Sparing the Gospel from Prejudice

As the year draws to the end, it is a time reflecting on the year gone by.  Any casual observation of the last year leaves most recognizing it leaves us much to be desired.  This past year has produced a division in our country unlike anything I’ve seen in my short 36 years.  Friends and family alike have been divided by personal convictions and the lines that they’ve drawn.  It could be Trump vs. Hillary, liberal media vs. conservative media, gun control vs. 2nd Amendment, common core vs. anti common core, black lives matter vs. blue lives matter, or other debates that surround sexuality and how one self identifies.  They have all produced divisions in our lives.

It often appeared that any conversation would turn to some sort of divisive subject.  Often times, the topic of conversation compelled a discussion that would either embolden each other’s resolve if you were found to be in agreement, or, if not, it would create a gulf between the parties that slowly produced some amount of animosity.  “Agree to disagree” has quickly become impossible.

As many of you know, I am a person of strong conviction.  If a subject comes up and I feel strongly about it, one way or another, I will often make my convictions known.  But I don’t believe we live in a world where this is always wise or prudent anymore.  My concern has not been losing respect in someone else’s eyes or suffer some sort of social disgrace, but losing the opportunity for the Gospel.

The great missionary William Carey has a list of “11 Commandments of Missions” that I recently discovered.  As I was reading through this list, I noticed one of them said what I thought in a much better way than I ever could.  His third commandment was, “Abstain from all English manners which might increase prejudice against the gospel.”

For William Carey, he sacrificed everything for the sake of the gospel, even general customs that would burn bridges with someone of a different culture.  When Carey moved to India, he was careful to consider his manners and customs and what would immediately close the ears of those around him.  This mentality of viewing all behavior and conversation in view of the Gospel has been one of my main concerns this year.

My concern was that, should I become vocal about a subject that was incredibly divisive but lacking in the impact of consequences that hang in the balance when it comes to the Gospel, I might lose that opportunity for the greater truth.  It isn’t that those things are not important, but I wouldn’t want to burn a bridge the Gospel can travel over.

We must beware, though.  I’m not in favor of sticking my head in the sand and not standing up for what I believe to be good and true.  If someone asks me what my convictions are, I will quickly and eagerly explain them, doing my best to connect them and point them to the Gospel.  But I think it is wise to not wave a flag that is so quick to divide.  If I am going to offend someone, then I want it to be the message of the Gospel, not my stance on gun rights, education, health care, political parties, or any other number of lightening rod topics.

The unfortunate thing is, I believe too many Christians have settled with waving the banner of the 2nd Amendment or voicing their boisterous support of a political party at the cost of reaching those around them with the Gospel.  If I turn people off with non-essentials, how quick will they be to listen to the ultimate essential, the beautiful truth of God’s unbounding love in the Gospel?

 

The Thread of God’s Goodness

One of the greatest privileges in my life right now is teaching Foundation’s Bible Study twice a month.  Presently, we are going through a chronological study through the Old Testament.  The main purpose is twofold.  One is to give us a sense of how one event leads to another.  These are not a series of flannel-graph stories, but a line of God’s grace that weaves through lives and events.  That leads to our second purpose: to see God’s continuing faithfulness and love.  These stories are given to us so that we can learn of God’s goodness and His fierce standard of holiness.

It seems that every time I read through the Old Testament, I see new themes, new threads woven throughout the narrative.  One thing that I have noticed this time around is the process that God takes His people through before leading them into Promised Land.  Certainly, God could have marched them straight out of the Red Sea and around Jericho.  But this was a people that went from the hundreds when the sons of Jacob were driven by drought to the storehouses of God’s provision in Egypt, to a population over 1 million, roughly equivalent to the population of New Hampshire.

When God brought His people out of slavery, He had to make them into a new people.  He needed to teach them who He was and how He wanted to be worshiped.  When they would enter the land of Canaan, the people of the land would be in awe of a nation that had a God that communicated to them.  Those nations were left to guess as to what they had done wrong to not have it rain, leaving their crops dry.  When it did rain, they were left to analyze what they had done that had brought such good fortune from their gods.

God would also show His people that they must depend upon Him for everything.  Things that we take for granted today, food and water, were hard to find in quantities enough to feed a nation wandering through the arid wilderness.  God took those hardships as exercises to increase their muscle of faith.  When they needed food, God would send enough for what they needed that day.  When they needed water, He made it come out of a rock.  God gave them enough for that day because He knew the temptation of the human heart is to grab for security and provision outside of God.

The path through the wilderness was certainly not the easiest road.  God’s endless power shows us it could have been ‘easier’.  But it would not have been better.  They would not have learned to depend on Him for their daily bread.  They would not have had a functional knowledge of God’s provision and goodness.

We want to learn things the easy way, but that is often not the best way.  My wife and I have a saying, “Hard is not bad.”  Hard times and trials are not chapters in our lives that we would choose to write for ourselves, but they are integral to our growth.  In those chapters, we learn of God’s provision, goodness, grace, mercy, steadfast love, and unwavering faithfulness.  That is exactly what God was teaching His people as He brought them through the wilderness.

 

I’m Back… sort of

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After a 7 1/2 year hiatus, I’m back!  Over the course of the last week or so I have been trying to get this blog cleaned up a bit.  Gone are quite a few posts that had cluttered it up (i.e. ‘Lost’ episode recaps) and quite a few blogs that had gone in the same direction as this one.  It has been quite an experience looking through the posts of the past!  It’s like walking down memory lane or visiting a past life.

With this return will come some changes.  This won’t be like before, at least for now.

  1. I won’t be posting nearly as often.  The sudden decline of this blog coincided with gaining employment after moving back to NH.  Since then, I have only worked more hours.  I don’t have the time that I had previously, to sit and write.  It’s crazy to read back over some of these posts, knowing that I had the time to come up with something to write and take any significant amount of time to write it down.  That has obviously changed and I don’t see that getting any easier.
  2. I will also be monitoring all comments.  There are some who would like to have unprofitable conversations and post things that are highly inappropriate.  For that reason, if you leave a comment, I will have to approve it before it appears.  If you would like the satisfaction of instantaneous comments, then you can leave them on my Facebook page.
  3. Previously, many posts were updates on family and reviews of a TV show.  This won’t be a place for that.  If you want to know what’s going on with my family, either go to Facebook or talk to me!

So what will I be putting up, you ask?  I’m not completely sure!  I know there have been plenty of times where I have finished up the Bible Study I teach, Foundation’s, and have a though I’d like to write on, or a thought I’d like to expand on.  I’d love to put recaps up for those that can’t make it, as well.

There have also been many times where I have wanted to write something in response to something going on in the world, trying to lend a Biblical perspective to it.  The events of the past year have provided a lot of opportunities to reflect on Biblical truth and how it should inform our thoughts and actions.  Facebook isn’t always the best platform for that.  I will be posting those thoughts here.

And, as always, if I find something that is of interest, have read something encouraging or convicting, then this is a great outlet to get that out.  Who knows!

You can either subscribe to this blog, so you can know when I do post something, or just keep an eye on my Facebook and I will post a link on there.   And if you are indifferent and you just don’t care, that’s fine.  I just don’t know why you are still reading this.

For those that do care, stay tuned.  I’m sure I will continue to tweak things as I get back in the saddle here.  I look forward to getting back into this!