Over the course of the last year I have heard several Christians dispense advice along these lines, “You have to do what is right for you.” I remember being a young soldier in 1990 and giving out the same advice to someone who asked me about a situation they were in. The advice has an appearance of wisdom. In every situation there are factors that only the person involved in can navigate; and only the individual can assess the consequences that will arise as a result of their choices. So, telling them to do what is right for them, i.e., what will benefit them the best, seems to be the right advice to give.
Before I came to know Christ, I saw myself as an isolated entity with no clear connections to the world around me. Sure I had family relationships, friends, and breathed the same air as those around me, but whatever I chose to do, in my mind at the time, had little impact on others and the world around me (in so far as my actions did not hurt others). That may be a bit of a simplification, but, like those around me, I made choices that I believed were best for me without giving much thought to anything else. But, when I met God, my perspective on life changed.
Before we meet God we are simply individuals trying to navigate Continue reading
This is chapter 9 of my book, Man of the World.
“Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17)
I remember watching Mel Gibson’s movie Brave Heart years ago. No one who watched that movie can forget the dramatic ending where, during intense torture, the main character cries out, “Freedom!” Freedom is a yearning within all people. Unfortunately, outside of Christ there is no freedom. Only He can bring the freedom our soul longs for. Sin enslaves all people. And religion without Christ cannot set a single person free. For those who strive to be free in the flesh, seeking freedom through religion, they will receive only weariness, toil, and disappointment. But, for those who come to Christ, a glorious freedom awaits them.
The true Man of the World comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. Satan seeks to lead us into the land of religion and ritual that is devoid of life. He creates rules and generates anxiety. He wants people to think of God as a heavenly IRS agent desperately seeking to find something wrong with you so He can smite you. He wants to create division amongst people by getting them to become suspicious of each other. He wants people to distrust each other, hate each other, judge one another, and hurt one another. He has done a good job. Lifeless religion has been the source of contention and strife for as long as history has been written. The reason there are so many different denominations is because there are no shortage of people hurling contempt upon others in the name of God. Fallen people are always looking for reasons to divide. It takes a spirit filled person to see imperfect people and, knowing they too are sinners in need of a savior, love them as Christ did.
Thankfully, Jesus came to give us the Spirit. He came that we may have life and have it abundantly. He did not come to give us rituals, or generate anxiety by telling how we might fail. He didn’t come to tell us how some are better than others. He isn’t watching over us with a clipboard and Continue reading
Thought of the Day: Criticism is the easiest form of analysis
“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18).
The other day I was watching the trailer for a movie. I think it was about King Arthur and Merlin. One scene depicted a young Merlin waving his hand over a dead flower and bringing it back to life. Wouldn’t it be great to have that kind of power! The reality is that in a certain sense we do. And it’s a power we often overlook. While waving my hand over something broken will not fix it, or bring it back to life, we all have the ability to speak life into the life of a broken person or a broken situation.
We live in a world with many broken things. There are broken relationships, marriages and homes. There are broken nations and communities. And all around us there are broken people. And while we cannot fix all the problems people face, we can do two things:
- We can make sure we do not contribute to their brokenness by being critical faultfinders who are looking for ways to show others what they are doing wrong.
- And we can use our words in a way that builds others up. With our words we have the power to heal and fix things that are truly broken.
I am reminded that when God created this amazing world and universe we live in He did so by speaking it into existence. When God speaks life is created and life blossoms.
Picking apart and finding fault in others is not an admirable attribute. There are times when we all need correction. But the people we admire are those who correct in a way that improves who we are as people. The word encourage literally means, “To cause another to be confident”
The prefix “en” means “to cause”
The word “courage” means “confidence”
When we encourage someone we cause them to be confident. A Leader (to be distinguished from one who is simply in charge) has the unique ability to make people confident in such way that it causes them to improve, to do what they need to do to change, or to just be a better person.
“You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world–to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” John 18:37
No one likes to be disciplined. I remember getting in trouble when I was in third grade. I don’t recall what I did at school, but I have a vivid memory of my dad’s response. He sat me down and asked me what I did. While I don’t recall what that was, I do remember that I lied to my dad about it. That was the only time my father laid a hand on me. It hurt. I did not like being corrected. But it had a very positive effect. I don’t lie. I learned that lesson at a young age. And I learned that lesson because I had a father who loved me enough not to let me get away with lying. His love cured me of that sin.
Today, many people are looking for love. But, as the song goes, they are looking for love in all the wrong places. Over the course of the last few years I have developed a bit of a twitch whenever someone has the radio turned to a contemporary Christian radio station. I actually love much of the contemporary music, but I can’t say the same for the announcers and commentary between the songs. I have come to affectionately refer to these stations as the Cult of Encouragement. These radio stations ooze encouragement all over your car, out of the window, and down the street. As the ooze slithers down the road, in my review mirror, I think I even once saw it rise up, raise something like a hand in the air and a voice said, “You are loved! Yeah!!”
Now, before you accuse me of begin an Ebenezer Scrooge, hear me out. I am all for encouragement – when it is appropriate to give it. And, I am all for people hearing that God loves them. But, Continue reading
There are a lot of competing voices in our culture concerning the gay marriage issue. Who you listen to will make all the difference on how you decide where you stand.
People in positions of influence will make statements like, “My moral code is a matter of faith,” or “I don’t have the right to impose my moral code on you,” or “You can’t legislate morality,” or “I am not always right, and neither are you.” Comments such as these appear to have a form of wisdom.
Let’s briefly consider the above ideas. First, morality is not a matter of personal preference. The source of all morality is God. True morality, the type that leads away from sin, is a reflection of God’s holy character. He, in fact, demands that we obey his moral code as revealed in His law. God’s law is not something that is given to us as a suggestion. It’s not a preference. He revealed it to the world and commands that all must obey it; and He reveals that it is this law under which all will be judged.
Second, when understood correctly, law is morality legislated. That’s the whole point. If you support something legally, Continue reading
Resist the urge to be offended. There are many in our culture today who are offended at everything, and they feel compelled to tell you how offended they are. We have entered an age where not being offended is seen as a right; and being offended makes one a victim. Unfortunately, many people have been truly hurt by the “victims” of those who offend.
However, if you are a Christian, before you jump on the bandwagon of cultural sensitivity claiming to be offended by what someone says or does, just consider a few things.
- To make the claim that you are offended means that you have climbed the lofty perch of righteousness. You have arrived at the superior moral plane where your refined moral sensibilities have elevated you above your peers. Hence, when you claim to be offended, you are looking down upon the groveling mass of ignorant plebes who have no right to disturb your sense of peace and wellbeing. They can’t possibly know what it’s like to live with such a refined sensitivity towards what is truly right, proper, just, and good. Just the suggestion that you enter into their filthy little world by trying to understand why one might say or do something that you can’t possibly be associated with is an outrage! You see, the burden is for such people to become sensitive to how righteous you are, and then make sure that, when in your presence, they act accordingly.
- To make the claim that you are offended means that you have climbed the soaring heights of intellectual superiority. You are offended precisely because they are ignorant, stupid clods who should have immediately understood that, in your presence, the only appropriate response is to listen and learn. Speaking about things that are contrary to your exceptional intellectual acumen is not only insulting, but suggesting that you should condescend and spend time with such people is absurd!
- To make the claim that you are offended means that you have assumed the towering post of an existential existence that necessarily places you in the top tier of ontological reality. As Isaiah was confronted with the majesty of God (see Isaiah chapter 6) upon entering His presence, so too, those who enter yours should have a similar response. And, if they too should appropriately humble themselves before you, then you can bestow your magnanimous mercy upon them.
Ok, that may seem like a bit much, but Continue reading
I remember exactly where I was on September 11th 2001. I was leaving my biblical Hebrew class in seminary when another student approached the prof and told him what had taken place. As news of the events unfolded I remember this sinking feeling in my stomach. I felt sick. When I heard the news that the Supreme Court ruled to make gay-marriage legal, I had that same feeling. On September 11th the twin towers fell. Today, two great towers of American culture have fallen.
Where America once had great respect for moral truth, today that tower is lying in a heap of rubble. And where America once had respect for the things of God, and even had a semblance of the “Fear of the Lord” that tower also is lying in a heap of rubble. Admittedly, one has to go back at least an entire generation to find those towers standing strong. But, for the majority of American history those two towers had a profound effect on the fiber of the American Republic. America is America only with those towers standing strong.
The founders of our republic understood the necessity of religion for a functional democracy. They believed that America would only be as strong as the people had a healthy love for the virtues and principles of religious truth. Sure, they were not all evangelical Christians, as we understood the term today. But, Continue reading
By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible (Hebrews 11:3).
During the course of life most people develop some basic discerning tools in their intellectual arsenal that help them make sense of life. When people display these tools we normally say they have “common sense.” There are some things in life that just make sense when seen in a certain way. For instance, if you are walking in the woods and find a paper-clip lying on the ground, common sense will lead you to draw the conclusion that someone dropped it there by accident. No one would draw the conclusion that the paper clip just developed on its own in the woods. That scenario just does not make any sense. Common sense develops as a result of taking the time to observe the world around you. Simple observation leads one to understand that things like paper clips do not grow in the woods.
Having begun college a little latter than my peers, I spent time in the world developing my common sense before being introduced to idea’s that attempted to turn common sense upside down. I discovered that the longer I spent in the lecture hall the more I was encouraged to believe in idea’s as silly as believing that paper clips grow in nature. The longer I spent in school the more I began to see why our culture is in a crisis. As students we were constantly being bombarded with concepts that are absurd. Let me give you a couple jewels from just one book that was hailed as great thinking from the college I attended:
… social and political analysis which shows how such belief-systems have functioned to oppress and dehumanize will be very threatening, say, to philosophers intent on justifying the truth-claims that a good God can permit evil and suffering. But if, on the other hand, the aim of philosophy of religion is to enable becoming divine, becoming our sacred sexuate selves in relation to the earth and to one another, then mathematics and rigorous applications of theories of scientific epistemology are less likely to be helpful than are psychoanalytic theory, imaginative possibilities of human becoming drawn from literature and the arts, and careful and social political analysis.
’…naturally we ended up in Christianity by inventing a God such that it is he who comes’. But God isn’t the only one who comes. ‘It is the same for Saint Theresa – you only have to go and look at Bernini’s statue in Rome to understand immediately that she’s coming, there is no doubt about it. For that matter, the ‘mystical ejaculations’ are not restricted to the classics of the Christian tradition….
Slavery, conquest, and colonialization all appealed to God, the Great White Father.
That’s one book – and only a very small sampling from that very large book that I had to pay for. Let me say that again, I was required to buy this book. Your average college student must Continue reading
“Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17)
One of my more memorable experiences was when I first left home after high-school and joined the army. After processing through the MEPS station and then traveling to Ft. Benning where I was to attend basic training, I soon found myself surrounded by a group of young men my age. Before long we were greeted by a raving mad drill sergeant who made it known how happy he was to see us. After we were called to attention, the drill sergeant made it clear who was in charge. I will never forget the young solider in front of me. His whole body was shaking with such violence that I thought he was going wet his pants.
I think that for most people my age being confronted with such aggressive authority was something most of us had never experienced. We all grew up in a very permissive society. We are accustomed to living in a society that puts much emphasis on individual liberty. We do not like restrictions placed upon us. We all agree that our society should be guided by the rule of law, but are not too upset when those in authority bend the rules from time to time. However, when we stood before the drill sergeant that day we all received a crash course on military authority. We learned that it is complete, covering every area of our lives.
When Desert Storm broke out, the unit I belonged to at the time was locked down for a special mission were we to invade Iraq. Thankfully our armies stopped at the border and my unit was not sent in for the mission. But, while we were waiting Continue reading
“Then God said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light” (Genesis 1:3)
I remember the first time I was pulled over for a speeding ticket. I was in high school. I will never forget how my heart leaped into my mouth when I saw those flashing lights behind me. The officer was not interested in having a conversation, “License and registration please” he said dryly. It was not a pleasant experience. Those radar guns have a nagging way of telling on you. Special pleading does not help. He walked back, gave me the ticket and told me to slow down. My parent’s insurance company was, no doubt, not interested in special pleading either. Pay up or ride your bike.
Life is like that. No one really complains that a police officer pulls over teenage kids driving too fast. In fact, most people are grateful for that. Kids need to learn to drive safe; and that means learning to drive by the rules, speed limits included. I’m still a student.
Radar detectors were invented to speak truth when otherwise the truth would be clouded by all the excuses inventive teenagers can muster. Unfortunately for the kid driving, the speed limit is not a suggestion, it’s the law. Black and white. You either comply or you break it. When you break the law, you pay the piper.
But, while no one today would argue with an officer about the legitimacy of a radar’s ability to accurately track speed, many people, most really, want to argue that there is no such thing as truth that should guide how we live. There are opinions, and various points of view but nothing as solid as Truth by which real things can be defined. The sad reality is that this is accepted as perfectly normal today.
I don’t know when people began to accept this en mass, Continue reading