Friday, May 30, 2014

A Different Take on Evangelism

This was my last Sunday School teaching.  I love to teach, because I learn so much in preparation, and so much in the interaction with the class members. In fact, it may be my favorite part of Christian Discipleship.

It fell upon me to teach this week's lesson on evangelism.  I do NOT have the gift of evangelism, and statistically speaking, it is likely that neither do you.  There are roughly 16 fgifts listed in the Bible, depending on how you count, and evangelism is only ONE of the gifts.  Most people have more than one gift, but all the gifts are valuable.  Evnagelism is just one, and nothing special.

You may find that surprising, because we hear more about evangelism than any other gift.  This is because many, many of the "up front" people in church do have the gift of evangelism.  And, even among Christians, most of us want everyone else to do whatever it is WE are doing.

Matt 28:19-20 is what I call the GREATly misunderstood COMMISSION.  The call is to go and make Disciples, not converts.  Someone pointed out that you cannot be a disciple without  being a convert, but others have pointed to numerous cases where people began as disciples, then became converts.

About 5 min into the class I showed a David Platt video  (  

 It's less than 4 minutes long, so take a look, it's 4 min well spent.

In a recent interview with some misisonaries in a foreign country, they said it was "illegeal to proselytize" but people are happy to talk about Jesus.

Why don't we all do that more.  Talk less about religion and more about Jesus.  Call people NOT just to pray a prayer, but more importantly to follow the Christ.

Let's give it a try!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


Today's Sunday School class was on evangelism.  One of our faithful class members is a professional counselor.  He raised his hand, I called on him, and he shared that evangelism begins in the home.  He said that the family was so important to the children in following Christ, and then noted the high divorce rate.  I added that the Christian Church wasn't doing a whole lot better.

Another Sunday School member had heard a piece on Christian Radio that disputed the commonly cited statistic that 50 % of all marriages end in divorce.  The colleague shared that the person in the interview claimed the US marriage success rate was about 75%.  That would put the divorce % at closer to 25 than 50!

Hmm, this is a lot tougher statistic to track down than I first suspected.  First of all, the divorce rate, like all rates, is the number of divorces per unit time.  The common unit of time is "per year".  The best data suggests that the "divorce rate" is about 4 per 1000 marriages per year.  This tells us how many people per 1000 divorce in one year, it does NOT tell us how many marriages, what percent of all marriages, end in divorce.  The marriage rate, the number of marriages per 1000 people is about twice the divorce rate.  If the total population stays stable (does NOT grow), then about twice as many marry as divorce in any one year.  BUT, this doesn't tell us how many marriages end in divorce.  Some of these marriages are people who divorced last year, or the year before.  Some of these marriages are to widows and widowers.  Some folks lived together, and neither married or divorced.

On the other hand, a survey of a large group of some 277 million people over the age of 18, found that 53% of this group was married.  This doesn't tell us much about divorce.  Another part of the table surveyed  a large group of some 166 million MARRIED people over the age of 18, found that 75% of this group was on their FIRST marriage.  Hmm, again this does NOT tell us what we need to know.  Some of these folks had only been married a couple of years, and some were even the newlyweds.  Many of these marriages will end in divorce at some point in the future.  25% of the sample were already divorced but on their 2nd or 3rd marriage.  What we need to know is how many of the 75% will remain married?  For this group the % of marriages that will end in divorce is a prediction of the future.

The only obvious way to determine the % of divorce is to look at the statistics of those already dead, as they will NOT be divorcing in the future.  So what we need to do is survey the families to determine what percentage of their dead forefathers and foremothers divorced one or more times.  It appears that those data are not routinely collected.  At least I have not yet found them. Apparently there is a Christian lady who has somehow tracked down accurate data.  I think her radio claim was the same as i found of those still on their first marriage, about 75%.  If the data I found are accurate, then her estimate is clearly an over-estimate.  If I get to read the book, maybe I'll write a blog post on it.

Matt 19:6-8 Lets us know that G^d's desire is that we make a commitment before HIM and we keep that commitment.  Divorce is hard and NOT G^d's desire.  It doesn't matter what the data really show, what is crucial is that keep our word, and keep our marriages strong.

L^rd make it so.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Surprises on the Trap Line

Many of you don't know that for many many years, I trapped fur to make money.  During grad school, and in my first several years in Alabama.  I trapped fox and raccoon for the fur, and I trapped beaver for people who would pay me to get them off their property.  It got me out of the house and into beautiful nature.  I made a few dollars and had a lot of fun.  I was never a big time trapper, but over the years I have caught quite a bit of fur, which brings me to my lates trapping adventure.

Last Saturday night, or maybe it was Sunday, Brenda saw a small dark animal scurry across the floor.  I had heard a mouse gnawing, and so the next day I set a mousetrap.  I baited it with crunchy peanut butter, and placed it along a wall.  Setting mouse traps along a wall gives the mouse a better feeling of security.  They prefer to travel along walls.  Watch them a little while and you will see.  It wasn't my optimal set, but should be good enough for a mere mouse.

The very first night Brenda heard the trap snap.

I hadn't lost my touch.

But next day, when I checked the trap it was sprung.  I missed!  Go figure.  How could that happen?

Well, such is trapping.  In trapping you are trying to get your trap positioned in just the right spot to catch it. Not foolproof.

I re-set the trap, figuring sooner or later, I'd get it.

On about the 3rd day an odor assaulted my nostrils.  It sure smelled like a dead mouse, after 3 days of ripening.

We searched with no success.  On Mother's Day Brenda had invited the kids and grands over for lunch.  This meant that Sunday AM, she was desperate to rid our house of the now horrible smell. She looked again and this time, bingo!  Finally we had found him.

Apparently, the striker had smacked the poor mouse hard enough to kill it, but not hard enough to hold it.  Probably the mouse's front legs were also under the bar which allowed him to wiggle free.  He was obviously mortally wounded, but he was able to travel about 5 feet.

I found the smell to be sickening, so perhaps I was the happiest one around when we disposed of the carcass.

That reminds me of the stench of sin in G^d's nostrils (see Prov 13:5; Eccl 10:1)

In contrast, consider Philippians 4:18
"But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God."
How do I smell today?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Research Grants

Most everyone has heard of research grants, at least somewhere.  Research grants are a BIG deal to professors and private scientists.  Because the wheels of research run on money, grants are the fuel and grants are a good deal for grant recipients.

Money drives lots of things, so it is no surprise that money drives research.  Let's think for a little about what sorts of influences grant money might have on research results:

  • Some topics are more fundable than others.  So $$ influences WHAT is studied.
  • Some methods are more fundable than others.  So $$ influences HOW things are studied.
  • Follow-on funding is only going to come when positive results are found in the initial study.  So $$$ influences WHAT IS FOUND.
  • Some populations are more fundable than others.  So $$ influences WHO is studied.

One of the little-known aspects of research funding is that the host institution charges the funder for "overhead" which means the funder pays for the lights, the water, the bricks and mortar.  The neat things about this "overhead" is that it is never on the budget, because you won't KNOW whether you'll be funded.  What this means is... no one knows about this money.  It is essentially designated funds, which means everyone who gets some of this money, can do anything they want, within the law.

Our local University charges 47% as overhead.  Soooo, on a million dollar grant $470,000 is overhead. Half that goes to the college dean of the faculty who brought in the $$.  OF that half, the dean should send half of the half (.25) to the department and half of that (.125) should go to the investigator who won the grant.  That means the investigator gets $125k.  Not a bad deal, not at all.  Keep in mind that, again, this $$ isn't on the budget.

Soo, if you have data that counteracts a highly fundable theory, you're welcome to keep that info to yourself.  So $$ influences research findings too!  So, say something like global climate change is extremely lucrative, and anyone who challenges it is killing the goose that lays those golden eggs.

Scripture tells us that "the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil things."  I Tim 6:10.  And, from my view, it is hard NOT to love money... at least for research investigators.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Miracles of Medicine

One of my good friends had a 95% BLOCKAGE of this LEFT coronary artery.  This artery supplies blood, but most importantly oxygen, to the big muscle that makes up the right side of the heart.  Had this artery completely closed, he might well be dead.

The doctor referred him to a cardio who made a small incision in my friend's groin, and then threaded a medicated stint up to his heart, and then into this mostly-blocked tiny little artery.

Today, one week later, my friend and I ran at a fairly good pace.  My friend had just walked 710 meters in 6 min, and ran a lap with me around Coleman Coliseum.  This past week, He and I ran twice, about 4-5 miles each time.

Go Figure!

In my view, modern medicine has a lot of challenges.  We use a lot of "preventive medicine" such as testing, that is ill advised.  Just this week, one of my friends died from sepsis directly resulting from preventive medicine.

"Yes, but many more lives are saved." you say.

That's generally true, but not to the extent most of us believe. 

G^d the creator and healer made a remarkably strong, resilient body for us.  We abuse it terribly, and in most cases we still live a remarkably long time.  Modern medicine does do some marvelous things, as in my friend's case.  Modern medicine has some problems.

Two things stand out.  Even M.D.s will tell you that ultimately G^d does much more healing than they do.  I am grateful that G^d has enabled men to do what they do.  But in both of these sentences the operator is G^D.

Once again recall Ps 139:
"13 For thou didst form my inward parts: Thou didst cover me in my mother's womb.
14 I will give thanks unto thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: Wonderful are thy works; And that my soul knoweth right well."

Friday, May 16, 2014

An Argument that Changed my Mind... Because of its Badness

The death penalty has always been a tough call for me.  Sometime years I have supported it, and sometimes I have objected to it.  I see arguments on both sides.  Recently, I am opposed, but, a friend just pointed me to an anti-death penalty essay that was so bad, it may just have converted me back in favor of capital punishment.

The argument intended to oppose the death penalty went like this:

  1. "Sure, the Old Testament prescribes death for anyone who commits per-meditated murder. But it doesn’t stop there. The Hebrew Scriptures also prescribe the death penalty for kidnapping (Exodus 21:16), bestiality (Exodus 22:12), rape (Deuteronomy 22:24), making a sacrifice to a false god (Exodus 22:20), adultery (Leviticus 20:10), ... and premarital sex (Deuteronomy 22:13-21). A priest was instructed to burn his daughter alive if she was guilty of prostitution (Leviticus 21:9)..." 
  2. "For example, what of the command in Deuteronomy 17:6 that someone could only be put to death on the evidence of two or three witnesses? Why don’t pro-death penalty advocates who ground their thinking in the Old Testament also require this provision before they support an execution? And what about the fact that in most of these cases a monetary substitute was allowed if the offender agreed to it? My pro-death penalty friends can’t seem to give me a clear answer on this."
  3. "Jesus said, “You have heard that it was taught, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”  In one swift and startling statement, Jesus took a hammer to the lex talionis—the basis for capital punishment in the Hebrew Scriptures—and gave those who would follow after him a new way to live."
Let me summarize:
  1. There are lots of Death penalties in the Old Testament.
  2. The Old Testament had rules for administering the Death Penalty.
  3. Jesus said not to take personal revenge if someone slaps you... and somehow thereby negates ALL the Jewish Law!"
So, if I follow the logic:
  1. G^d once gave authority to man to execute lots of Capital punishment, ...
  2.  if certain requirements were met.  
  3. Jesus somehow allegedly negated that with a command on how we personally deal with personal offenses.  But Jesus also said, "17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." Matt 5:17-18.  Plus there are lots of places where Jesus supported the Scriptures (The Old Testament WAS The Scriptures!).
 Don't misunderstand.  Salvation of our soul is by Grace alone, not by keeping the Law!  But if G^d, who is immutable, inerrantly  (i.e. He cannot err and "changing His mind" is impossible when you are creator of time) said that the death penalty is fine for many situations under the right requirements, where is OUR argument?  How can we argue?

Some friends argue that the Old Testament was like a "first draft" and G^d learned a lot dealing with those pesky Israelis.  The New Testament completely replaced the Old, and so thereby The L^rd G^d, Creator of the Heavens and the Earth, has wised up over time.  I won't extend this lengthy post by explaining everything wrong with that argument, but I will say the bad argument in the essay gave me a new outlook favoring the death penalty - it is G^d-given, and should be administered according to G^d-imposed requirements.

Thanks Mr. Essayist, I am now firmly pro-death-penalty with requirements!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Road Kill- a new Variation

I have written before about my penchant for picking up trash on University and church grounds, but I have not confessed to another pickup habit:  road kill.

Yes, I pick up road kill-- that is, those things that i find in the road that kill tires.  I blame Dr. Matt Green for this. Many a time I am happily peddling down the road on my bike when I spy, with my little eye, a screw, nail, or piece of sharp metal.   Matt always picked these up, and he inspired me.  On my bike, I am typically 5-15 yards past the object before I realize what it was and stop.  This slows me quite a bit, but my conscience is a bit over-sensitve, so I stop, back up and try to determine waht I saw and where it was.

Today in the 3 brief miles from my office to home I found three road kills:

It is a small thing I do, but if I save a tire or two it is worth the time and effort I guess.

It is not a small thing to share Christ with people, and if we do it, we may save a soul or two.

Hard to beat that return on a little time and effort.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Perils of Predicting the Future!!

Predicting the future is a challenging task.  When you get it right, few will notice...BUT if you get it wrong, everyone seems to remember.  Well maybe not everyone.

Behold the coming apocalypse as predicted on and around Earth Day, 1970:
  1. "Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind."  — Harvard biologist George Wal
  2. "Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make. The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years." — Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich
  3. "Most of the people who are going to die in the greatest cataclysm in the history of man have already been born… [By 1975] some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions. Other experts, more optimistic, think the ultimate food-population collision will not occur until the decade of the 1980s." — Paul Ehrlich (Bing Professor of Population Studies in the department of Biological Sciences at Stanford University and president of Stanford's Center for Conservation Biology)
  4. "Demographers agree almost unanimously on the following grim timetable: by 1975 widespread famines will begin in India; these will spread by 1990 to include all of India, Pakistan, China and the Near East, Africa. By the year 2000, or conceivably sooner, South and Central America will exist under famine conditions…. By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine." — North Texas State University professor Peter Gunter
  5. "In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution… by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half." — Life magazine
  6. "Air certainly going to take hundreds of thousands of lives in the next few years alone."Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich
  7. "By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate… that there won't be any more crude oil. You'll drive up to the pump and say, ‘Fill 'er up, buddy,' and he'll say, ‘I am very sorry, there isn't any.'"UC Davis Ecologist Kenneth Watt
  8. "[One] theory assumes that the earth's cloud cover will continue to thicken as more dust, fumes, and water vapor are belched into the atmosphere by industrial smokestacks and jet planes. Screened from the sun's heat, the planet will cool, the water vapor will fall and freeze, and a new Ice Age will be born."Newsweek magazine
  9. "The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years. If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age." — Kenneth Watt (; accessed 5-5-14).
 See what I mean?  Notice how many of these were made by PROFESSORS?  To be fair, I am guessing that many of their other predictions were found to be true, or at least partially true.

“When the word of the prophet shall come to pass, then shall the prophet be known, that the Lord hath truly sent him.” Jeremiah 28:9.

I try NOT to make predictions at all, for as James 4 tells us clearly, "13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil."

To Quote Forest Gump, "and that's all I am going to say about that."

Friday, May 9, 2014

Another Graduation... with special meaning!

Yesterday I went to another UA graduation.  I would estimate I have been to about 40 of these over my 30 years.  But this one was special.

Well, they are all special for somebody, but this one was different.  Here are some differences:
  1. First graduation where I left early.
  2. First graduation with 7 Ph.D.s hooded from our KIN department.
  3. First graduation for one of my students who took a job and had to go through 5-6 rewrites of her dissertation.
  4. First graduation for one of my Ph.D. students whose timing was terrifically bad.  He came into our program at just the wrong time.

All these firsts made this a great day.  Earning a Ph.D. requires a long academic effort.  There is a lot of work done.  I had taught all the exercise science students in class.  I had sat on 4 of the 5 dissertations.  I had seen some of these students frustrated almost to the breaking point.  Thanks be to G^d that I can write that "almost".

Most things that are worthwhile take time and effort.  Patience is a necessity, as is hard work.

But eventually the victory is won.

In our relationship with G^d, we enter into the relationship by G^d's grace alone.  But growing in our faith is a lot like earning a Ph.D. in Christianity.  It's not theoretical, it must be lived out, it must be practiced. Patience is a necessity, as is hard work.  Most things that are worthwhile take time and effort.

And Thanks be to G^d, our victory has already been won.... not by us, but by the Christ!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Spring Kites

Every spring I look for kites.  Kites really mark the true arrival of spring.

No not that kind of kite, the hawk kind of kite.  Though those other kind of kites are spring harbingers too, especially in a few countries like Afghanistan.  I recall being on the lookout for kites in Afghanistan, and not being disappointed.  But I digress...

If you will look outside this spring, keep an eye skyward for Mississippi kites.  They are very pretty birds as they soar effortlessly through the sky.   They don't show up around here until spring.  By late fall they will be migrated elsewhere.  You will see them perched on occasion, if you pay close attention. They look like pigeons, only sleeker, and with an attitude.  In flight their tail is squared off.

In Africa, the yellow-billed kite was the spring kite.  They were much larger than the Mississippi version, and much more common.

Birds are Marvelous creatures.  When G^d allowed birds to "evolve" he had a LOT of changes to make to land-dwellers, and many of these had to come simultaneously (another reason I can't accept evolution as a scientific hypothesis).  A bird must be light, with good endurance, and they have a one-way pass-trhough respiratory system (in contrast to our in-and-out respiration).

Next time you see a bird, kite or otherwise, recognize G^d's invisible attributes.

Romans 1: 2020 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Who's Afraid of a Little Weather?

Me, and several million of our neighbors.

On the evening of 27 April 2011, a very strong tornado leveled a path of destruction across our town and other parts of Alabama.  About 42 lives were lost, including several students at the U of AL.

Last Friday we were advised that severe weather was coming to a location near us...maybe even to us.  Sure enough, that has happened.  All afternoon we have watched a Birmingham weather man, the most famous in our state, talk about tornadoes, wall clouds, and "inflow".

A lot of colleges and schools have already closed, and they canceled an exam at UA tonight.

We have seen tornadoes with our own eyes.  Worse, we have seen the destruction of tornadoes with our own eyes and up close.  Weather kills, and already two have died in Northern Alabama.

Tornadoes are dangerous, they are unpredictable.  You can die in a hurry, and they don't discriminate. To summarize, during tornado season you can die without warning.  But this is true for the rest of the year also.  Life is not guaranteed for anyone.

Weather is real, it is tangible, it is visible.

I marvel at how my pagan friends can shake their fist at G^d, even whilst facing tornadoes. 

They are very brave.

They are very stupid.

It is appointed to man once to die... and after that the judgement. Hebrews 9:27.

But me, I need not fear.  Not because I am brave, but because I fully trust in the provision of the Christ.

Ahhhhhh, sweet.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Ideas and Things

In my life I have had a lot of good ideas.  Many years ago, long before the days of ScentLok and those companies, I was doing an experiment in the lab.  One of my friends, a colleague, named Wojtek, was walking on a treadmill sweating for 4 hours.  As he walked, the rubber boots he was wearing wore out and began leaking sweat.  Yep, it was just that hot.

Once that rubber barrier was breached, the odor was horrific.  What struck me most was that BEFORE that point, we hadn't smelled at thing. I realized at that moment that the activated charcoal that composed the US Air Force chemical defense suit Wojtek was wearing was absorbing all the odor. 

Who cares?

Deer hunters care.  Deer are best able to detect hunters because we humans stink.  Wearing charcoal is a way to defeat the deer's sensitive nose, and this has become a multi-million dollar business.

How much money did I make from my discovery?  Guess.

I also invented, rather than discovered, a wearable ice cooling and drinking vest.  In industry, keeping cool in very hot situations is an issue of safety as well as productivity.  One way of doing this is to use ice vests that melt and cool.  However, wearing a vest full of melted water means lugging around a lot of extra weight.  I had a prototype built of a vest that you could drink.  Cooling plus drink!  When we began researching to file a patent, low and behold, these have been invented already.

There are other ideas that haven't gone anywhere, but there's still another idea.  Take a look and see if you can figure out what this is, and what the most recent idea is.

Anyone recognize this, or have any idea what we are in the process of creating?

Sorry, I can't tell you what it is... just in case it works and hasn't been invented already.