Pastors, people saying let’s go Brandon don’t need your critique. They need hope. Too often we foolishly call out matters that are best left alone. Grievously, we don’t call out things the Bible has a bigger issue with. I recently read an article decrying Christians … Continue reading How can a Christian say Let’s Go Brandon?
We read reports of those on the right causing dissention, dividing, being bigoted, etc.. In those spheres there is no disagreement, so it must be true. We read reports of those on the left causing dissention, dividing, being bigoted, etc.. In those spheres there is … Continue reading To my friends both right and left
A growing trend are those who disdain discussions of politics. Sadly, this is why politics is caustic. I am asserting that the avoidance of politics is a major problem, for Christians as well. This mindset costs us liberty and truth. Political avoidance allows us to chuck our discernment, life of thought and even empathy in exchange for the illusion of a good life. We need to be more politically astute.
If people knew…
While attending a leadership conference in Washington DC a democrat chief of staff stated, “If the American people truly understood how things work we would not get away with all that we do.” The purpose of the conference was to educate and help people to better understand. The implication at the conference is there is an inherent system of corruption. Playing off the ignorance of people should be unsettling to us.
Politics is truly local
The complexities of getting something done is profound. The hoops to jump through at various levels of government at times is absurd. We invest too much focus on national or federal politics and not enough on state or local politics. For example, much issues people have with Common Core is actually a state vs school board issue, not a Federal take over issue. Often what frustrates educators and then parents is changes made in state capitals, not DC. Who are your state representatives? Don’t know who they are? There is a key problem.
For civil government to work, character and morality are essential. The result of losing character is the mess we have today. For example, many are against vaccinations. Much of this comes from a distrust of various institutions and government itself. Another example is the litigious society that we live in. Much of the vitriol in politics is a result of a loss of character. This is where religion plays a critical role in the life of a society. It’s presence in the public square is essential. A secular society in inherently unstable, as is state run religion.
Politics is determined by those who show up. Top down approaches rarely do well. Top down is great for emergency management, but it is lousy for societal change. Again, politics is profoundly local. Much of the injustice we see stems from not showing up where it counts. Politics is a reflection of us and the reflection of injustice demonstrates out absence. Protesting is a sign of laziness where we didn’t show up. Mobs rarely lead to justice.
God created man to be free. While I orient my life on the Bible as the way and truth and life, that should not be forced on anyone. In a free society there will be many and even opposing views. This also means that those from a secular viewpoint should not impose their views as well. Too many people are trying to get the government to do their bidding. This inevitably leads to tyranny, whether state religion run societies or fully secular societies. (Even secularists have their fundamentalists.)
The bottom line:
We need to be engaged in politics. A professor drilled into out heads the process: Think. Judge. Redeem. We need tor read and study issues more broadly. Judge the issues on their own merits. Finally, see if the issue should be discarded or redeemed for good. If, like many, you hate politics, remember this: We the people, we the problem. It’s time we show up, for politics at best is living at peace with our neighbors. That can only happen if you show up.
Speaking the truth in love is a conversation, it isn’t a statement. To separate social media, politics and the Gospel is counter productive. Life isn’t a group of separate boxes. Life is a unified whole where one area does affect another. As Christians we often use the phrase ‘speaking the truth in love,’ but we often fail to realize that is a conversation, not just making an uncomfortable statement for the benefit of another.
The social media dance
There are three groups in relation to social media, politics and the Gospel. 1)The why can’t we get along group. 2)The politics (left, right or libertarian) over the Gospel group. 3)The drop politics and only focus on the Gospel group. The dance is about trying to figure out the right balance or being naive about things beyond our focus. The danger is we see the three things as separate things.
The first group is most vocal when there is an online ‘war.’ They’re the ones who say the online war turns people off from the church, social media isn’t the place for the discussion, etc. The problem is this group often says the same thing in private conversations too. Avoidance of conflict does not bring about peace. It sacrifices love and truth.
We the people in order to form a more perfect union have to talk. Again, speaking the truth in love is a conversation. Avoiding politics because we don’t like it hinders forming a more perfect union. How do we expect to act civil with something we don’t converse about and how are we to hold our leaders accountable if there is no conversation? We can blame our leaders, but they’re a reflection of us. Maybe many avoid politics because it forces us to look in the mirror and think. (Obnoxious political posts not withstanding.) Groups that often put politics over the Gospel forget love.
The Gospel should permeate ALL our life. It’s not just about getting into heaven and listening to Christian music. Truth AND love are essential. As Christians we should be prayerful, respectful and speak truth. Politics should not be about loyalty to a party, but bringing truth to bear. Justice, mercy and humility are three essentials often missing in our political discourse. To avoid politics to keep a focus on the Gospel removes influence towards peace. Love, truth and respect are needed in political discourse. After all, much of what Jesus taught should affect our political viewpoint.
The bottom line:
We need to get back to speaking the truth in love as a conversation. We shouldn’t hide from speaking to the larger issues our society is struggling with because the Bible has answers and speaks to the soul of each person. To the first group, choose courage. To the second group, tone it down and pursue truth over party. To the last group, show how the Gospel sheds light onto the challenging issues of our day.
A person is made up of many voices and influences in their life. Some stand out in remarkable ways. One such person is Dr. Steve Shumaker. I had the pleasure to have Dr. Shumaker as a professor at Baptist Bible College. God is moving the Shumakers to Colorado Christian University for the fall of 2013. He will be delivering his last lecture at BBC on Tuesday.
The life of the mind is invaluable. As Proverbs points to the pursuit of wisdom leading to godliness, Paul in Ephesians 5 points to godliness leading to wisdom. Christianity does not remove the need to develop discernment. Instead, Christianity requires reflection and interaction with the deep questions of life. What this looks like to a student of Dr. Shumaker is: Think. Judge. Redeem.
I appreciate Dr. Shumaker’s approach. (At this stage of life I almost wonder if it was a brazen approach.) Rather than teach us vocabulary of philosophy and basic arguments from a textbook, he instead drove us to primary source material. My understanding of philosophy came from key influencers of philosophy instead of a textbook. And that from a man who is passionate about his relationship with God. This formed necessary skills of discernment.
I’m thrilled at the opportunity God gave Dr. Shumaker and I wish him the best. I’m also grateful that he chose to invest in a Bible college in Pennsylvania. Happy journeys to you, Dr. Shumaker, and God bless!
In Philippians Paul instructs us to rejoice when the Gospel is preached. There is no doubt in my mind that the Gospel is preached faithfully in fundamentalist churches. Heart issues aside (all groups have them) fundamentalism does have at its core the Gospel. This is first and foremost one of the benefits of fundamentalism. It’s the baby from the bathwater.
Let’s face it, the Gospel is offensive. The Bible says so and reality says so. One of the problems with the strawman we call fundamentalism is this: We figure that by bashing fundamentalists we are somehow more palatable to our culture. We can write ‘fundamentalists’ off as extremists. So, we cast aside fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. In other words: we bash ‘fundies’ to make ourselves look good. Friends, the Gospel is offensive. Bashing any group doesn’t make the Gospel less offensive and doesn’t make us look good either.
There are false Gospels
There is and always has been movements to teach and promote a false Gospel. The Bible tells us it will happen and we see throughout history that it happens. In the fundamentalist modernist controversy we have to remember that the stance that was being taken was for the truth of God’s Word and the essential issues regarding Jesus. Paul instructs us to pay attention to our ministry and our doctrine. While we may not agree with the practical outgrowth that happened to fundamentalism, It’s founding is solid and it’s motive solid. If anything fundamentalism does teach us there is a point where you have to stand your ground and say this is truth and this is heresy.
I often say act don’t react. But like many proverbial statements, it’s not always true all the time. There are times when reaction is correct, like placing you hand accidentally on a hot stove. Galatians states how we should not be deceived, that what we reap we will sow. Fundamentalism started as a good reaction to a bad trend. To hold as vile fundamentalism by touting all its ills is a standard none would care to live by. I don’t think we want to reap that in our own ministries.
The bottom line:
One of the greatest contributions of fundamentalism is a defense of the Gospel. Such passion for the Gospel and the Bible should not be taken lightly. Further, we shouldn’t bash a movement like a strawman, as we reap what we sow. The Gospel is offensive. While we as Christians shouldn’t be offensive we must remember there is a point where we have to say what is false and what is true.
Often people state one’s need to enter the desert before God uses them. Others put it as God needing to break someone before using them. After reading through Proverbs 1-5, I wonder if we have it backwards. What if the desert is God’s provision?
Wisdom as an active pursuit
Proverbs chapter 1 details how we should actively pursue wisdom. It states how the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. Proverbs also contrasts the destructive end of foolishness and the emptiness of naïvety. The last statement brings out the biggest issue: “But he who listens to me shall live securely and will be at ease from the dread of evil.” Thus begins the perseverance resulting in provision pattern.
Perseverance results in provision
The formula of Proverbs states if you actively pursue wisdom, it will give you life. For example:
Proverbs 3:1- “My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments.”
Proverbs 3:2- “For length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.
Wisdom takes perseverance to posses. It is more an act than a possession. Wisdom does not come by chance. Wisdom is not absorbed. One must pursue it and live it. Keep wisdom through the challenges of life, and it become yours. It takes listening, pondering, treasuring, and keeping wisdom to get it. Wisdom is forged and realized through hardship.
Both wisdom and knowledge start with the fear of the Lord. It is here that we come to the desert. In reading through the persevering for wisdom followed by provision, it makes sense that God would use the desert. Desert moments bring clarity of thought, aptness to listen, and they confront our finite mortality.
While the desert is a life and death struggle, it is also fertile ground for transformational growth. Given the statements at the start of Proverbs, my perspective on the desert changed. The purpose of the desert is not God breaking us. The purpose of the desert is God providing for us. At the end of the desert is provision. The most essential provision God gives us through the desert is knowledge of Himself.
The bottom line:
For wisdom, perseverance leads to provision. It is by going through the desert that we obtain life. To avoid this seeming paradox we can be easily taken by naïvety or foolishness. Persevering through the desert provides us the start of life and theology. God is God, and we are not.
I watched a video with Fancis Chan, Mark Driscoll and Joshua Harris. I’m not quite sure what the discussion was about, but Mark switched the topic to what Francis is doing. The conversation exemplified speaking the truth in love, asking hard questions, and theology. I encourage you to take the time to watch and listen here. It’s about 15 min.
Note these things:
1) A concern and valuing of a brother takes precedent over the agenda.
2) The issue was discussed in community at Francis Chan’s church.
3) The Bible and the Gospel drove the conversation and issue.
4) The spirit of love, concern and truth.
We need to be real with each other in a way that is gracious and loving while also being truthful and discerning. We also need to have theology be a driving force in our discussion processes. Too often we assume the theology and disguise our conversations as “general revelation” or “it’s not an “un-biblical” issue, just a “non-biblical” one. We act based on what we believe. This conversation is an example of that. We need more of this kind of talk in churches.
(especially on Monday)
Jesus said the meek shall inherit the Earth. I feel as though we are not always meek, for sure I am not. It seems we are awfully arrogant, more than we would care to admit. This is not bad in the sense of being overwhelming to us. It just means God is not done perfecting us yet. Here are a couple of examples:
Jesus: Whoever is not against you is for you.
I remember sitting in class and the prof started to list out different movements in evangelism, their proponents, and the ensuing criticism. The discussion fascinated me. There wasn’t a linear progression of understanding. It was a cycle we were already repeating. The realization went like this:
“How many of you thought big-ten revivals were a good thing? Uh-huh. And the seeker sensitive movement? Not so many hands this time? In about 150 years evangelism in America came full circle and is now repeating the cycle.” Ouch…
Rather than criticize form we should learn from each other. A large part of a method’s success is its context: both historical and cultural. Granted every method, movement and church carries problems. The problems may be significant, but it doesn’t make them completely wrong nor completely right. We need to listen and discern better.
Paul: Instruct men not to teach strange doctrines…
God really does care about solid doctrine. Paul did not tell Timothy to remove, separate, ignore or burn the men of Ephesus at the stake. Throughout his writings Paul told Timothy to use love and patience, to instruct as a son to a father or a brother to a brother. Said another way, Paul sent a young guy in to help, clean up and correct the church by leveraging humility. Not exactly a quick, authoritarian method to clean up what was a doctrinal mess.
I sense as Christians we speak right past each other. We are great at making straw men and even better and beating them. Confidence of one’s doctrine and humility are not mutually exclusive. The elder professors I had in seminary were very confident in what they taught, but their humility was excessive. They listened and asserted, held firm but still learned with open minds.
One day I purchased a large number book and proceeded to move them to my car. One of the elder professors put his stuff down on the floor and helped me. He taught none of my classes at that point during seminary. I saw and better understood the relationship between confidence, faith and humility when I did have him as a teacher; all based on this event. We need to pursue humility as a path knowing God and truth.
The bottom line:
Other than Christ is it seems the other thing we Christians have in common is our arrogance. We all to easily forget that it is Christ who wills and works in us. It is He who will carry our work until the day of perfection. Christ washes and purifies the bride. In the arrogance we all have in common we can continue to act that way, get overwhelmed, or we can rest in the fact that God isn’t done with us yet. We call can improve in listening, discernment and humility while also laying aside our straw men.
I wonder if we lack peace in what we do because we don’t follows Paul’s instructions if Philippians 4. We are a very anxious people. Yes, there are differences in our churches. But, we can still be thankful and pray for each other. Yes as Christians we disagree on points of doctrine. We can still learn from each other. Christ leveraged humility in leading us, and we should do the same when interacting with each other.