To be silent when you are not normally silent on such a clear scriptural matter is galling. The juxtaposition of many evangelical leaders in calling out for speaking on matters of justice, yet silent on THE matter of justice, that is the preservation of life, … Continue reading Life is not a debatable matter
In a first world nation, particularly our own, we have not often faced our mortality up front and personally. When that happens it significantly disrupts how we process things. Our prosperity, overly busy lifestyles, and brushing aside all things pointing to death leave us Ill-equipped … Continue reading Why faith is needed
“How does Jesus pointing people to God the Father line up with the emphasis on Jesus in preaching?” I asked during a conference. “It seems with our emphasis on Jesus in the Scriptures we are forgetting God the Father, who Jesus pointed to, submitted to, and sacrificed himself so we can have a relationship with. Later I watched an interview of a celebrity pastor give an awful answer to politics in relationship to preaching to a right of center pundit. He tossed aside the issue of economics but focused on morality illustrated by speaking to the right to life issue. The Bible has much to say concerning economics. It’s a moral issue.
We need an alignment
Our tires were months old, but no longer good. We needed an alignment. At that time in our marriage, we drove over 175,000 miles in three years. That means we needed 5 alignments a year. Oops. With the laser focus on the centrality of the Gospel or Christ we have done something similar with the church. We are in need of fresh tires because of over emphasis. At this point the “yeah…but…” is starting to rise. While the Gospel is the main thing, it’s not the only thing. While it is most important “I delivered to you as of first importance…” It is not the only thing that Paul, Jesus, and the Bible spoke on. So why do we need an alignment?
Foolishness is evil
Jesus said in Mark 7 that what comes out of a person is what defiles them. He gives a list. At the end of the list is foolishness. Why is this a big deal? Because right after that Jesus says “All the EVIL things…” Foolishness is evil, according to Jesus. Proverbs makes the point that to be wise is to be godly. Paul, in Ephesians 5 flips that. To be godly is to be wise, “making the best use of the time for the days are evil.” The preacher of Hebrews relegates the basics of the faith as milk, not solid food. The church is out of practice when it comes to “the mature who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”
What are you saying?
Would an average Christian have an informed answer when asked what is the biblical view of government, economics, and what criteria for judging nations? Some reading this may say “The Bible teaches on politics?!” The Bible speaks deeply about these matters. Do a study on “unjust scales” for example. (Federal Reserve system won’t match up too well with this.) Do a study on God judging a nation based on Nahum 3. (The U.S. foreign policy wont match up well will this.) Do a study on coveting. (Push towards socialism won’t match up well.) And if you’re thinking “…well, that’s the obsolete testament, old covenant thing…” Remember God judges nations in Revelation, which voluminously quotes from the Prophets. We need to build discernment in all areas of life.
Is Jesus the main thing or the Father?
More importantly the need of an alignment is our view on God the Father. While much of the Bible points to and is about Jesus, I would suggest God the Father is the central figure. We ignore him too often. Paul alludes to this in Philippians when he says “… every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Paul’s prayer in Ephesians chapter one amplifies this point. Paul thanks the father for the work done in us, through us and for us in Jesus. But more than that is what Jesus said.
A few things that Jesus said in Matthew
… so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. … so that you you may be sons of your Father who is heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and the good… You must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. …your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. All things have been handed over to me by my Father… For whoever does does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother. Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will. My Father if this cup cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.
- While the preaching of the Gospel is primary, and Jesus the agent that makes that happen, as Gospel centered people we must point people to Father. Jesus did. Significant parts of the Bible are about our Father. In focusing on what Jesus is to us, let us not forget that our brother Jesus established our relationship with the Father, goes before the Father on our behalf, and that together we glorify the Father by doing Dad’s will.
- As foolishness is evil, and the current time evil, let us sharpen our discernment to distinguish good from evil. Let us be deep, reasoned, and thoughtful saints. Let us think, judge and redeem every area of life around us. This involves knowing the whole counsel of God, and applying it to life, family, relationships, economics, politics, ethics, philosophy, history, protection, law, childrearing, conflict, science, engineering, environment, criminal justice, monetary policy, entertainment, etc., etc., etc.
- Preach Jesus! While the church needs an alignment, we must not “swing the pendulum” the other direction. Without Jesus, we cannot know who is central, the Father. Without Jesus, we lack the power of the Holy Spirit to live biblically discerning lives. Without Jesus, we are of all most people to be pitied. In course correcting, let us never forget that the Gospel was delivered to us as of first importance. Preach Jesus, and don’t forget to build discernment. Preach Jesus, and don’t forget our Father in heaven. Let us be in proper alignment and not out of balance. Our culture needs this from us.
In my discovery of fountain pens and the fountain pen world, I discovered a company via YouTube that is brilliant. In answering the: How do I get started with fountain Pens? Go to Gouletpens.com. But there is more to fountain pens then the pen or a business selling pens.
Brian posted tons of video, including a Fountain Pen 101 series, on YouTube. Any info you need to know in getting started and beyond is answered there. You’ll also gain leadership and business insights that are quite helpful. Honestly, in the law of fountain pens, interacting with his content is a must. (There is no law of fountain pens.)
I discovered there is quite a community around fountain pens. It’s a hobby and niche, but it is a classy one. One big thing gained from being a part of this community is increased thoughtfulness and art in doing what we’re doing. It helps bridge the gap of work being a pleasurable experience, not just utility. (I write a lot for work.) This community develops a sense of thoughtfulness and intentionality in not just what we do but in how we do it.
Goulet Pens brings back what is really lacking in our culture. They prove that technology isn’t the problem in our increasingly impersonal culture. I am amazed at how accessible Brian and his team are. Classy, fun, and professional. There is more to a hobby or a tool. There are people. Goulet Pen company brings back the personal in a tech filled world.
The bottom line:
Fountain pens are a tool and a hobby. Finding a personal connection for information or as a vendor can be a challenge. Goulet Pen Company, while online, fits the bill amazingly well. I’m just a customer. If you’re looking at getting started, equipped, enjoying the pleasure of fountain pens, check them out.
Let us change the discussion from navel gazing at ‘the why’ of our problems and look to solutions. One sentence on the why of the “church” problems: Unbiblical thinking combined with lack of thought and theology leads to poor discernment and a mess. Now that the problem is out of the way, we can stop reading numerous church is blah blah blah articles. A wise professor drilled three concepts that will help us overcome: Think. Judge. Redeem.
Proverbs teaches us to be wise is to be godly. Ephesians 5&6 teaches us to be godly is to be wise. In Ephesians 4 as well as Romans 12 the Spirit points directly at the life of the mind. Christianity must work in the midst of suffering and chaos of our current world. And it does. Our fear stems from a lack of thought. Reason and faith are not opposed to one another. Our devotional life must ponder the deep questions of life as we study the Bible. Renewing our mind is a critical aspect to worship. Jesus did say we will not only worship in spirit but also in truth.
God is the source of all truth. In our current reality there is evil and suffering in the world. The question we then need to ask is how to we discern good form evil? Developing the mind is for the pragmatic result of discerning between good and evil, and between better and best. It is to, as Jesus stated, be wise as serpents but innocent as doves. This level of discernment is expected of us as Christians. (Read Hebrews 5:11-14)
Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but to save it. The world is not a mere reference to people, but all creation as well. As we discern truth from error we must answer the question of how to redeem it. As Paul states, redeeming the time for the days are evil. How can we take an object that is depraved, discern the truth of it, and then use such for God’s glory? We are not to live life as a great waiting room for heaven. We are to engage in life and assist in the process of making it new in anticipation of Jesus return. This takes courage.
Lights. Trees. Action.
Think. John talks about Jesus being the light of the world. Judge. Martin Luther, a pastor in Germany, is faced with the paganism of the people he is trying to reach. One pagan ritual was bringing in evergreen trees to celebrate the winter solstice. The people needed to move away from false religion and instead focus on Christ. Redeem. The solution was to add lights to the evergreen tree to represent Jesus as the light of the world. A tradition once tied to paganism is renewed to a symbol of an incredible truth.
Act, don’t react.
We react negatively when our mind and discernment lacks development. Worse, we act in fear. Developing the mind is a critical spiritual discipline. Discernment is essential if we are to not only speak the gospel but also live it. Redemption is a critical role we play as ambassadors for Jesus Christ. Developing the mind does not take away from faith. Truly, developing the mind bolsters the reasonableness and truthfulness of the gospel.
The bottom line:
Developing the life of the mind is a solution to help the church radiate the truth of the gospel, bless our culture, and act with gracious courage.
- 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.
- 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.
- Patrick prayed. He prayed often. He prayed a lot.
- Patrick was admittedly opposed to idols and he WENT to people and shared the good news of Jesus.
- 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.
- 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.
- Patrick demonstrated love and forgiveness and it cost him.
- 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.
- Slavery, persecution, and idol worship are alive and well today. And, they are equally unpopular to discuss or push against.
The topic of euthanasia is in the news again. The discussions on the topic are quite troublesome to me. It is not really a question of should we or should we not. The issue goes far deeper. As a culture, we lost the art of dying.
The problem with ethics is we try to define right apart from God. The question of whether something is ethical is actually unbiblical. Biblical “ethics” is what we call progressive sanctification. Here we align all things to the image of Jesus, over time, and as the Spirit leads. This includes death and suffering.
How one views death determines how one views life. The issue with euthanasia and its kissing cousin abortion is our view of death and suffering. We as a culture, including Christians, are buying into the notion that inconvenience and suffering are not worthy of life. Such a view dehumanizes us. Seeing euthanasia as dignified or abortion as wise is robbery at best. To view suffering as God not blessing is to ignore the cross.
Long ago there was a nobility and aspiration to how we faced death. It was viewed as a testament to ones character and constitution. The process of mourning and lamenting was accepted, encouraged and viewed with dignity. We need to return to this.
The worst crime in our culture, including Christianity, is suffering. To be in-convinced, to be in pain, to be lamenting is to be an unwelcome burden. In a culture so enthralled with authenticity, we jettisoned a massive part of being human. Many of our churches worship in more hip-hop fashion than in grief. Both are essential. Euthanasia is the symptom not the disease.
I could share stories of people who wake up in severe pain and call it a good day. They get up and live. I could recount people who died, suffering in pain, and did so with dignity. One of the greatest honors in life is to serve the helpless who suffer. Because of this we have lost the value of suffering. Because of this people who do suffer have the added burden of feeling less human.
We are drunk with happiness and it is robbing us all of our humanity, Christians included. Let us as a culture admit that we hide from death. Let us also admit that this means we do not truly know how to live. To suffer is not to be less alive or less human or less spiritual. Sometimes suffering is the most spiritual thing you will walk through or walk through with someone. Let us also admit as a culture that hiding suffering is to also remove compassion and love in one of its purist forms.
In running from pain, Christians, we also lose sight of the Gospel and Jesus’ process of making all things new. God painfully allows suffering for a number of reasons, and often for more than just one reason. But His delight is not in the suffering but in the new covenant whereby all pain, sin and suffering are dealt away with. Sadly, in suffering we see the glorious hope of Jesus’ return and our desperate need of God. We see our need to love one another.
To those suffering, facing death and are tired. You are facing a most noble challenge. Your value is in Him who knit you together in your mother’s womb. When you see Jesus face to face all pain and suffering will pale in comparison with the majesty of God. You are not less human. You are not an inconvenience. We, your fellow humans, need to do a better job of showing love in its purist form. We need to mourn and see that as dignified. We need to sober up. You who are suffering have much to teach, much wisdom to impart. We need you. Rather than hide you, we need to compassionately embrace you.
Ask a dumb question and you’re bound to get a bad answer. In the vast online discussion on living for Christ one such questions is rampant. What is more important: theology or how we live? Let me be frank, it’s a dumb question. Why? We act (live) based on what we believe (theology).
God to Joshua
God tells Joshua that he MUST be absorbed with the Torah (first 5 books of the Bible). Why? That Joshua may be careful to do all that is written in it. The result is success. God did not distinguish between action and belief, He called for both. Right actions flow from right thinking. God designed us as theological & philosophical beings. Theology and philosophy are intensely pragmatic because it’s the source of our actions.
Paul to Timothy
A key theme Paul wrote to Timothy was to guard both ministry (living) and doctrine (theology). This theme echoes the idea that God instructed Joshua. Either bad theology or bad living will undercut our mission of making disciples. This is a tension in life that is best left in place. Resolving this tension, which is too often done, creates a bigger mess. Poor Christian living is often a result of bad theology.
The other words of Christ in red…
Jesus makes this point as well. In the seven letters to the churches in Asia Minor Jesus upholds the value of upholding correct theology and living. Jesus calls out the error in either direction and praises success in either direction. While incorrect, people often value the words of Christ in red as more important than the other Holy Spirit (who is also God) parts of the Bible. Hilariously, people often forget the red words in Revelation. Jesus will judge our actions and doctrine.
This divorce hurts our kids
When we focus on belief vs action we lose the ESSENTIAL third rail of proclamation. God wants to be known and made known. The belief vs action debate is inherently self-focused. God upholds correct theology and correct living because He wants us to make Him known. It’s time to hang up the “preach the Gospel and when necessary use words.” God wants us to use words. Bad theology and bad living will undercut our sharing that message. Our focus should be on our spiritual children and grand children.
God the Father has a plan. Part of that plan is making Himself known to us. Life is not about us. God leads for His own name’s sake! God gave us the Bible (special revelation) so He could be KNOWN (theology). God the Son acted as a servant to point people to the Father. (He also did a lot of theology.) In communion this aspect of servanthood is demonstrated as we take the bread that symbolizes Jesus’ body which is for us. Becoming like Jesus is fundamentally servanthood (action). God the Spirit empowers God’s plan and living like Christ. The Spirit is our third rail. Acts 1:8 points this out. The Spirit leads us to not just live well, but to make God known (proclamation).
The bottom line:
We act based on what we believe. This drives us to share with others who God is by the power of the Spirit. Being like Jesus involves correct theology AND correct living for upholding our message of a risen savior. Don’t get stuck with the dumb question of belief vs living. Ask this question: Is my theology and life such that I can boldly proclaim the excellencies of Him who came as a servant, died innocently for our sin, rose victoriously on the third day and will soon return as King to make all things new?
I grew up through public schools. Over the last few months I’ve had the honor to help out a public school district. I’m seeing and sensing a greater antagonism towards public education that is unhelpful. Here is my bottom line: Public schooling is profoundly local, requires parental engagement and is not the enemy. I encourage you to consider these thoughts:
Educators are our neighbors
If you’re stressed from family life, the inner-workings of your job and wanting to make a difference, then you’re like many of our educators. Most educators are concerned with how to help kids learn how to read, write, etc., while also walking through life. They do have a life outside of school in the communities we reside in and the churches we attend. I’ve heard from many public educators that they sometimes feel like second class church members because they teach in a public school. This is a sin churches should repent of! Think of educators as your neighbors.
Parents are wanted
The number one issue I hear from my educator friends is this: There is often a lack of parent engagement. I’ll repeat that for those who may be shocked: Educators have as a primary concern the lack of parental involvement in their child’s education. Many schools are what’s known as Title 1. To be a Title 1 school, the school is required to support parental engagement. Parents and guardians, we’re the ones that need to step up and improve education. By just engaging with our children and partnering with our educator neighbors we can make a difference. Ok, I know we’re all busy, but family comes first. Our kids are worth it.
Apathy is the enemy
Too often people view public education through the lens of national news, especially if one comes form a politically conservative viewpoint. It is easy to attack public education through a national viewpoint because we don’t have to act. Public education is a profoundly local issue. Teachers are very open to parental involvement. They conduct themselves with class and professionalism. Are there things we disagree with? I’m sure if it. The issue is we’re often not willing to engage with our community and make it a better place. Rather than being apathetic, let us be the cheerleaders of great educators.
Trust is the issue
Many fear public education because trust and a sense of community has eroded in our culture. It is hard to trust someone you don’t know. It is hard to effect change through antagonism. We listen close to those we consider friends. We don’t presume to tell our doctors how to do their job, but we wisely partner with them for better heath. The same is true of education. Be patient, take time and be involved. Your community and your public schools will be better for it. Work on building trust, and remember they’re human just like you!
A huge thanks to my sons’ school district!
I’m fortunate that my boys are a part of an excellent school district that puts kids first. I am a better leader and parent because of my interaction with my district’s educators. I’m amazed by their passion, class and professionalism. My community is a much better place because of their efforts!