Melinda: This is #STRask and it is not working. He is trying to make me laugh. Trying to pretend to tickle me.
Greg: I am laughing.
Melinda: Yeah. I just said it's not working on me.
Greg: Brooke is laughing.
Melinda: I'm just putting on my teacher face, I'm sorry. You're just an unruly boy in my classroom.
Greg: As long as you don't get your teacher’s ruler out.
Melinda: My teachers had a board of education. That's what Ms. Elshleger called it, the board of education. You know what this is.
Greg: Welcome to the show.
Melinda: The anniversary edition of STRask.
Greg: Oh it is. Number 20.
Melinda: Yesterday was.
Greg: We're starting our 24th.
Melinda: No, we're not. We're finishing. Aren't your tired enough, why do you have to make is 24? We're finishing our 23rd year and that's tired enough.
Melinda: Okay. Yes.
Greg: Congratulations Ms. Penner.
Melinda: Congratulations Mr. Koukl. Yes, today is May 2. Yesterday was our anniversary and in 1993, we had a meeting on May 1.
Greg: Mm-hmm. At Hope Chapel in Hermosa Beach on the ocean view room. It was really the second meeting that we had of people gathering to kind of get an opinion.
The first one a couple months before, a smaller group, and got some insight about developing this idea a little bit more. It was in very, very raw form then. I worked on that and you and I then met with a group of ... I don't know what the actual number was. 50 to 60 people and these were friends of ours. People who had followed the radio show. People who had come to events, like Hope Chapel Ministry Institute, where I'd been teaching for years there.
Melinda: You had started doing some radio, KBRT, and-
Greg: Three years at that point.
Melinda: Religion On The Line.
Greg: Right. Religion On The Line before that.
Melinda: You had, basically ... Siri, be quiet. Siri thinks we are talking to her.
You had a list of people that had committed to pray for you when you did radio.
Greg: That's right. Right.
Melinda: Those are the people we invited to this event.
Greg: Right. It was just a larger circle of people that I wanted to get advice from. I played out the idea of Stand to Reason there and presented the notion to them and had it more worked out at that point and asked them two questions. We sent out a piece of paper to everybody when it was done. I said, "I want you to write on the piece of paper, whether thumbs up or thumbs down, in your opinion, do you think this is a good idea? Should I move in this direction? If thumbs up, how much money are you willing to lay on the line to kind of us help things going?" Everybody gave it a thumbs up as I recall. Within the next few, three or four weeks, I think, some substantial amount of money, some thousands of dollars came in that allowed us to begin to our legal work. I was at Hope Chapel, of course, on staff at the time. Then, you came in later and kind of replaced me in part and I was halftime. Hope was a tremendous help to us to make the transition and gave us office spaces early on.
That initial thumbs up, thumbs down meeting was May 1, 1993, 23 years ago. I guess they say the rest-
Melinda: Some of those people are still supporters.
Greg: They are. It is fabulous.
Melinda: People sometimes ask on our strategic partner levels, the pillar level starts at $166, which is an odd amount. The reason we have that amount is because that first year, Greg figured out how many people we needed, giving like $2,000 a year or something. However you figured it out, it came to $166-
Greg: Yeah. You divide it out.
Melinda: That was the top level of our pledges.
Greg: That's right. Then, there was 100 and 50 and 25.
Melinda: Builders, cornerstones, architects and pillars.
Greg: Correct, but that is where that odd number came from. A whole lot of people signed up on that level and we still have people at that level and some of those original folk in fact.
We have got 23 years behind us, which is a bit of an amazing thing. I have often reflected with staff that I think a big part of our success humanly speaking is that we just show up every day and we do our job. Singles and doubles. We are not looking for home runs. We are just looking to get on base every time and just to do our job and the whole team is like that.
Melinda: There haven't been a whole lot of homeruns over the years. There haven't been major events that propelled us forward. It has been a lot of steady stuff. There have been times where we have kind of hoped for a homerun, a big thing, and we have been disappointed. You know what? God has just been faithful in our everyday efforts.
Greg: That's right.
Melinda: Day in, day out, year in, year out.
Melinda: You worked at Hope Chapel in an office with two other people. You had one desk. Then, we put a small table at the end of the desk and that was my desk. The product department, a box of cassettes, was under the table at my feet.
Greg: That was it.
Melinda: Of course, we didn't have the internet back then but we had the printed articles.
Greg: That's right.
Melinda: I had those-
Greg: These were commentaries for the radio show.
Melinda: Stackers, the desk organizers. Right. Commentaries. Those were the first things as stackers on my desk, piled high with different topics and stuff.
Then, eventually Hope Chapel gave us room in the back, which was the warehouse area. This was one of the rooms in the warehouse. No windows. No ventilation. We thought it was fabulous.
Greg: Yeah. Right.
Melinda: It was our own office.
Melinda: Actually, you were clever. You built ... Actually, your desk, we moved back there and we've moved it with us. It is the desk I still sit at, the desk you had at Hope Chapel. We started off by basically using doors on cabinets for counters to work at to duplicate cassettes and to send out things. We still have some of those doors and cabinets back in the warehouse. We just dragged things from place to place. Yeah. It was fun.
Greg: We just got rolling and everybody pitched in.
Melinda: We had volunteers.
Greg: Lots of volunteers. Then, slowly, we started adding staff. I was the first ... I'm trying to remember.
Melinda: You were the first paid staff.
Greg: I was the first paid staff. Then, you came on. I was part-time and you were part ... I don't know how that worked. Eventually, we were full-time. Then, more people got at it. Our first speaker was Scott Klusendorf and that was kind of a windfall thing for us.
Melinda: We weren't even thinking about it.
Melinda: He was in town. I guess he lived here but he knew about us, we didn't know about him. He asked to get together. We had breakfast at the Coffee Company.
Greg: That's right.
Melinda: He was a kindred spirit.
Greg: Mm-hmm. That's for sure.
Melinda: He was the one who had the idea of coming on staff with us.
Greg: Well no, what happened there and I remember this very specifically-
Melinda: He was going to start his own organization.
Greg: He was going to start his own organization. Now, when we were talking about some things, he was the pro-life guy. I was suggesting some ideas that I had thought up that might help him and he might use them. When I mentioned like “Only One Question” and some of these things that are signature Stand to Reason approaches, he had already invested ... He has already incorporated that. Being a student of STR, he had incorporated that into his presentations. It was great because he was a kindred spirit.
He was looking to get out of the organization he was in because he was thinking he was doing too much development and not enough public speaking, where he thought his strength was, and so he wanted to start an organization like we had and so that would free him up.
I said, "Scott, you start an organization like we have, it is not going to free you up. It is going to bog you down because the organizations require a lot of time." I said, "What you need is an organization that sees your value and cuts you free, basically. Cuts you loose to do what you do best. Why don't you come with us?"
He already had a financial base that he could bring with him. There was no budget impact for us. It was just a no-brainer. It worked perfectly and he was with us for about six years.
Melinda: Yeah, but we never really thought about a strategy of having speakers-
Melinda: Until some other people observed and said, "This is a really good idea. You should really be conscious about bringing these speakers on," which we have tried to be since then.
Greg: Then, Brett Kunkle showed up and made a pitch-
Melinda: We had Steve Wagner for a while.
Greg: Yes, right. I think Brett was second, wasn't he?
Melinda: Yeah, I think so, and then Alan.
Greg: Because he actually met with us at Biola. Yeah, and then-
Melinda: Tim Barnett.
Greg: Tim Barnett. Right.
Melinda: Another thing, we had a website thanks to volunteers in 1996, when it was still very new to have a website.
Greg: Yeah. I think it was called ... Before that we had a bulletin board, I think, before we even had a formal website.
Melinda: Bulletin boards. Yeah.
Greg: That is really ancient.
Melinda: We had a member at Hope Chapel, who was a techie guy. We didn't even know what URLs were or domain names. He reserved our domain name, STR.org.
Greg: Is that Steven?
Melinda: No. I can't think of his name right now.
Greg: I know who you are talking about. Yeah. Yeah.
Melinda: Then, some volunteers and friends that we had before we started Stand to Reason, the Haggertys, were techies.
Greg: That's right.
Melinda: They built our first website. Then, we had another volunteer, Scott Broderhausen, who said, "You know, I could take the radio show. Send me the CDs and I can post them online." We had a podcast before the word "podcast" existed.
Greg: Yeah, RealAudio was the format.
Melinda: Yeah. There have been a lot of people over the years that are the ones that have suggested things.
Greg: I have always felt that we have had kind of a tiger by the tail and we have been along for the ride. God has done so much more with this organization than I had ever planned or I could ever think of, exceedingly, abundantly beyond what we could ask or even think. A synergistic effect of a lot of bright people giving their time and energy and the Lord coming in it from every angle you can imagine, doing things for us that we would never have expected.
Within about three years, we got a shout on Jim Dobson's show and that gave us tremendous cache. It wasn't a home run in the sense that it launched us completely into the limelight but that was on those things that is kind of like a Good Housekeeping seal of approval.
Melinda: It was nice.
Greg: Yeah, and who we are 23 years later.
Melinda: STR Ask, another idea, brainstorming by our staff.
Greg: That's right.
Melinda: We better ask a couple questions.
Greg: Okay. We've got to get to work-
Melinda: Here we go.
Greg: Hit a couple singles or doubles here.
Melinda: Right. Here we go.
On Twitter, @BarryWallis asks, "It looks like kosher laws began with the Mosaic law. Since they weren't for health reasons, what purpose did they serve?"
Greg: I am not sure that the health issues were not involved at all. Some people look back on them now and think back then there was a lot of dangers that were avoided by the Jews because of the peculiar diet that they had but that wasn't the main reason. The main reason for all of those things-
Melinda: Conrad Walton. I'm sorry.
Greg: Conrad Walton. There it is.
Melinda: I have been trying to think of his name for days. He was the member of Hope Chapel, who reserved the domain name for us.
Greg: That's right.
Melinda: Sorry. Go ahead.
Greg: I remember. I can picture him quite well.
Greg: Yeah. The purpose of the law, the law had a number of different purposes. One of the purposes of the law was to create a kind of a protected area for the Jews. The Jews were a unique people following the true God. One of the concerns of the true God is that the Jews not become eclectic. That is that they not mix Yahweh worship with the pagan religions of the time. This was already happening with the patriarchs. You have Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the 12 sons. I think this is one of the reasons that God sent them to Egypt is because the Egyptians were bigots and they wouldn't have anything to do with the Jews that were now increasing in number. The Jews did not interact that much with the Egyptians and that protected them.
If you go to Ephesians, Chapter 2, you can get a picture of this. This notion that the law is a dividing wall. It doesn't go in this passage into a lot of detail about the protective element of it. What had happened at this point is that the wall had gotten almost too thick and the Jews weren't breaching the wall at all and reaching other cultures, which is God's purpose. His purpose has always been the nations and that is clear in the Abraham covenant. Here is what Paul says regarding the Gentiles. He said, "You who are at the time separate from Christ and excluded from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope without God in the world. But now in Christ, you formerly who were far off are brought near by the Blood of Christ. He, Himself, Who is our Peace, Who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of Commandments contained in ordinances," et cetera, et cetera. This is Ephesians 2, Verse 13 and following.
Like I said, there are a number of purposes to the law, but part of the purpose of the law was to have very peculiar elements that kept them, the Jews, separate culturally from those around them. I think kosher laws functioned in that way as well.
Melinda: Great. Next question. "How can we deal with-"
Greg: By the way, incidentally, if you can't eat what is not kosher, it is kind of hard to hang out with your pagan buddies and have meals together. I think that was an insight that just came to me and I wanted to toss it in before we moved on.
Melinda: Helped keep them pure from the-
Greg: Influence of the pagan religions.
Melinda: Right, influence. I have been reading through that part of the Old Testament, Deuteronomy, and now Judges, and when they went into the Promised Land and God told them not to mix with these people, it wasn't for any good reason. These were people who not only worshiped idols but they committed child sacrifice and all kinds of really horrid, horrid things.
Greg: Right. Right. Their gods were sexual gods. They were fertility cults. Ba?al was the god of storms, Ishtar, the god of reproduction. In the high places, they would engage in these fertility worship things that were meant as sympathetic magic so that their crops would be more fertile. Nasty.
Melinda: Yeah. These are not people God wanted his people mixing with.
Melinda: Okay. Next question comes from Twitter. @dtabbright, "How can we deal with skepticism over someone's experience 'hearing God' vs. rejoicing with what appears to be God's intervention?"
Greg: I guess I don't have enough ... I wish the person had asked some more questions. What do they mean by rejoicing about God's intervention? They may be thinking somebody or they may be referring to somebody who thought they heard from God but probably didn't and moved on in some direction that eventually by God's grace bore fruit, which you want to rejoice in. Maybe that is what they mean. My tendency is if it bears fruit and it turns out to be something good, then we just rejoice with it.
If you are going to take exception with somebody's decision-making model, hearing from God, practice, it is best to do it in isolation of some apparent success of the method. If this wonderful thing happened because they felt they heard God, it is going to be hard to disabuse them of the theology when the effect is so dramatic. It might be because God was just gracious in that circumstance.
I would need to add though – and this sometimes get overlooked – is I am not theologically hostile to the notion that God could speak in modern times and that God can give special messages and that there can be dreams and visions and appearances of Jesus and angels and all of the kinds of things that we see happening in the Book of Acts. What I object to is really twofold. First, that these kinds of specialized revelations are treated as standard Christian experiences that everyone can have and that his is the means by which ... This would be the second part. The means by which we are to make our decisions. With somehow squeeze the information out of God, who is the one making decisions for us. I don't think that is the biblical standard. God doesn't make our decisions, we do. There are biblical guidelines, et cetera, on how that happens, but we are not just order-takers. That doesn't produce maturity.
That is the thing that I object to. This idea that everyone can hear the voice of God. This is just not biblical in the slightest. Not only that, all the verses that are being used to support the idea are virtually universally taken out of context and made to mean something that they don't mean. That is my qualifier that is really important, I think. Sometimes there is a genuine word from God and God works.
Melinda: Right. Sometimes there is that voice from God. God is very involved in the process and intervenes all the time. Your objection is that this particular methodology, that should be a habit and a discipline, is not biblical.
Greg: It is not biblical, therefore it is not a Christian discipline. Therefore, it is not a standard way of making decisions.
Melinda: Since for so many people that is the only model they have for how God interacts with us in our decision-making and daily activities, when you tell them that is not biblical, they think you are saying that God is not involved with us at all, which is not the case at all. You are just saying there is a biblical model and this is not the biblical model.
Greg: Correct on both points. One other possible point of confusion is when people hear the method that I think is biblical that I teach for decision-making, what they presume is, "Oh, this is the technique by which I figure out what God wants me to do."
Greg: That is a presumption laying at the rock bottom of this entire enterprise that I think is a false presumption. The presumption that God does the deciding for us and we have to figure out a technique that will allow us to decipher the code that he is sending us about what His will is and some people think I'm just offering a different technique.
No. I am taking exception with the entire paradigm. I think the foundational presumption is itself false. God doesn't make our decisions for us and then hint at what that is and we decipher the code. Rather, He leaves the decisions up to us and He gives us biblical methods by which we can make good decisions.
Melinda: And learn wisdom. A good example of the wisdom model is getting counsel and that May 1 meeting in 1993 was an example of that.
Greg: A perfect example of that. Exactly.
Melinda: If people had said that day, "This is not a good idea. We don't support it." Maybe we would have tried to go back to the drawing board again but we would have taken that as wisdom that we are receiving that we need to take into account.
Greg: If somebody said, "No, and here is why." That, we would have listened to. Okay. Not just, "No," like, "I'm not getting the vibe from God," but rather, here is the problem we had and in fact that is precisely the kind of thing we ran into in the first meeting of those eight people who were largely excited about something but didn't know what they ... I remember Bill Johnson saying that, "I am excited about something but I am not quite sure I know what it is." That is why I had to go back to the drawing table.
Melinda: Took their counsel.
Melinda: We have taken lots of counsel over the years, thank goodness because God has worked through that counsel to guide us and intervene many, many times.
Greg: In the abundance of counselors, there is victory.
Melinda: Right. That's it for this episode. You can send us questions on Twitter. Use #STRask, the name of the podcast. This podcast is posted twice now every week, Mondays and Thursdays, available in all of the usual places. I am Melinda the Enforcer, with Greg Koukl, for Stand to Reason.