Theo...

Secularism and the problem of humanity

DSC_0057I am not surprised. The news that broke this week about Planned Parenthood is a natural outgrowth of secular thought. Just as superiority of a certain ethnicity is an outgrowth of evolutionary thought. Treating aborted babies as a cash crop is consistent. Stating the alternative of just throwing ‘it’ away a dry juxtaposition on an empty system. We must realize that secularism is not morally neutral.

Religion as a whole has its problems. Though by religion in North America people usually mean Christianity. After all, the voice of the church was not loud when slavery was around, though there were Christians and churches that decried the barbarism. The ills of the past are often thrown in Christianity’s face. Such misses the point of Christianity, but that is for another day. In reality the problem is not religion specific, but of the marriage of church and state that is the issue. What is often decried as “church” was really “state” in past history.

That is the past, let us focus on recent history. In the 20th century secularism took on greater vigor. As evolutionary thought exploded and theologically conservative Christians (unwisely) abandoned centers of cultural influence, secularism blossomed with greater speed. Along with the explosion of secularism was the political movement of socialism/communism/fascism. Society formed a spectrum of tolerance whereby religion was either forbidden, ‘tolerated to a point,’ or said to only be placed in one’s private life, not the public square. The premise of this form of thought is fairness, justice, and what is best for society as a whole. Humanity paid a price.

Racism now had scientific backing, not just a mere political/colonialism one. In the name of the greater good and the shelving to outright forbidding religion the human soul was lost. Religion was no longer to “force” it’s views on morality, though morals were being forced on everyone through secular society: Conform or be labeled and destroyed. In this seemingly progressive period of history, racism fell out of favor, though the strongest supporters of secularism and racism still had cards to play: government and “best for society.”

The slavery of the confederacy was outlawed, and the KKK type things were formed. These too slowly fell out of favor, but eugenics and then the abortion issue came into vogue as KKK types lost favor. Social safety nets also formed under the nobility of the “war on poverty.” Going against the wisdom or the effectiveness of such social help programs is to be going against the poor. Going against abortion is to be on the wrong side of the war on women. Standing for morality based on a religious premise is to be like the racists of the past, except such people are not.

In the United States, slavery, the Confederacy, the KKK, Socialism, Secularism, and Planned Parenthood have one common ancestor. Globally secular and evolutionary thought pays a common price. In recent history secularism slaughtered millions. In the name of the common good or even choice a terrible price was paid: people can be less than human. And when people are less then human, discarding such lesser beings is consistent both scientifically or for the common good. Harvesting human body parts from abortions instead of dumping them in the trash is not unreasonable. The wretchedness of such a juxtaposition is lost upon secularism. Gone (maybe, doubtfully) is the racism, but the pillar of racism isn’t: that a group of people can be less than human.

Secularism is not the answer, for in it we have more people slaughtered than any event in history of mankind, minus the flood. If avoiding religion brings the slaughter of millions, and the abuse of religion brought on its own tragedies, what then is the solution? For humanity could not live up to the ideals of religion, nor could humanity live up to its own ideals in secularism. Racism is bad, that is nearly universal now, but abortion kills more African Americans than any other type of death, bar none. Our social safety nets have destroyed families and heaped upon us the problem of absent fathers. Fatherless homes have a massive impact on crime, mental health, the economy, and education. We now live in the mess created in large measure by secularism. What, then, is the solution?

The misunderstanding of Christianity is that the church is perfect. The church is not perfect, but it is about being perfected by the only one who can change us. The good news, known as the Gospel, is that Jesus showed us a better way to solve problems: Loving sacrifice. Jesus demonstrated this by dying on a cross, though he is innocent, for our sins, though we are guilty. The concept of freedom comes from God and specifically the person of Jesus. For freedom’s sake Christ set us free. Government or secularism cannot solve humanities ills, nor can religion.

Can there be good and nobel secularists? Yes. But, there cannot be a good and noble secular society. Secularism is not morally neutral and has it’s own sins to atone for. But justice and the good of society cannot come at the price of our humanity. We bear the image of God. All people of all ethnicities do. If this were not true, than why did Jesus say go into all the world and preach the Gospel? The greatest mark of equality is not by law, but by Jesus. The only answer for religion and secularism’s ills is the forgiveness that Jesus already provided. There is no other way to balance the scales of justice. Humanity’s sin is too great.

Uncategorized

Jude is warning us

in preparing for a sermon on why there are so many denominations, I read through the book of Jude. The book was written to warn the church and give a rode map for the church to swim upstream. Jude exemplified the terse pastoral response.

Still, the warning is the point. His map guides us, but it is the warning and coming new reality that is the reason for the map. On numerous fronts there is injustice and rampant sin, even within the church. In our focus on grace, mercy and peace we must come to realize that sin is a reality to contend with, we cannot serve well if we ignore or not call out the problem.

The prophets, Apostles and Jesus called out sin. They also demonstrated how to serve as well, but they called sin for what it is. From sexual immorality, to stealing, to slavery, to tyranny, to rampant murder, to covetousness and idolatry, we must, as pastors, point out we’re in a nation desperately needing the Gospel. The U.S. is not the New Jerusalem.

Optimism isn’t ignoring the problem, it’s recognizing the problem and focusing on the solution. We must point out the problem and not let people ignore it if our solution focus is to be heard. Jesus doesn’t just want a relationship, he wants us free. The sins our nation struggles with leads to destruction, even when it doesn’t seem like it.

“But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively.” http://esv.to/Jude1.10

Life & Learning

Alcohol & The Christian

DSC_0272We are too often incoherent in our treatment of alcohol. I delayed writing this for sometime as I have friends on all sides of the issue. More frequently I see posts of articles decrying alcohol in a way that is frankly void of biblical thinking. Being asked about this question often, I suppose publicly stating a position is important. What, then, is a Gospel centered approach to alcohol? Simple: discern how, when, and if you should drink or not drink. Simple enough…

Alcohol is not sin
It is not a sin to drink alcohol. It is a sin to get drunk. Period. Too much preaching points to alcohol as being sinful, which is unbiblical. Some even hedge this a bit by saying strong drink is a sin, also unbiblical. Why? Because God allows for it and he also drank and will drink. At this point my abstaining friends are thinking “yeah, but…” The problem is unbiblical preaching is inherently unstable, and frankly for my pastor friends, poor preaching. There are clear benefits to drinking supported by both science and Scripture.

Getting drunk is sin
The Bible EXPLICITLY states that being drunk is sin. There is a line clearly drawn in Scripture. I am all for preaching against drunkenness for it has firm biblical handles from Genesis to Revelation. There are even groups of people who shouldn’t drink based on certain passages, and there is practical application to those in our modern context.

Preach broader than alcohol
The fruit of the spirit lists self-control. This issue is much broader than alcohol, but I’d submit includes alcohol. If one is predisposed to lacking self-control, or specifically lacks self-control in a particular area, that area should be avoided. Lack of self-control in playing video games can have a similar appearance to a person on drugs. In the Gospel we are free, but not free to sow to the flesh, but to the spirit. Preaching on self-control nails everyone and has the benefit of being biblical.

But…but…but…
1) Wine is different… People got and get drunk Genesis through Revelation. Whether it takes 1 drink of 10 drinks to get drunk does not matter. Drunkenness is the sin. Also, the relationship of water to wine is such that one based on sermon on the topic a doctor told me a person would drown in their own tissue for consuming too much liquid, yet people got drunk in Bible times.

2) The Bible says to avoid the appearance of evil… This is a mistranslation (sorry KJV only crowd.) The issue is to avoid any form of evil. This is a BIG deal. Meaning, a pastor walking into a bar may appear evil but it may very much be a holy, missional thing (counseling, removing someone who is drunk, graciously attending an event, etc.) Taking a drink is not evil for it is not a sin. (Preaching wrongly on alcohol is a form of evil.)

3) We are not to cause stumbling… Causing someone to stumble means causing them to sin. It is sin for a Christian in their freedom to place a shot or a pint in front of an alcoholic. At times it may even be a sin to drink in the presence of those who struggle with self-control or who think one shouldn’t drink. Much preaching based on the stumbling is illogical. Based on many sermons I have head people should not eat based on people’s struggle with gluttony. The issue of stumbling makes many issues full color and not black & white.

4) I think it is wrong… Then if you drink you sin for you are not doing it in faith. It is OK and biblical to, in your conscience, believe drinking alcohol is wrong. Based on those who destroyed their lives because of alcohol, taking a strong stance against alcohol is not unbiblical. In some instances it is even prudent. But, in doing so, be biblical.

5) No good comes from a Christian drinking… I read this all too often in articles arguing for abstaining. Yes, good can come from a Christian drinking. For instance, there are many medications I cannot take, so alcohol helps prevent traumatic medical events from occurring. Meaning, it is helping me maintain health and the temple. I would submit that is a good thing. At this point what people say is “oh, for medical reasons that is ok.” But, in the Bible alcohol is consumed for worship situations as well. A person drinking in self-control and with discernment can and does bring out good things. Paul likely told Timothy to take a little wine because Timothy was probably over reaching on qualifications of a pastor. Alcohol doesn’t help an upset stomach.

The bottom line:
The Gospel sets us free. In living for more than ourselves, we bear fruit of the spirit, which includes self-control. We should seek to demonstrate this in all areas. We all struggle with sin. Whether, how and when to drink should be carefully discerned. The answer will change as your ministry context changes. For sure getting drunk is sin, and the Bible gives clear warnings about the potential dangers of alcohol, but the Bible does not declare drinking a sin.

If you lean towards getting drunk and/or alcoholism runs in your family, abstaining is the prudent choice. If you work with minors and others who struggle with drinking, abstaining in public is a prudent choice and perhaps in private as well. If in the presence of those who struggle with alcoholism, abstaining is a prudent choice. If you drink in the privacy of your home and/or in public because the previous situations are not in play, God bless. But for both sides, do not use your freedom or abstaining as a measure of superiority or holiness for the Bible argues strongly against you both. For those who drink should be commended for self control and those who abstain should be commended for their sacrifice. Both of these are demonstrations of a thirst for holiness.

This may not be a clean and simple answer, but neither is life clean and simple until we see Jesus face to face.

Life & Learning

More guns, more play

  The latest news of squirt guns being unkind, of nerf darts causing near expulsion, then reduced to 5 days suspension, is beyond ludicrous. It is plain stupid. Two things boys need: more guns and more play. Period.

 It’s called sparing. It’s boys being boys. They wrestle, the fight, they like to blow things up. It’s cool. It’s amazing. It is how they learn justice, empathy, problem solving, values, fun, relationships, reading, math, resiliency, processing anger, and most importantly, how to be a great dad. Less guns and less play robs boys of their education. Less guns and less play dehumanizes boys.

Guns are a tool. Through a gun one learns respect, how to think, the value of life, the importance of justice, and how to be friends. Growing up guns move from toys to the real thing. They move from carefree playing to cautios respect, for each gun is to be treated as if it’s loaded. Tales of fighting bad guys become parental heart wrenching stories of our boys in the military, law enforcement, or defending our grandkids. A mere toy becomes a means to provide food for their family, bonding with other men, and relationships with our grandchildren.

Play is a canvas. Through Imagination and sheer stupidity of boyhood, play paints radiant pictures of failure to victory, from curiosity to mad scientist. Through play life happens and learning takes root. Play unlocks the doors of once bullies becoming best friends. Boys do stupid things. They’re naive. Play is a critical part of whether they will choose become a fool or wise. With less guns and less play, sadly the choice of foolishness is increasing. I am not saying that because boys do stupid things it’s therefore ok. We learn from our mistakes. Rob boys of failure and you ultimately rob them of success. Play opens the door of adventure.

It is not a crime to be a boy. The crime is not letting boys be boys. The crime is not teaching boys when they fail and do stupid things. The crime is we’re robbing boys of their success and their humanity.

Life & Learning

5th year of blogging & learning

IMG_1916It is hard to believe I started this blog 5 years ago! For all those who regularly read this, that you! Here are key lessons learned over the last 5 years in relation to writing:

  • Writing is hard work. Even harder when leading a church. I wanted to write a couple of times per week, but a few times per month is a challenge. Writing is worth it because it narrows your thinking and your focus.
  • No matter how hard you try, people will misunderstand or take something differently then intended. Write anyway. Conversation and conflict is good.
  • It is hard to avoid writing about something you’re walking through. Ron Edmonson advised to not write about current leadership situations until they are well in past. This is VERY prudent advice, and hard to follow. The practice of self-control is worth it. (Oh, and so is Ron’s blog!) That said, many articles were not written because it would not be wise.
  • Controversy spikes, humility does not. We gloss over topics concerning character, especially humility. Topics on a controversial topic will swoon with ratings. Perhaps the problem with the state of media is us.
  • Skepticism is real, and I think we as the church can do a better job interacting with those challenged with skepticism.
  • There is a deep yearning for classic church. In a real sense, I wonder if the church’s focus on reaching the unchurched has missed something. People expect church to be church. Tradition is not the problem, apathy is.
  • Educators feel like they’re in a corner and not many speak out for them. As a culture, we are very detached from public education even though we use it.
  • My Boyz are MUCH bigger now, and being a dad is simply awesome. (As is the stock value in Advil.) On a serious note, my kids bring much joy and it’s fun giving a small glimpse into their silliness at times.

Again, thank you for being a reader! I look forward to what the next 5 years will bring as we learn, dream and live.

Blessings,
T. Woznek

Life & Learning

Lessons from St. Patrick

Coffee-LoveIt is the day we celebrate all things Irish. With all that said, here are some key life lessons we should reflect on this St. Patrick’s day:

  1. Life is hard and not fair. He was taken from his family and put into slavery. He went back and suffered severe persecution for sharing the Gospel to the nation that enslaved him. Even the church was against him, deeming Druids unworthy of being saved.
  2. Patrick prayed. He prayed often. He prayed a lot.
  3. Patrick was admittedly opposed to idols and he WENT to people and shared the good news of Jesus.
  4. Patrick taught in ways that people could understand. And, while we knock the object lessons he used today, the point is he taught in meaningful ways.
  5. Patrick put others before himself. As Jesus took the bread and said this is my body which is for you, Patrick did the same by serving sacrificially.
  6. Patrick demonstrated love and forgiveness and it cost him.
  7. The Irish, deemed less than human, saved western civilization. Much of this is to the work of a man who accepted that life is hard and not fair, took the harder path of forgiveness, and preached Jesus to all who would hear.
  8. Slavery, persecution, and idol worship are alive and well today.  And, they are equally unpopular to discuss or push against.
The Church, Theo...

Who turned out the lights for a brighter future?

Stained Glass Window
by Hauki-

Every once in a while an article or articles you post online blows up your feed. Clearly, lighting in a worship center is a sensitive issue. In the ground swell of discussion there are a few concerns and patterns that need to be addressed. The lighting issue is a symptom of a greater issue within the North American Church, issues we do need to repent of.

One God, sneaky idols…
Churches worship methods as Christians worship preferences. While churches decry consumerism, Christians can point out the out of balance focus on methodology. Shedding light on modern idols is essential. We should operate from our theology and not our methodology. Methods change, who God is does not. On the individual side, church is not a commodity or business, it is a family. Being the church via one’s preferences misses a major point in the Bible: It’s not about you. Let us be frank: method worship and preference worship are major idols we the church need to remove.

One family, many discussions…
We are too quick to end discussions, as if the truth is already clearly known or understood. We are too quick to take offense. For example: The no light crowd pounces on the non-biblical issue with a side of evangelism. The all light all the time crowd brings out the design and Bible issue. Boom. Then there are people on the entire spectrum who say we shouldn’t discuss such things as there are more important issues. All three shutter discussion that is healthy and important. As Christians we stop discussion way too often and to our hurt. Cue the passages that talk about listening.

One creator, numerous stories…
Design communicates. Design matters. How we act as a church communicates our message as much or more so than what we say. For instance: Try communicating about Jesus’ birth in a brightly lit room, or discuss heaven in a dimly lit dark one. In both these scenarios the environment is antithetical to the story. Both these stories also need to be communicated with utmost clarity. We must stop treating the arts, such as design, as a non biblical, minor issue. Our mission to clearly communicate and proclaim who God is requires that such be brought under the light of our theology to reach a darkened world. After all, artists are a part of the body of Christ.

One church, open back doors…
In the last few decades there is a price the church paid: the de-churched. The idolatry, shuttering of discussion, and schizophrenic views on the arts cost the church too much. After all, we are family. Perhaps church growth would improve if our back doors were what we shuttered and not discussion, if we valued the glory of God more and our little kingdoms less. We can open our front doors more with artistic brilliance as more darken the seats of our worship centers. That is a worthy discussion, but there are sins we as a church family must repent of first. We’ve already paid too high a price.

The bottom line:
How we light our churches is not a big deal. How we discuss it shines a light on a dark stains the blood of Christ can easily wipe clean. While lighting may not be significant, there is too deep a price we paid. So, why not have the discussion and let the grace which God lavished on us and predestined before the foundations of the world conform us to the image of His son. Why not focus on the long-suffering and patience aspects of love found in 1 Corinthians 13. As a family we can and must do better.