Thursday, September 23, 2010

Days of the Week

Monday - I Wish it Were Friday
Tuesday - It's Closer to Friday
Wednesday - The Day After Tomorrow is Friday
Thursday - Thank God Tomorrow's Friday
Friday - Thank God It's Friday
Saturday - I Wish the Weekend Would Never End
Sunday - Darn it I Gotta Go Back to Work Tomorrow

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Monday, September 13, 2010

Christian Psychology

I quote the aforementioned Pastor Cole of Flagstaff regarding Christian psychology:

“As this elder and I were discussing Cloud’s approach, he told me that people like his wife who were from dysfunctional homes could not relate to my preaching because I emphasize obedience to God’s Word. Because they had strict, cold, authoritarian fathers, they don’t relate well to authority. I replied that I thought that I also put a strong emphasis on God’s grace as the motivation for obedience. But he responded that his wife couldn’t even relate to God’s grace — it went right by her. I was a bit taken aback, and so I said, ‘You mean that the many times I have spoken on God’s grace, she didn’t hear me?’ He said yes, in her 20 years on Crusade staff, never once had she felt God’s grace and love on a personal level.

“I thought about what he had said and asked some clarifying questions to make sure I understood him. Then I responded, ‘If your wife has never felt God’s love and grace, she is not converted!’ I had been reading Jonathan Edwards’ classic, A Treatise on Religious Affections, in which he makes a strong biblical case that saving faith is not mere intellectual assent to the gospel, but that it affects the heart.”

Pastor Cole reaches the conclusion that this woman is not saved. It fits in well with his Reformed theology, which holds that one must be drawn to salvation by the Father and that this grace is irresistible. However, this observation fits in well with a non-Reformed view of salvation as well, at least until you add in Christian Psychology.
Ultimately, the point is that Christian Psychology makes the claim that some people who have certain psychological issues can’t experience God fully. If they could, they wouldn’t have psychological issues. Pastor Cole is correct in labeling Christian Psychology as heresy, at least from the standpoint of traditional, Biblical, Christian doctrine.

However, Pastor Cole’s treatment of the subject misses another solution to this problem. Admittedly, it is a solution totally antithetical to Christianity, more so than the Christian Psychology he despises. It is this—what humans perceive as an experience with God is really no more than a psychological construct. The exact nature of that construct differs between religions. Christianity is an authoritarian religion, so its psychological construct requires a certain level of comfort with authority. Even grace itself is a gift bestowed on either the chosen ones (Reformed) or the properly yielded ones (non-Reformed) at God’s discretion.
In this view of the problem we find that Christian Psychology, if true in its assertions, makes our concept of God to be a human invention. Christian Psychology has ended up disproving God.

This troubles me because I can relate to the elder’s wife. My choice then, is between one of two conclusions. If I uphold the Reformed view, God has not chosen me. If I do not subscribe to Reformed theology, God does not exist.
Additionally, the concept that God is a psychological construct finds support in the numerous experiences of God we find in other religions. If Christianity is the one true way, they are not, but then what differentiates their communion with the divine from ours? The alternative is the idea that there are many ways to God.

I have always taken some solace in the concept that we must rely on the Word of God and not feelings. However, if Jonathan Edwards (and Pastor Cole) is correct, I'm in a pickle.

Friday, September 10, 2010

When It Comes to Nehemiah...

If your pastor starts a series on Nehemiah, a ministry push or building program is sure to follow. This has been the case in every church I have been in.
Now let's break this down a little bit. The rebuilding of Jerusalem happened in two major phases. The first was spiritual reform under Ezra. The second was material and physical restoration under Nehemiah. God always works this way with His people. Get the spiritual right first, then deal with the physical.
How this applies to the nation of Israel is plain to see. The promise of God to His people was that if they followed in His way, He would bless them in the promised land.
How can this apply to the church? The promise of God to us is found in the cross of Christ, and our promised land is the kingdom to come. We are strangers and pilgrims on this earth, seeking a better city.
In considering the physical restoration under Nehemiah, what is it that God has physically given the church that is in need of restoration? God never promised the church any physical land or cities or buildings. Superimposing the workings of today's institutionalized American church over the early NT church and/or the nation of Israel is a recipe for eisegesis and confusion, both intentional and unintentional.
I would argue that Ezra has much greater applicability to the NT church than Nehemiah. The church always seek to renew and reform as it seeks after God.
What one is left with in trying to apply Nehemiah to the NT church is an exercise in spiritualization. It fails because the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, while a testimony to the world, is not representative of outreach. It is an internal affair. Both Ezra and Nehemiah are internal affairs. If you are going to preach Nehemiah in the context of the NT church, it might make sense for inreach ministries, but not outreach. Heck, preaching Nehemiah makes more sense for a building program than it does for outreach ministry. Even here though, one is taking the institutionalized American church way and imposing it on Scripture. How about we just not go there?
In summary, Ezra and Nehemiah are about the spiritual revival of the people of God and restoration of temporal blessing and protection. We can learn lessons from the lives of Ezra and Nehemiah along these lines. One commentator of Nehemiah, Steve Cole of Flagstaff Christian Fellowship, takes this approach in dealing with Nehemiah. However, it isn't long before he ends up using Nehemiah in all the wrong ways we've just discussed. He starts well and then broadens his application beyond the warrant of Scripture.
He starts off well in his commentary on Neh 1:

"...you want to be used by God. [...] God wants to use each one of us, but He also wants to develop us into people who are more usable to Him. As we look at the life of Nehemiah, we will learn many qualities of service and leadership. The book falls into two broad sections: Rebuilding the Wall (chapters 1-7); and, Rebuilding the People (chapters 8-13)."

Further,

"The person God uses has a burden for His people."

Unfortunately, Cole then takes a wrong turn:

"Matthew 9:36-38 says, 'Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.’' So we need to pray, 'Lord, give me the eyes of Jesus to see the needs of people. Give me the heart of Jesus to feel compassion for them. And raise up workers for the harvest to meet these overwhelming needs!'"

The unsaved aren't "His people." The Jews being referred to by Jesus were "His people" in the sense that they were of Israel. But don't lose sight of the fact that Cole is trying to apply Nehemiah to the church age, the here and now. And the "people" Cole has in view in this paragraph does not comprise a Gentile church ministry to the Jews, but an outreach ministry to the unsaved. He has taken us from an in-reach ministry to "His people" (which is warranted by the text) to an outreach ministry to unsaved--NOT "His people" (which is unwarranted by the text).
By glossing over these distinctions he sets the stage for a generalization of Nehemiah's ministry that allows him to use Nehemiah (incorrectly) to exhort believers to evangelistic ministry. Indeed, a little further, he completes his slight of hand by proclaiming:

"Second, don’t commit yourself impetuously to something just because the need is there. The needs are simply endless. You don’t have to respond to all of the world’s needs."

Who said anything about "the world's needs"? Nehemiah is about the needs of the people of God. But if you aren't paying attention, you miss it.

Maybe I don't have enough burden for the unsaved, but I won't take a lesson on that from a man who doesn't divide the Scripture properly.

Keep Cutting Employees for the Bottom Line?

A great post at Financial Armageddon:

"A great many corporate executives seem to think they can keep squeezing labor costs with impunity to impress Wall Street analysts and drive up their company's share prices. But as with most seemingly unstoppable trends that only really make sense to those with a simplistically myopic focus on cold, hard numbers, the reality in a world where the data reflects the efforts of living, breathing individuals is altogether different. At some point, suggests McClatchy Newspapers in "Employee Stress Affects Companies’ Bottom Lines," the law of diminishing returns -- and of what can't continue, won't -- begins to apply:"

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Civil Defense

Have you ever considered the possibility of a Cold-War style nuclear exchange? If you have done any study on the subject, you will know you need two types of protection: blast protection, and fallout protection. Some structures provide great blast protection, but do nothing for you fallout-wise; other structures would provide great fallout protection, but would be destroyed in the vicinity of the blast.
A little more searching would lead you to the American Civil Defense initiative begun in earnest by President John F Kennedy. This involved identifying and actually stocking fallout shelters for use by the American public. I remember in the late 80s/early 90s seeing the "Fallout Shelter" signs still remaining on certain public buildings, even though the program had been pretty much ended under President Jimmy Carter.
Modern conventional wisdom says a nuclear exchange would be unsurvivable, so why prepare? Modern experts tend to laugh at the old "Bert the Turtle" public service cartoon that advises people to "duck and cover" in the event of nuclear attack. However, it should be noted that "duck and cover" is, in actuality, an excellent immediate response.
I cannot say for sure whether this new fatalist position is an attempt to push harder for the eradication of nuclear weapons or not. Nonetheless, it does no good to the average citizen.
The idea that the fall of the Soviet Union ended the threat of all-out thermonuclear war is naive. Both the US and Russia maintain thousands of nuclear missiles at the ready, all tied to a "Launch on Warning" system that directs the respective leaders to initiate a counterattack upon warning of a nuclear strike from the other side.
The dangers of this arrangement were made strikingly clear in January of 1995. Scientists in Norway launched a rocket to put a research satellite into space. Despite following international protocol and notifying all governments ahead of time, this information -somehow- did not reach Moscow.
The launch of this rocket and its subsequent tack into what would be the approximate trajectory of a US Minuteman missile directed at Russia resulted in the "nuclear briefcase" being brought Russian President Boris Yeltsin. His key was inserted and turned to on. Internal Russian protocol gave him a maximum of 10 minutes to launch an all-out retaliatory nuclear strike against the US.
Fortunately for our world, he waited, and they were able to confirm the intent of the rocket and back down.
It's 2010, and although the Russians reviewed and improved their procedures in the wake of this incident, the launch-on-warning system is still in place. How easy would it be for a terrorist to launch a dud missile and trick the Russian government into thinking the US had launched a pre-emptive nuclear attack?
And why is it that we discount the possibly of Russia launching an intentional nuclear attack on the US? We didn't do ourselves any favors, after the fall of the USSR, in our reckless expansion of NATO. Neither have we scored any brownie points by camping our military in their backyard--Central Asia. Nor are we lessening the tension by increasingly signalling a willingness to pre-emptively strike Iran, a Russian and Chinese ally, with nuclear weapons.
Do you understand the nuclear posture of the US at this point in time? Our military is fully committed to use of nuclear weapons on a pre-emptive basis. They justify this by their intent to use only "tactical" nukes. In our government's and our military's eyes, tactical nukes are, for all intents and purposes, really just extra-bad-ass conventional weaponry. I know this is an over-simplification but it is not far from the truth. In the use of tactical nukes, no additional considerations are made that aren't already made with massive conventional weapons such as MOABs or daisy-cutters.
The potential for nuclear escalation is high in such a scenario where the US has in fact utilized tactical nukes. You start with tens of kilotons, then someone escalates to hundreds of kilotons, then somebody pulls out the megatonnage and guess where we are at? Back to all the nightmares of the Cold War.
What of treaties such as SALT and START? Do we trust Russia? Are you aware that even by the official numbers, Russia has twice as many active nuclear warheads as the US?
Do you think our national leaders are not aware of this? We can talk potential all day but we may never know the game that is being played on high behind closed doors.
This is one major reason why war with Iran is such a scary proposition. Whose side do you think Russia will take?
The need for Civil Defense is higher than ever. Why we abandoned this national need I'll never understand.

Companies

I started out at Gateway in 1998 doing technical support for end users. It is now 2010, and I have not been able to advance any higher than IT helpdesk. I left that job to move to back to where I grew up, since there were NO opportunities there to move into desktop support, and have continued to look for desktop support positions for 6 years now. Nada, nothing, zilch. My resume looks nice, and I have had interviews. Most times at the end of the interview I get something about how they are planning on doing two or three rounds of interviews. I never make it to the second round of interviews. I have come to take that as code for "you probably won't make it."
Like I said, it has been 6 years since my last in-house IT position. I am coming close to the point where my experience will be too old and irrelevant to matter any longer. Maybe another year or two, then what? Finish my degree? I still won't have the experience.
If I switch careers, I will expected to except low-pay entry level positions which could not support my family.
Companies these days don't like to invest in people. They would rather hire someone of average intelligence and potential who can "hit the ground running," than someone of above average intelligence and potential who might need some development. Every organization expects new employees to have completed their professional development somewhere else, but no organization is willing to contribute towards professional development. If a person's ability can't be summed up in what they have already done or what is on various consumer reports, it doesn't exist.
Companies are looking for workers they can "set and forget." Here's your job, do it within parameters, don't rock the boat. Decisions are made on high, you will change when we tell you too and not a moment before. Oh and we write your paycheck, so that means even if we cut your pay, you owe your life to us; you'd better do exactly as we say and like it, or you can just quit. Instead of a mutually enriching relationship, the relationship between employee and employer becomes one of a cog in the machine.
Most supervisors in the work force today do not take responsibility for the development and satisfaction of their employees. So when the inevitable occurs, and employees begin acting out their dissatisfaction, management turns a blind eye, slaps the offender with a write-up, or goes running to HR. The message, again, is "if you don't like it here then quit." Folks, that's what's called a passive-aggressive threat, and it is a projection of power to cover up the employer's complete disregard for the needs of the employees.
Follow the $$$. Such employees in such an organization are little more than slaves. In 2010, who is going to quit their job without another lined up? Companies know they have their employees by the nose and can treat them (and pay them) however they like. Slaves make the best workers. You can pay them mere sustenance wages and they have to do whatever you say.
When a company hires workers they may think it is a pure investment decision. X dollars for a "human resource" that can produce Y profit. Such thinking is callous and ignores the humanity of the employees. When you make the decision to hire someone you are making a decision to share control and profit of the business. Your employees may not legally own the business but they should be partners in every sense of the word. You delegate the employee a sphere of control and recognize that they have a right to a living wage at a minimum plus a share of profits. If you aren't willing to make this commitment, don't hire.
I will finish my degree in 3 years or so. Maybe then everybody will want to hire me? I doubt it. Today's corporate landscape in regards to employment is structurally deficient. And I am not even referring to the current economic crisis. I am referring to a set of attitudes that dehumanize employees on many levels, from wages to development and all the way up to creativity and control. American workers are tumbling down Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs at an alarming rate.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010