My Humble Plea to the Smug Atheist

ImageGrowing up, science was a great passion of mine. I graduated with a bachelor’s in Applied Science with an emphasis in Aviation Technologies. I’ve studied biology, chemistry, physics, and geology just for fun.  But something happened along the way to the cockpit. I became a Christian and devoted my life to teaching life to the living and bringing hope to the dying. And in the last few years, I have seen a shift in the perception of “people of faith”.

I experience this shift when people find out I am a follower of Christ and the discussion turns toward ultimate questions. It usually manifests itself with a phrase something like, “That’s great that you have found something that works for you (and kids and hairy-legged old ladies) but I’m a person of science. You have faith, but I need evidence. I am a person of rational thought, I cannot live by blind faith.”

I want to address this attitude by helping anyone who thinks along these lines because, well, you need help. First, you present a logical fallacy called the false dilemma – you are either a person of faith or evidence. No, you can be both, in fact every rational person is. Second, to further the point: everybody has faith. Even if you deny the existence of God, you must accept key presuppositions by faith because you cannot have ultimate knowledge about the ultimate questions of life. Otherwise you could say, “By virtue of my infinite knowledge, I declare that there is no being out there with infinite knowledge (God).” Anyone catch the internal contradiction?

The question isn’t whether or not you have faith, the question is the veracity of the OBJECT of your faith. This is where many commit another fallacy. They say, I have faith in science. They reify science as though it has causal properties. Science is simply a philosophy and a methodology of answering the “what?” questions of life but it cannot answer the “why?” questions. Like “Why are we here?” or “Why is there something rather than nothing?” There are often two ways to answer the questions of life. For instance, if I asked you why the water is boiling, you could scientifically tell me that when water is heated to a specific temperature, it boils. But you could also answer, “Aunt May is making a pot of tea.” Science couldn’t answer the latter question without personal revelation of Aunt May’s motives. Therefore, true revelation is a legitimate system of gathering knowledge. Science isn’t the only game of knowledge in town. It’s a useful tool, a wonderful tool, but not the only one.

And lastly, when one says they don’t believe in God because they aren’t people of faith, they are affirming what they DO believe by default:
•    That everything came from nothing. Oh, I know that people will go through all manner of contortions to avoid this conclusion but it ends up being an equivocating shell game of words that don’t mean nothing (vacuum fluctuations, multi-verse theories) but they desperately want them to mean nothing. Nothing means nothing – NO THING. And nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever will.
•    That an undirected non-thinking process is responsible for thinking. Illogical on its face.
•    That an undirected process working on non-living chemicals caused life. A process that even the father of chemical predestination refuted over 20 years ago. (See Dean Kenyon). They hope that one day life will be formed in a lab. But will brilliant scientists, working with very precise, intelligently-designed laboratory equipment, really prove that no purposeful intelligence was required when they ultimately create life? Actually, it will prove the opposite.
•    That, love, hope, morality, will, and purpose all came from the periodic table of elements, which came from nothing, which birthed life and minds so we could all ponder the meaning of this.

So here is my humble plea to the smug atheist:
Don’t condescend to people of faith, because I will just tell you, the objects of your faith are not just evidence based but are also large, unproven leaps of faith. I recognize that Christianity has some faith bridges that one must cross, but these are not bridges of blind faith. They are under-girded by logic, science, and the historical person of Christ. So be careful when playing the “evidence” card, for the ice you are standing on is not that thick. As philosopher Ravi Zacharias puts it, “God has put enough into this world to make believing in him reasonable, but he has left enough out to keep us from believing in him by sheer reason alone.” Get off the ice and onto the Rock, it is a surer foundation from which to explore the wonders of the universe!

Fighting the Poverty Mentality

I’m not sure where it came from, but I battled what I call “minimal thinking” most of my life. My parents and others spotted it in me early. They tried to help, but it took God to finally help me grow beyond it. I have learned to see this as a combination of a poor understanding of the nature of God, a poor understanding of who He made me to be, and a combination of laziness and selfishness which all amounted to poor stewardship. Allow me to share with you some things I have learned that may help you or someone you know.

1. God is not a minimalist. God did not create just one star, and one planet. The universe is fine-tuned for life and that fine tuning includes billions of stars and galaxies to declare his glory. When Jesus performed miracles of increase – water into wine, loaves and fishes – he produced the best and more than enough. Not just enough, more than enough. He taught us to go not just the first mile but also the extra-mile. So minimal, just-enough, sit in my comfort zone living, does not reflect the character and nature of God.

2. Minimal thinking does not reflect who He made me to be. All of nature is wired for increase. When my second son turned fourteen, we shared a great moment illustrating this. Each year as my kids get older, I tell them that I expect more contribution to the family economy. I asked my boy to head out to the garden and begin weeding (his contribution that day to the family economy). He gave me an attitude and I asked him to meet me in the garden. I pointed to a nearly mature sunflower and asked, “How many seeds are in that sunflower?” “I don’t know, maybe 200 or so?” he said.  “How many seeds did it start with?” “One,” came the reply. I pointed to the chicken coop and asked, “How many eggs do those chickens give us?” “About one each per day.” “How many eggs did it take to produce one chicken?” “One.” Then the next question puzzled him, “Have you gone through puberty?” “What?” “Have you gone through puberty?” I asked again. “Yes,” he nervously responded (I knew the answer prior to the question.) Then I told him this golden nugget of truth: Puberty is a sign to begin producing more than you consume. God created all of nature to increase and if we didn’t grow into that, we were living beneath our God-given potential.

3. I realized God gifted me to produce a surplus to help the less fortunate. Growing up, I didn’t really see how much blessing and opportunity God gave me.  While I grew up in poorer and working class neighborhoods, God gifted me with health, strength, intellect, running water, an abundance of food, opportunity for education, a free-market economy, and examples of hard work all around me. To whom much is given, much is required. God has called me and given me all I need to produce not just enough for me and my needs, but a surplus for the needs of others. Many people around the world would jump at the opportunities I have. Many people around the world are waiting to hear the gospel. I have a duty to produce a surplus so that all may hear the gospel and feel the love of God provided through the resources I can produce: water wells, food, medicine, church buildings, and more.

4. I can do more than I think I can. Time has a way of expanding to fit the number of tasks I have to do.  If I have four tasks and three hours, it takes me three hours to do the four tasks. I could do them in one, but I delay, dawdle and daydream the other two hours away. Our modern society provides us with many convenient distractions. Producers discipline their time and energy in order to squeeze every ounce of life from each hour. I began learning how to fit more into a day.  I stopped multi-tasking so much and focused for specific time periods on one task at a time. I handled things once, timed myself in repetitive tasks, and cut out time stealers. This created surplus capacity in my life, which translated to increased productivity, which eventually resulted in increased wealth and all-round richness in my life.

5. I asked God to change my heart and show me actions and attitudes in my life that betrayed my minimal thinking. He did! I would quietly acknowledge that and changed what I could control. Two Old Testament stories helped change my thinking. In 2 Kings 13:15-19, Elisha the prophet has the king take some arrows and beat them on the ground. The king, puzzled a bit by the request hits the ground three times. Elisha, upset, replies, “But the man of God was angry with him. “You should have struck the ground five or six times!” he exclaimed. “Then you would have beaten Aram until it was entirely destroyed. Now you will be victorious only three times.” I, whenever I would figuratively just strike the ground three times in any task, the Holy Spirit would show me and let me know I could do more. Second, I memorized Jeremiah 12:5,
“If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you,
Then how can you contend with horses?”

God made you and me for more. I could no longer be happy running with the footmen when God made me to contend with the horses.

So I offer you this gentle challenge. Ask God to show you any lazy, selfish, minimal thinking. Then ask Him to help YOU become more like HIM.  For more on wealth creation see www.CreatingKingdomCapital.com

To Catch a Thief

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One of the greatest things I’ve ever learned is that sin – trying to get your needs and desires met apart from God’s will – steals the very thing you seek. Every sinful action is a losing transaction, it gives you a dime’s worth of pleasure but steals a dollar’s worth of your life. Pornography is a perfect example. Experts from various worldviews are coming to see this epidemic as harmful. Sadly, many of the girls I work with are resigned to a porn addicted man.

This predator steals:
   1. Ability to experience healthy sexual pleasure.
God created you with a body, soul, and a spirit. God gave you these gifts so that you can experience the world around you. Your senses interface with creation to inform you of pleasure and pain. Your brain and nervous system interfaces with the world and relays information to your mind. Your brain is your primary pleasure center.  When you experience pleasure, your brain releases hormones that cause pleasurable sensations. God has created a sexual part of you that he designed to be released within the protective bonds of a life-long commitment called marriage.  God designed the sex act to be very pleasurable. Pornography, brings to you a distorted picture of sexuality while at the same time stimulating these pleasure sensors in the brain. The viewing of pornography will OVERUSE your pleasure systems and cause them to wear out. Yet the science of your brain regarding of porn addiction is clear: watching porn causes sharp spikes in the activation of the pleasure hormones, these sharp spike have long-term consequences. It can cause a desensitizing of your pleasure centers in the brain. Which can make it MORE DIFFICULT for you to experience healthy sexual pleasure.
As our reward circuits are desensitized, it takes stronger and stronger stimuli to get the same feelings of pleasure.  This often leads to addiction. Pornography now becomes the master and you the slave.  Sin steals the very thing it promises. When you pursue sexual pleasure in a wrong way, it steals the ability for you to experience it in a healthy way. This can lead to problems within marriage. The sexual part of you that God created to be a great blessing, can instead be a source of stress and dysfunction.  The hormones that God designed to bond you and your wife together, now have been hindered from performing their God-given function. Instead of having a desire for their wife, the porn addicted person has programmed their mind and body to desire fake, photo-shopped people that their wives cannot compete with.
    2. A healthy picture of women as sisters, mothers, wives and daughters.
The porn-filled mind looks at women as  potential objects of gratification. The momentum inside the mind becomes one of sexual fantasy rather than normal, healthy relationships. Porn makes you view women through the lens of a sexual predator, not a protector. A healthy view of women begins with the idea that all women will fit into only four categories: sisters (these include, sisters in Christ/friends. 1 Timothy 5:1-2), mothers, wives, and daughters. One day God may grant you the gift of one of his daughters for you to shepherd.  She will move from a sister to a wife through the path of holy romance. Pornography steals the ability to move through the path of holy romance.
   3. The ability to permanently bond with that one special woman God has for you.  God designed sexual activity to bond one person to another. If you train your body and soul to bond to many people you destroy the ability to bond deeply with one person. Think of a piece of tape. It’s designed to bond to one surface. If you rip it off and try to re-stick it multiple times, it loses its stickiness. Pornography is a self-centered medium. It enables you to divorce healthy sexuality from a living, breathing, real person—your wife. It is like the tape curving up and sticking to itself. This makes only the non-stick side available.
Dr. Victor Cline, in his essay “Pornography’s Effects on Adult and Child” sums it up well,
  “In my experience as a sexual therapist, any individual who regularly masturbates to pornography is at risk of becoming, in time a sexual addict, as well as conditioning himself into having a sexual deviancy and/or disturbing a bonded relationship with a spouse.  A frequent side effect is that it also dramatically reduces their capacity to love.  It results in a marked dissociation of sex from friendship, affection, caring, and other normal healthy emotions and traits which help marital relationships.”

For further reading: http://www.salvomag.com/new/articles/salvo13/13hilton.php

Leader or Not…Here You Come!

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As a pastor for the last couple of decades, I have worked with hundreds of families. I have learned from great men and women who gave great examples of leadership in their homes. I have also had a front row seat to the pain and generational chaos resulting from poor leadership.

Few of us have had training in living as a godly leader. Let me share with you a few insights that I’ve learned along the way.

When I teach on family leadership, I explain a few foundational truths. First, I explain that leading a home is the second most difficult job in America (the first is being a girl in junior high). Second, I don’t tell men to be leaders. I explain they already are leaders. The question really is where and how are they leading?

Anyone who follows a leader knows that having confidence in that leader inspires us to follow better. If I could give you one primary reason why our marriage works it is this: my wife trusts me and I trust her. Trust is one of the primary assets in any relationship. So how do you cultivate confidence and trust in your leadership within the home?

1. Integrity. Integrity is doing the right thing at the right time for the right reasons. One of the challenges of leading a home is that the people you lead live with you. They see your best and worst days. When I keep my commitments, especially in the small things, this inspires trust and confidence.  How we handle decisions relating to money often tells others the state of our integrity. If we drain family funds for our toys, if we rob God of His tithe, if we look to cheat on taxes or rationalize away decisions that shade the truth, we will still be the leader but people will not follow with confidence.

2. Connection with God through prayer and an understanding of the Word. I have been a part of trying to help families heal after someone in the family caught the leader doing something he shouldn’t. It is far better to have your wife catch you on your knees before God or pouring over the Scriptures. Your kids should see you praying, they should hear you sneak in on them at night and pray for them. Too many kids have memories of their parents fighting as they cower in their rooms. We need to imprint memories of parents praying together regularly and over large family decisions.
When a wife sees a man regularly open the Bible (not just in church), she grows confident in his leadership because he is demonstrating his willingness to follow his heavenly Father.  He may not get it right all the time. But God will protect that family because the leader has a heart that fears the Lord. Learn what God is saying to you through what He has said to those who have gone before you.

3. Live as the lead lover. God is unfolding a story of redemption. He has written you and your family into the script. His story is both a love story and a war story. In order for you and your family to take their full place in His story, we must direct our passions to the right loves and the right fight. Our calendar and our bank accounts leave a trail of our loves and battles. We fully realize our love when we express it through actions, words, and songs. You are the leader. Your family already knows your greatest loves. When the youth pastor asks, “What does your dad love the most?” Will they instinctively say, “God?” When they ask, “How do you know?” They should be able to point to your acts of devotion, music collection, tithing records and how you treat them when no one is looking.

4. Be the lead warrior. What battles have you chosen? Too many men conquer the counterfeit rather than rule in the real. We live out our battle dreams through video games and vicarious sporting events when the world is desperate for real heroes. Pick a fight! Adopt a cause as a family. One year I was looking for a fight. I had two teenage boys, and a forest full of trees on my land. I contacted the local senior center and asked them if they knew of a senior citizen that needed wood for the winter. They connected me with someone and together we cut, split, and stacked a pile of wood that heated a man’s house for the winter. Assess your strengths as a family, then deploy them to make a difference in God’s world. Show them what a real warrior looks like! Be the lead lover and lead warrior!

How to Succeed Without a Lead Pipe

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In honor of the twenty year anniversary of Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan, I share with you how to do life without a lead pipe.  If you recall, at the U.S. figure skating championships in – of all places – Detroit, MI, Nancy Kerrigan was walking off the practice ice when a goon, hired by rival skater Tonya Harding’s husband, whacked her in the knee with a pipe hoping to derail her Olympic dream while giving her rival a leg up.

For a large portion of my life I could relate to Harding because I was a cheater. I cheated my way through school. I invented new ways to cheat. I cheated in math, in English, physics, gym, I cheated in every subject. I used a lead pipe to get ahead. I broke into classrooms to fill in scores that I had never completed. I would sneak looks on other papers. I forged report cards. I had a lead pipe and I wasn’t afraid to use it. Then one day I went to flight school.

Problem. You can’t cheat your way through flight school. At that time, God was working in my heart to live with integrity and my flight instructors were working on my brain to establish discipline. Would you want to ride in a plane flown by a guy who cheated his way through flight school? To become a commercial pilot, you must pass a minimum of three written exams, three 2 hour oral exams and three flying tests. No way to cheat here. Either you know it or you don’t.

When they took my lead pipe away, I learned a few things that may benefit you. Cheating isn’t going away, in fact, we have seen a dramatic increase. Recently, the Josephson Institute, a Los Angeles-based ethics institute, surveyed 29,760 students at 100 randomly selected high schools nationwide, both public and private. The survey found that 35 percent of boys and 26 percent of girls – 30 percent overall – acknowledged stealing from a store within the past year. One-fifth said they stole something from a friend; 23 percent said they stole something from a parent or other relative. 64 percent said they have cheated on a test.

I cheated because I wanted the easy way to performance. I used the lead pipe to get ahead. Had I known what I lost in the process I never would have done it.

First, I lost money. I spent four years in high-school under caring, dedicated teachers, many of whom I could name today. But, instead of taking advantage of the free learning opportunities provided in high-school, I had to pay college instructors and sit in remedial classrooms. I also missed out on thousands of dollars of need-based scholarships because I scored poorly on the ACT.

Second, I lost a good reputation. I realized that what people think of you really matters. Favor travels through people. If people think you’re a cheater, liar, or thief, they won’t take chances on you. Your reputation precedes you. Now that I make hiring and firing decisions, I understand how much people judge your character.

Third, I lost character. While cheating gives you quick shortcut to apparent success, it cost you the key character traits it takes to truly succeed. Cheating cost me the ability to think and solve problems. It cost me the ability to persevere and delay gratification.

Fourth, cheating cost me freedom – ironically the very thing I was looking for. Sin is like that. It steals the very thing you’re looking for. In reality, only discipline brings freedom. It’s the disciplined athlete that has the freedom to perform at a high level. Only the disciplined musician has the ability to play skillfully. Only the disciplined student has the freedom a scholarship brings. If you want freedom, gain discipline, taking shortcuts robs you of freedom. And there are no shortcuts to anyplace worth going.

So how do you succeed without a lead pipe? Do the hard work. Develop your talents. Do your best in every situation. Resolve that it’s better to be poor and honest than rich and a cheater (Proverbs 19:1). Discipline is the currency by which we purchase our dreams. Tonya Harding was a terrific figure skater.  She won six national class competitions, including the U.S. championships. Now she’s a punch-line. Cheating stole from her the spoils of her hard work and talent. Don’t rob the world through a mediocre you. And, don’t rob yourself of the joys and freedom discipline brings. Happy skating!

My Favorite Apps of 2013

As we put 2013 into our rear view mirror, I think it will be fun to share my favorite apps of 2013. I am not passionate about techy things. I don’t like to spend hours talking about the latest phones or computers. In order for me to adopt any technology, it has to be simple and add value to my life. Below, I list a few of the apps I used most in 2013. First is the app I love to hate or hate to love.
Lose it Lose it:   This app helps you keep track of the calories that you consume and burn. It has all the common restaurants and grocery store foods. It includes the amount of calories burned per unit of a specific exercise. This app showed me how hungry I have to be in order to lose or maintain my weight.

Daily Artwork Daily Artwork: This app sends me a painting every day. It comes with an explanation of the artwork and a bit about the artist. This helps me grow my eye for beauty and stay a bit cultured.

Sky map     Google Sky Map. This app helps me learn the various constellations, stars and planets. When night falls, just point your phone at the sky and let Google give you the map of the stars!

You version  You Version Bible. This app enables you to take the Bible wherever you have your phone. It comes with a variety of versions and reading plans.

Task List This simple to-do list app helps me stay focused on what I need to do each day and week. The color code gives me the ability to rank each item.

 Evernote  Evernote. Personal organization experts say that high achievers must maintain four information categories: Contacts, Calendar, Tasks and Notes. Evernote is a fantastic note-taking program. It can do far more than I tap it to do. I use it to create files of notes that go from my phone to the Evernote website. I can type notes on my computer and Evernote sends them directly to my phone. I keep files on, my yearly goals, books I am reading, books I am writing, ministries I lead, people I lead, shopping lists, camping lists, quotes and more.
Math Workout   Math Workout. Since the third grade, my math skills aren’t what I wish they were. This app gives me fun games and challenges that work my brain during down-times in my day. I haven’t used it much since my wife set the record time in some kind of fluke. It kind of demoralized me so it has grown a bit dormant in my life. However, it is a great app.

I have a few more apps that I use, “plane analyzer,” helps my golf coaching as it records and plays back golf swings in super slow motion. “FlyQ,” keeps me updated with aviation weather and airport information when I fly. What are some of your favorite apps and why?

A Commercial Pilot’s Guide to Reaching Your Destinations in 2014

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Each New Year millions of people set goals and make resolutions. And each year, most fail to realize their dreams. As a commercial pilot and a flight instructor, I was trained to move people from point A to point B. What I learned in flight school has helped me reach goals in every other area of my life. Allow me to share a few insights.

1. Establish your destination. This may seem rudimentary, however, most people go through life without written goals. A written goal maintains visibility in your life. Goals are dreams with deadlines. Don’t live on “someday isle.” Take some time to establish a few goals this year. Don’t overdo it. Choosing three things to focus on is better than forty. Better to accomplish three things than to spread yourself so thin you don’t accomplish any. I group my goal setting into three categories – personal character development, professional skill development and accomplishments. I write them down and keep them in front of me using 3×5 cards and a goal list in Evernote on my phone.

2. Plan your course. After you set your destination, establish the “how” of your goal.  Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.  What is your strategy for losing the weight? What is your plan for quitting the smokes? Don’t engage in a battle without a plan. This is where the real work of achievement begins. It’s easy to write a goal, the hard work is making decisions day to day that will bring your goal to pass. In flight school, we would spend hours in the planning room before we ever started an engine. Planning helps you deal with life before it happens. You can rehearse adversity look at contingencies while safely on the ground. After I set my goals, I look at the year and divide it into three month quarters. I then look to see where I will spend my time energy and focus for each goal. I gather resources to help me in my journey. Planning is preparing to succeed. Don’t skip this step.

3. Don’t go alone. Two are better than one, when one falls, the other can help them up. Each flight is made up of a team of  many unseen people. Pilots are the visible leader of the team. But each pilot knows that we rely on a team of mechanics, weather specialists, air traffic controllers, and ground crewmen to aid us in our journey. Enlist your team before you go. Make goals with your spouse. Lead your family in a solid direction this year. Accomplish your goals with a friend, it adds to the fun and brings cumulative will-power to the task.

4. Expect diversions. Even the best plans can fail in the real world. Life happens. Pilots know that we operate in a dynamic environment. Weather, human error, mechanical failures all play a role in aviation. We expect diversions but we don’t let them keep us from our goals. They can and will delay us. Some things are out of our control. But we don’t stop flying because life happens. We make adjustments on the go. It’s not uncommon for an unforecast thunderstorm to pop up in the middle of our planned routing. The radio will light up with pilots asking air traffic control for a deviation. They don’t plow through the storm, they go around it. We expect deviations, curveballs, unforeseen circumstances and we train to deal with them. Unwrapping a fresh New Year, everything is clean. But keep in mind that this year will have its own twists and turns. Don’t quit pursuing your goals! You may have to land to wait out a storm, but don’t stay there! Delays are not defeat if your press on!

5. Keep in mind your priorities. When things go haywire – and they will – our flight instructors taught us to keep our priorities. They pounded into our heads sayings like – “Aviate, Navigate, Communicate.” “Fly it till you tie it.” “Don’t drop the airplane to fly the radio.” Every achievement has its tradeoffs. Make sure your trades reflect true value. Trade less now for more later – delayed gratification is the path to success. Trade the blessing of things for the blessing of relationships – the happiest people spend their money on memories and relationships not more stuff. Trade the temporal for the eternal – Jesus said, “If you gain the world and lost your soul what have you gained?”

6. Find Joy in the Journey. We fly because we love it. We love the experience of it, not just arriving. Yes, we experience nauseating turbulence, cranky weather systems, and airport vending machines. But we also get to experience the hawk on the hunt, perpetual sunsets, and never-ending rainbows. We experience things that non-flyers will never get to see. Those moments when you break through a gloomy overcast sky into a heavenly, sunlit canopy of brilliant majesty make the journey worth it; not just the destination. To paraphrase Henry David Thoreau: If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; God’s favor will rest on him, his face will shine upon him and at the end of 2014, he will be more of the person God made him to be.