as science advances, personal freedom increases, and economic conditions improve around the world.[2] This hope is not new…people like Voltaire held it centuries ago.

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