News: May 2019
Anyone who knows me knows that I am not much of a handyman kind of guy. I have learned the difference between a Phillips head and flat head screw driver and I can operate a drill with a certain level of skill. Beyond that I’ve discovered that my best course of action when faced with a significant home fix-up problem is to find professional help.
As an “underfunded” Christian teacher I was, however, often forced for financial reasons into tackling projects completely beyond my capabilities. One such project involved replacing the floor tiles in the kitchen of the house we were renting at the time. Of course I chose the least expensive option; those one-foot square self-adhesive vinyl tiles; the kind where you remove a thin sheet and apply to the floor.
The first thing you learn about those tiles is that you’d better know exactly where you want to place them because once they make contact with the floor there is no opportunity for realignment. I’m not known for much in the way of patience so there was a lot of muttering some of which was silent, some of which our next-door neighbors most assuredly heard.
The second thing you learn (in my case too late) was that you’ve got to make sure that your starting place is actually square. Without making appropriate measurements your entire effort will turn out to be completely off line. Fixing for that mistake required far greater skill and way too much patience than I possessed. At the end you truly hope that no one looks to carefully at the end product.
What is true with any home fix-up project is also true of this thing we call life. Without some frame of reference it becomes nearly impossible to sift through the relentless and largely unfiltered tsunami of information that threatens, indeed does, overwhelm us on a daily basis. Fortunately the Scriptures provide us with a key insight into how we can carefully examine all of that compelling information constantly competing for our hearts and minds. That insight is found in this simple statement, “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.” (Proverbs 1:7) But as other verses in the Psalms and Proverbs remind us it is also the basis for knowledge and understanding as well. That is a pretty powerful trio of outcomes: wisdom, knowledge, and understanding.
Taken together those three words provide a summary of what is required if we are to view the world through discerning eyes rather than become captive to whatever narrative some political figure or cultural icon or well-known expert is trying to convince us is true. For example, our current understanding of sexual identify and practice has been largely shaped by what a relatively small number of experts has told us is factual based on largely flawed research and faulty assumptions aided and abetted by the relentless shaming efforts of those who control the media. Sadly many evangelical church leaders and members have fallen prey to those assertions and to the increasing pressure of the surrounding culture. And please hear me on this. It is only going to get worse.
If we are to take Solomon’s observation seriously, however, we’ve got to begin with Scripture and not the oft-lauded conclusions of the experts or the cultural mavens. The Scriptures could not be clearer for example that God created men and women and not the proliferating list of sexual identities popular in our culture today. Are their examples of people born with flaws in their physical sexual systems? Without a doubt. And why should we be surprised. In a fallen world we are surrounded by evidence of that fall. I don’t see anyone suggesting, however, that because someone is born blind or with cerebral palsy or missing a limb that we should consider that normal. It isn’t. Nor is the LBGQT view of the world.
And what about another of the great discussions of our day, the one about the environment? Let me be clear. To deliberately create pollution in the pursuit of personal wealth is a sin. To act with cruelty toward any of God creations is sin. The job of a steward is to enhance God’s creation not cause damage to it. We cross the line, however, when we elevate nature above mankind, as we do for example when we decry cruelty to animals while defending the savagery of abortion. Animals are not the equal of man as even a cursory reading of the Creation account makes clear.
We could explore any number of issues such as the economy, or wealth and poverty, or the nature and role of the family, or a Christian’s response to political power or, as I have often done, the appropriate approach to the education of our children. Whatever the issue or topic, however, one thing is absolute: we will never be aligned with God’s mind if we don’t begin with the reality that God has revealed His mind in His Word. To do otherwise is to hold Him in contempt while allowing ourselves to be shaped by our surrounding culture.
So how can we best respond? Here are a couple of thoughts.
· First, read good books by thoughtful authors. Here’s a list to start.
o All That’s Good: Recovering the Lost Art of Discernment, Hannah Anderson. I think the title says it all.
o Three by the late Eugene Petersen that help you see how to live life in a fallen world.
§ A Long Obedience in the Same Direction
§ Leap Over the Wall
§ Running With the Horses
o Love the Body: Answering Hard Questions About Life and Sexuality, Nancy Pearcy. Thoughtful and careful look at what the Scriptures teach on this topic. A critical work to help followers of Christ address our greatest cultural challenge.
o You Are What You Love, James K.A. Smith. A must read for any parent or grandparent truly interested in thinking about the true role of education in the spiritual development of children.
o A Practical Guide to Culture, John Stonestree. A good primer on how culture tends to shape how we think and what we can do in response.
o Mere Apologetics: How to Help Seekers and Skeptics Find Truth, Alister McGrath. A good beginning to help you think through the flawed but impactul arguments of the new atheists.
o Two excellent biographies
§ Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World, Eric Metxas
§ Churchill: Walking With Destiny, Andrew Roberts
o Two books on evolution
§ Darwin’s Doubt, Stephen Meyer. Excellent look at how honest scientist are rethinking Darwin’s premise.
§ Darwin Devolves: The New Science About DNA That Challenges Evolution, Michael Behe
o The Triumph of Christianity, Rodney Stone. A response to those who believe that Christianity is toxic.
o Three books by Tim Keller
§ The Reasons for God, a good book to read with non-believers
§ Every Good Endeavor, the best book on how as a Christian to think about work I’ve ever read.
§ The Prodigal God, in it you will see God’s grace in a powerful new way.
Anyway that’s a start.
· Second, don’t read alone. Find someone else who will join you in whatever journey you are about to begin in whatever book you decide to read. Bouncing your thoughts off another person is always a good thing. The truth is we learn best in community. At least in a community that takes its responsibility to grow in wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. It’s how God created us. It’s why we have the church. Sadly the church doesn’t seem to understand this anymore so you may have to become a bit of a radical in the Body to which you belong. Don’t hesitate. It is crucial to your spiritual, intellectual, and social health.
I continue to covet your prayers. My travel and ministry schedule has been particularly intense the first six months of the year. I am hoping to find some time to work on my new book in the second half of the year. I’d like it to be a book you can read and find profitable.
In His grace,