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?

 

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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!

 

Hannah’s First Month!

I know I haven’t been good at throwing up some pictures heree, so here are some for your viewing pleasure.

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Take that Home Depot!

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Micah loves giving Hannah kisses.  Here, he’s modeling his new undies!

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That’s my boy!!!  Batman shirt, football in hand.

When is God Funny?

I was reading Josh Harris’ blog and he posted a music video by Regina Spektor awhile ago entitled “Laughing With”.  Here are the lyrics and then the video.  Its pretty self-explanatory.

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one’s laughing at God when they’re starving or freezing or so very poor

No one laughs at God when the doctor calls after some routine tests
No one’s laughing at God when it’s gotten real late and their kid’s not back from that party yet

No one laughs at God when their airplane starts to uncontrollably shake
No one’s laughing at God when they see the one they love hand in hand with someone else and they hope that they’re mistaken
No one laughs at God when the cops knock on their door and they say “We’ve got some bad new, sir,”
No one’s laughing at God when there’s a famine, fire or flood

But God can be funny
At a cocktail party while listening to a good God-themed joke or
Or when the crazies say he hates us and they get so red in the head you think that they’re about to choke

God can be funny
When told he’ll give you money if you just pray the right way
And when presented like a genie
Who does magic like Houdini
Or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket and Santa Claus

God can be so hilarious
Ha ha
Ha ha

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one’s laughing at God when they’ve lost all they got and they don’t know what for

No one laughs at God on the day they realize that the last sight they’ll ever see is a pair of hateful eyes
No one’s laughing at God when they’re saying their goodbyes

But God can be funny
At a cocktail party while listening to a good God-themed joke or
Or when the crazies say he hates us and they get so red in the head you think that they’re about to choke

God can be funny
When told he’ll give you money if you just pray the right way
And when presented like a genie
Who does magic like Houdini
Or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket and Santa Claus

God can be so hilarious

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war

No one’s laughing at God in a hospital
No one’s laughing at God in a war

No one’s laughing at God when they’re starving or freezing or so very poor

No one’s laughing at God
No one’s laughing at God
No one’s laughing at God
We’re all laughing with God

Laughing With by Regina Spektor from the album Far

Is the Church a Laboratory?

Yesterday, I got the new CBD “Pastor’s Resources” catalogue in the mail.  In it, they have a few quotes from Pastors like John MacArthur and Rick Warren, and the Warren quote stuck out to me in an interesting way.  Let me know what you think:

“I started Saddleback Valley Community Church in Orange County, California, in 1980, and spent the next 15 years testing, applying, and refining the principles, processes, and practices in Purpose-Driven Church.  Like a research and development center, we’ve experimented with all kinds of approaches to reaching, teaching, training, and sending out God’s people.  Saddelback has served as a labratory for everything written in the book.  The results have been very gratifying and, I believe, brought glory to God.  I am continually humbled by God’s power to use ordinary people in extraordinary ways.”

So what do you think?  Anything in that statement jump out at you?

Prevention Of Sexual Immorality

This summer I’ve had the priviledge of helping out at the youth group for my church.  We’ve been teaching through the book of Proverbs, dealing with subjects that the writers emphasized.  We’ve taught through the subjects of laziness, friendship, and materialism/personal wealth so far, and I’m in the middle of a section on sexual immorality.   I have greatly enjoyed my time in Proverbs so far and have rediscovered much of the wealth that it contains.  I really recommend reading all the way through Proverbs and compiling a list of verses that deal with issues you struggle with.  It is highly enlightening to see how the book as a whole deals with all of these various issues.

One reason I have enjoyed the present study so much is that I see so many instances where we (not just teens, but especially teens) seek to find entertainment in some form of sexual immorality.  Like every other sin, we look around at extreme examples of sexual immorality, declare that we don’t have that problem, and go on with life.  “Well, I’m not sleeping around” so we relax our standards and allow too much opportunity for temptation.

I don’t need to convince anyone of the sexualized society that we live in.  Sexuality is pressed into almost everything our culture does, and what should be abhorred is often pursued in the name of entertainment.  This is especially true for the world of the teenager.  Whether it is television shows, movies, music, clothing, or just the conversation of friends and acquaintences, immoral sexuality is hard to avoid.  So how does a teenager survive in this world?

One way is to be reclusive.  Don’t allow a teenager to be in the world, so as to preserve them from the world.  Unfortunately, not only does this not work, it sets a horrible precedent for how to deal with temptation in the future.  Teenagers who are hidden and sheltered from the world never learn how to discern between good and evil or how to stand in the midst of temptation.  (Disclaimer: I’m not saying that you put yourself into situations where you will be constantly tempted to act in a way that would grieve your Savior.  There are obviously situations where it would not only be unwise to put ourselves into, but sinfully ignorant.)

One of the most interesting things that I have seen in my study is that before Solomon speaks of sexual immorality, he speaks to the topic that we are to treasure the Word of God.  In chapter 2, before he mentions avoiding the adulteress in verse 16, he uses the first 15 verses to proclaim the wonders of the Word of God and to plead with his son to love instruction.  In chapter 6, Solomon instruct his son to keep the commandments, bind them, tie them, and embrace them before he mentions the adulteress.  Then in chapter 7, where i planted my study, he spends the first 5 verses throwing out a list of commands for how he desires his son to deal with the Word.

  • keep them and live
  • keep them as the apple of your eye
  • bind them on your fingers
  • write them on your heart
  • say to wisdom, “you are my sister”
  • declare insight to be your intimate friend

And what is the purpose of this?  verse 5 says that they will keep you from the forbidden woman and the adulteress with her smooth words.  The promise given in chapter 6 is “When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you.”

The promise given in 2:11-12 is that “discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you, delivering you from teh way of evil, from men of perverted speech.”

I don’t think it is a coincidence that Solomon links the Word of God with sexual immorality in such a way.  It is unavoidable that the way to protect yourself from sexual immorality is through the study and love of the Word of God.  I would encourage you to read through those passages and see the language that Solomon uses.  See the rich imagery of how we are to treasure wisdom and instruction.

It is when we commit ourselves to wisdom and instruction that we have the strength to stand under temptation, to abhor sexual immorality, to seek further instruction and wisdom and to yearn for holiness.