Tuesday, November 20, 2007

How And Why I Do Radio

Published in Faith Talk Magazine--November 2007
Published under a different title 01.09.08 at Towhnall.com

Have you ever wondered why Christians aren’t smarter? I mean, we have the only true religion, we have a Book which is responsible for all of Western Civilization, and we serve a God who can safely call Himself the supreme champion at every trivia contest. So why aren’t we smarter? Well, the reasons are many, but the goal of changing that condition is the driving passion of my life. Having taught college philosophy, my background is in equipping people to think better, and I used to think that talent was best used in the secular world. Three years ago, however, I was persuaded by some good counsel to turn my attention toward the Body of Christ, and that’s why I came to Phoenix to do my radio show weekdays from 5 to 7PM on AM 1360 KPXQ.

Not thinking well is a sin.

God commands us very simply: Love Him with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind. Catch that last part....with all our mind. This means thinking is not optional for the Christian. Thinking, and thinking well, is a form of worship of God which is nothing short of obedience to His primary command. Hence, if we do not “use the brain God gave you,” (my mom’s favorite rhetorical chastisement), we are sinning.

Not thinking well is a scandal.

The most pervasive myth about Christianity is that it is incompatible with intelligence.
This is what I believed before I became one, and it made me not want to be one. I say it is a myth both because nothing demands more thinking capacity than being a faithful Christian and also because our history is rich with intellectual giants. Nonetheless, Christianity has a reputation as a religion for fools, and this is at least partially our own fault. By offering empty platitudes such as, “Well, you have to have faith,” when challenged with difficult questions, outsiders can be forgiven for forming the impression that what we really mean is, “Well, you have to be stupid.” This puts people in the painful situation of feeling like they have to choose between their mind and God. Also, it makes Christianity offensive to the smartest people in society, who tend to be culture’s greatest influencers. Thus, simply showing non-Christians that one can be both smart and faithful is a powerful form of evangelism.

Fishers not just fish-eaters.

“If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach him how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.” Simple. Obvious. But, all too often, it’s not the guiding principle of Christian education. Christians can be so concerned about having the right answers (good doctrine), that we fail to teach people the thinking skills and patterns which would lead them to these and other true conclusions. They may have the unreliable dogmatism which comes from mere repetition, but they lack the true confidence which comes from deep and honest examination of an idea. Sadly, it also means they do not have the ability to discover new answers for themselves in novel situations. On my radio show, I deliberately do not provide people many answers because I am more interested in helping people learn how to think than I am in telling them what to think. My confidence is high that such an ability will ultimately get them to the right place, and it will be a place of true security as well.

Disciples, not an audience.

Jesus mentored His disciples. He interacted with them. He answered their questions. He joked with them. And He corrected them. He didn’t lecture them. He lectured the masses. And I think the reason is simple. A lecture is not the ideal form of education. The reason are many. If a listener doesn’t like what is being said, he can simply ignore it. If he doesn’t understand or if he disagrees, he cannot easily inquire of the speaker. Because such questions go unanswered, other people miss out on having these questions answered. When the teacher fields questions, he replaces his own assumptions about his audience with real knowledge and can more accurately tune his teaching to the real needs they have. Finally, I believe in collaboration rather than solo performances. Although I think I have many reliable insights worth saying, I’d rather talk with people and work together toward truth instead of just trusting in my own ideas too much. So my show is built around discussion rather than presentation. I am working with my listeners to fashion a product together rather than simply distributing to them a prefabricated one.

Haggling, not purchasing.

In the Mediterranean culture of the Bible, haggling is a way of life because such negotiations are a great way of coming to know someone. The process of haggling gains both friends and sharper minds. We are often baffled by this when they travel to that part of the world because Americans are so transaction oriented. “I agree,” “I disagree,” “I will buy,” or “I will not buy.” Such shallow interactions we are very comfortable with. In the Mediterranean, the sellers understand that the product is insignificant compared with the relationship it’s sale can create. In contrast, I think Americans are too concerned with conclusions instead of being concerned with relationships. Thus, the key in my show is to find stimulating topics which cause people to want to talk with each other and build friendships. Whether we agree is not so much the issue. Whether we are able to love each other while we disagree and talk about it. That matters.

In Conclusion

I was concerned when I took this job; concerned that my fellow Christians wouldn’t endure me because they wanted their own ideas reinforced rather than examined and challenged. To my pleasant surprise, I discovered vast numbers of Christians who were excited about the prospect of being made to think, even if they didn’t always agree with me. And so my audience and I have created an environment where we love each other not because we agree all the time, but because we enjoy the experience of talking it over together. Every day we collaborate to show that theology, like a good relationship, is not something to be purchased or rejected, but something to be enjoyed….together.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

To Husbands: How To Have A Great Wife

Published in Arizona Family News--November 2007
Published at Townhall.com--November 14, 2007

“He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord,” and he who nourishes a wife preserves a good thing and maintains the favor of the Lord.

God allowed you to find your wife because He believed you would take good care of His precious daughter. This is why you obtain the dual blessings of having her and pleasing Him. But what happens when you don’t take good care of your wife? A man who neglects his wife makes her miserable and then she makes him miserable. As the saying goes, “When mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” But she isn’t the only unhappy one. I believe you also anger God by betraying His confidence in trusting you with her. After all, what father is happy when his son-in-law fails to keep his darling content?

I’ve been to many weddings, and I have yet to see a woman stand at the altar promising to “love, honor, and obey so long as you both shall live” while thinking to herself, “I despise this man, and I expect this marriage to make me miserable.” Not likely. She stand there with hope, anticipation, love, admiration, and the expectation of great joy in her heart. Unfortunately, if you fail to meet her needs and fulfill her hopes, she will not stay that way. The best way to ruin a good woman is to marry her and then fail to give her what she expected to receive.

Oh, sure, perhaps she exerts a tremendous effort and manages to stay sweet and wonderful in spite of you neglecting her. Even the Bible teaches her to love you into being a better man. But to expect or demand this from her is naively optimistic and, quite frankly, unfair. There is a much better way: the Biblical way.

When we quote Ephesians 5, men often emphasize the wife’s duty to submit. Okay, fine. But the husband’s duty is to love his wife as Christ loved the Church, His Bride. In thinking about the relationship between Christ and the Church, who has the greater challenge? Who does more? Who is primarily responsible for the ultimate success of the Relationship? Your obligation to represent the love of Jesus in your marriage is a monumentally greater task than your wife’s obligation to represent the submission of the Church.

So, what does it take to have a great wife? Simple. Be a great lord. And what does it take to be a great lord? Equally simple. Know the needs and desires of your wife and meet them. If you don’t, she will become just the sort of wife you don’t want: nagging, withholding, bitter, and frustrated. God gave you a beautiful flower. He does not expect a dead thorn bush in return. You’d have done better to remain single than to so ruin the beautiful human rose He entrusted to you.

That’s the simple part. It may be unpleasant to ponder, but it’s simple. Your job is to nurture, cherish, love, honor, serve, provide for, lead, impress, and protect your wife. And if you never stop doing this, the chance that she will be a great wife is very good. Yes, she retains free will and may fail on her part, but, when you do your part, it becomes much easier for her to do hers.

So how is this to be accomplished? This is where things get dicey. Willard Harley wrote a very helpful book called “His Needs, Her Needs,” in which he outlines the top needs of women. They include affection, conversation, honesty and openness, financial support, and family commitment. This is all true. Gary Chapman wrote another helpful book called “The Five Love Languages,” in which he talks about giving love through gifts, quality time, words of encouragement, physical touch, and acts of service. This is also true. Gary Smalley has written books. James Dobson has written books. Ellen Kreidman has written books. And all the books in the world are helpful and at the same time not. Here’s why.

Women aren’t a formula.

Every woman is different. Every woman is complex. Every woman is mysterious. And just about the worst thing you can do is think that she can be solved like some math equation. Men, by contrast, are not all that complex. This is why men and women don’t understand each other. Women often refuse to believe men are so simple. Men often can’t grasp that women are so complicated.

Yet God is represented in both of these. He is at once both absurdly simple and astoundingly complex. He is straightforward and mysterious. In other words, God made it so that women could learn about Him by understanding men and that men could learn about Him by understanding women. That’s why marriage is such a rich theological gift.

And your part, husbands, is the harder one. Though the task is simple (to make her feel loved and precious beyond comparison), the method is not simple. Although I can confidently tell her what to do in general to make you happy (see my previous article), I cannot tell you the same about your wife. You have to figure that out for yourself, and, even if you figure her out today, it may be a new puzzle tomorrow or the next day.

That’s okay. That’s one side of God’s Nature you’re experiencing. If it frustrates you, you’re really just admitting you’re frustrated with God. But if you take it as the greatest challenge with the neatest reward, then you’ve suddenly discovered something far more interesting than fantasy football ever can be.

But if I can’t give you a formula, why did I bother writing this? Because if I can merely get you to recognize the nature of the challenge and stop thinking that there is a four-step plan you can follow to nurture a great wife, I’ve already helped you immensely.

Let me conclude with a personal example. Most women like surprises. My wife hates them. Most women like to be given sweets such as chocolate. My wife likes it once but then gets angry because she worries it will make her fat. Most women like to be given lavish gifts that show their value. My wife considers that a waste of our carefully managed budget. Most women like to celebrate anniversaries. My wife couldn’t care less. So what do I do?

Well, I could ignore everything I know about her by surprising her with an expensive chocolate extravaganza on our anniversary. Then I could pride myself for having followed a set of rules that would apply for most women as I sit back to enjoy the fruits of my stupidity. Or I could let her purchase season 10 of Little House on the Prairie on DVD for herself at Target on sale two months before our anniversary. Guess which one I did? And she was quite satisfied with that. We must give our wives what they truly want, not what we think they want…just like God.

So, what’s the lesson? Learn what YOUR wife needs from you to feel loved, and then give it to her. Pay attention. Really pay attention. Try some experiments, and see how it turns out. If you find something that works, try it some more. Never stop trying to impress her with the things you will do to make her feel loved. But also never forget that she’s a woman, not a formula…just like God.

And if you follow this simple (and completely unsimple) advice, I suspect you’ll find yourself married to a great wife. At the very least, she’ll appreciate you trying so hard to understand and satisfy her…just like God.