Tuesday, November 30, 2010

yymmdd - or sorting by date

Ok, this is a weird post, but what can I say. Neal's Notes is about the extraordinary emerging from the ordinary. I "discovered" this trick some time ago and am still amazed that few others use it. So, I'm going to do my part to spread the word.

Do you find your disk directories or folders with scrambled files? Ever have the need to sort them chronologically? Then abandon the old MMDDYYYY format and adopt YYYYMMDD. See, when the month is the first part of the name, it will sort all January, February, March, etc.but if your files bridge years, well, it's a alphanumeric train wreck just waiting to happen. So, move that year up front! YYMMDD will sort chronologically. Amazing, isn't it?

I have newsletters from several years past filed away. How are they named? title_yymmdd. Those rascals just sort right out in order. How about scanned documents with time off requests? empname_yymmdd. Incredible. Excel sheet with a date column. Same thing. List in a Word document? yymmdd and sort those paragraphs!

Yeah, it's weird. But, it's extraordinary!

Monday, November 29, 2010

When a Nation Forgets God [A Summaview]

When a Nation Forgets God: 7 Lessons We Must Learn from Nazi Germany
When a Nation Forgets God: 7 Lessons We Must Learn from Nazi Germany by Erwin W. Lutzer Erwin Lutzer has been the senior pastor of The Moody church in Chicage since 1980. With “the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other” Lutzer offers Biblical insight into the cultural context of our world. When a Nation Forgets God draws parallels between the circumstances leading to the the rise of Hitler and Nazi Germany and changes in our contemporary culture, concluding with a challenge to Christians to remain faithful to our calling to live completely dedicated to the call of Christ.

Having lived in Germany and served across Europe, the history of that region fascinates me. I read this book to gain an understanding of how a country in which the Reformation began could give rise to Hitler's Reich. What I discovered is that a number of religious, political and social transitions occurred in that country which bear an amazing similarity to the transitions which I perceive to be happening in our country today. Will be give rise to another reich? Probably not, however, the paths of political correctness and reform can surely lead us to places we would rather not go.

The book outline and summary of key thoughts is as follows:
  1. When God is Separated from Government, Judgement Follows - What is the role of the church in the face of governments that have self-consciously excluded God from their policies? (22) When God is ousted from government, transcendent values are replaced by: the raw use of power; eroticism; arbitrary judicial rulings; and, the morality of personal pragmatism (27)
  2. It’s Always the Economy - An economic crisis is always a gift to a leader who wants to capture a nation. (40) … the economy often trumps matters of liberty and principle because money is so integral to who we are and, of course, we need money to live. Unfortunately, sometimes it also trumps those values that are eternally important, such as one’s honor and witness for the Gospel. (49) As far as I know, no government in history has had a great record in providing expanded benefits without eventually also expecting more control of its citizens. (53)
  3. That Which is Legal Might Also Be Evil - Laws reflect a nation’s priorities, agenda, and values. (58) Look behind the law and there is your god! (59) Without a belief in God, nothing is unconditionally wrong. (61) With the erosion of a theistic base, law would no longer be based on an absolute view of morality; values would become relative and human worth devalued. (65)
  4. Propaganda Can Change a Nation - …the capacity for independent thought must be supressed; thus language must be corrupted to serve sinister ends. Sanitized terms were used to camouflage unspeakable crimes. (79) [A cultural current is] a dominant idea promoted by the media and willingly adopted by a critical mass of people wh want to believe a myth so badly they will close their minds to all contrary evidence. When such a cultural movement gains momentum, people will stare at facts and filter out what they don’t want to believe… Before we know it, we are in a world where facts do not matter. (80)
  5. Parents - Not the State - Are Responsible for a Child’s Training - The fact is that laws making education in public schools compulsory have historically been found in the most totalitarian of governments where state-sponsored indoctrination was a major goal of the educational system. (98) The purpose of school was not independent thought, but rather to transform the attitude and values of children to conform to what the state wanted. (101) The educational system became more focused on setting affective, not cognitive goals (outcomes). (103) Values clarification was invented by Dr. Sidney Simon in order to change the beliefs, convictions, and moral values of a child. It is based on the notion that there are no absolutes - no right or wrong. Such transformation is to come into the life of a child by affirming the following: (1) personal values should be left up to each student, not dictated by parents or the church, and (2) questions are to be used that solicit open-ended answers to teach the child that there are no absolutes… Now that the child has been stripped of his previous values… (3) the teacher is to tell the child that he must make up his own mind as to what values he will accept…, and then (4) the child must publicly declare his “conversion” to the new values systems… [Finally] (5) the child is to regularly act on these values. (107-8)
  6. Ordinary Heroes Can Make a Difference - Today in America we need an army of ordinary heroes to stand against the gathering darkness in our land. We need people who will stand for truth courageously, consistently, and with humility and grace. We need millions of believers who will represent Christ in the various vocations of America. We need to enlist people who know what the believe , why they believe it, and how to live out their convictions in diverse situations. (118) …we need ordinary people living authentically for Christ in their vocations, among their neighbors, and positions of influence. We cannot look to a man or even a movement as musch as to the common person who is committed to Christ and living for Him. (120) It is not how loud we can shout but how well we can suffer that will convince the world of the integrity of our message. (121)
  7. We Must Exalt the Cross in the Gathering Darkness - … for us as Christians, the conflict is really between humanism and Christianity; or alternative religions and Christianity. On one side is a deteriorating culture and on the other side of the divide is the cross of Christ with its message of hope and redemption. (133) Have we forgotten that God’s power is more clearly seen in the message of the cross than in any political or social plan we might devise? (134) In previous eras we have seen the gospel neglected or even mocked by religious liberals and nominal Christians… What is different today is that the message of the cross is being ignored even by those who claim to be saved by it’s message. (136)
When a Nation Forgets God certainly has application to the culture in which we live. While there is no suggestion that we stand on the threshold of the emergence of another Hitler or the horrors of the Holocaust he initiated, there can be no doubt that there is a deep need for Christians to resist the changes which marginalize them and the Gospel which describes their being. Lutzer challenges the reader in closing to consider the following questions: At what point do we have to become lawbreakers rather than betray our faith? At what price are we willing to take the cross into the world and identify with our savior? How do we both love the people of the world and yet oppose the agenda of those who would crush the Gospel? (139)

I’m passing this one along to people who have an interest in reading our culture and responding in the power of the Cross.

Bibliography: Lutzer, E. W. (2010). When a Nation Forgets God: 7 Lessons We Must Learn From Nazi Germany. Chicago: Moody Publishers.

It's a... It's a.... What's a Book Summaview?

I am a reader. I love the world of books. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say, I love the world of information. I am an info-junkie. The movie character with whom I have most closely identified is the robot in “Short Circuit.” Input. Input. Input.

That said, I’m adding a new “feature” to Neal’s Notes. Each week, I’ll plan to post a “summaview” of a book I’ve read this week.  As you might guess, a “Summaview” is sort of a cross between a book summary and a review. (I have also been described as a “word-nerd,” which follows from being a reader. If I can’t find the word to describe my thought, I’ll create one.) You will be introduced to the author(s), why I read the book, why you might consider reading it and my overall evaluation. The heart of each summaview, however, will be a list of the table of contents along with the key concept of the chapter.

While I most often read non-fiction books which will be of interst to organizational leaders and managers, pastors and leaders, I also read books related to my hobbies and interests. I also read a lot of fiction and non-fiction books as well, especially of the international espionage genre.

Oh, I’ll also include a link for each book on Amazon.com. This is shameless self-promotion, as each book you might purchase through that link will add a few nickels and dimes to my book fund. So, help me keep ‘em coming!