What Really Happens When We No Longer Think? A View of the Holocaust

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I had the privilege of going the Holocaust Museum for the first time today. If you’ve never been, you can probably imagine the kind of images that are featured at such an exhibit. Needless to say, the feelings that were dredged up in me were solemn to say the least. I don’t think anyone can walk through this museum without initially thinking, “how could this happen?” But the answer to that question is not that difficult to find.

Believe it or not the most significant part of the tour was not the museum itself but what happened when I left the museum. When I exited with my family a person approached us to tell us that she and her camera man were from NBC. She wanted to interview us about something, which my wife and daughter instantly expressed their unwillingness simply because talking to a camera is not something that excites them in the least. The main question the interviewer asked is what intrigued me. Before we got to that question they asked my name and where I was from. I expressed that I was born in Alexandria, Virginia just a handful of miles from where we were standing but haven’t lived in the area for quite some time. She then asked me what stood out to me the most about the museum. I answered, “the shoes.” Not just the pile of shoes collected from one of the death camps (pictured above) but the smell. They didn’t stink. It was a strong smell of old leather that somehow made all the photographs and black and white video clips I observed come to life. The shoes made it real.

The interviewer then expressed that Google, at least I think it was Google, had changed some kind of algorithm so searching would not lead to a site that was claiming that the entire holocaust was an elaborate hoax. (Similar to what some claim about us sending men to the moon). Then the question was asked, “what do you think of this algorithm being changed?” That’s really what they wanted to know and film. That got my thought juices flowing.

I expressed to her that I don’t understand why anyone would try to claim the holocaust didn’t happen. There is obviously an incredible amount of evidence, film and photographic documentary, as well as personal testimony to the fact the this horrible event happened in the not so distant past.

I also expressed that it was an interesting question for today since the headline of “fake news” seemed to rule much discussion—especially in regard to politics and the topic of what the majority of our nation believes and why they believe it. Should Google, another internet company, the government, or anyone else be limiting accessibility to a website? Well that really should bring us to pause. I suspect that many would begin to answer that question with a sentiment like, “it depends on what the website is.” My answer probably begins in the same way.

But, since I just walked out of the Holocaust Museum, I was thinking about what happens when a nation is no longer free to think for themselves. What’s the big deal about free thinking?

The founders of our nation believed a great deal of our freedom rested upon the ability to think freely. Freedom is not just about what you are allowed to do. As a matter of fact, a society could never be free unless there were some laws limiting that freedom. If everyone could do whatever they wanted to do, whenever they wanted to do it, they may be free but many others would lose their liberty based upon the freedom enacted by another. All that to say, because we’re not free to commit crime others can be free too.

Freedom, however, is not as much about laws and limitations as it is about the freedom to think. One of the other monuments I visited today was the Jefferson memorial. One of the inscriptions found in the memorial reads, “Almighty God hath created the mind free.” A free mind, free to think, free to believe, and free not to believe is what the Founding Fathers had in mind. In that, people can truly be free. When that freedom is lost, well, horrible things can happen—like the holocaust.

That was one of the main points to the Holocaust Museum. They even have a secondary exhibit called “Some Were Neighbors” to demonstrate the collaboration and complicity of the Germans in the persecution of other Germans who happened to be Jewish and who were also their neighbors, coworkers, and even friends. How did this happen? Why did the so many German people either turn a blind eye to the criminal actions of the Gestapo or, at times, even help by turning in innocent Jews?

I remembered the part of the exhibit which showed pictures and video of the Nazi leaders burning books by the thousands. They went into the libraries and book stores and purged them from every book that was not “pure” in what was deemed to be German thinking. The Gestapo removed everything that would communicate ideas or thinking that was a threat to the Nazi program.

All of that was going through my mind as I answered the question the interviewer asked me. I said, “I understand why they would want to restrict access to this sight. It’s important that the world never forget what happened in Nazi Germany and through much of Europe as two-thirds of the Jewish population of Europe was systematically murdered.” It is necessary for us to remember that. I went on to tell her that human nature has not changed. “If we think it’s not possible for something like this to happen again, we’re fooling ourselves.” That’s the other side of the coin. What happens when people are no longer allowed to hear all of the information? What happens when a few determine what an entire culture is allowed to think?

The holocaust happened because people were no longer free to think. Since I’m a Christian and a church leader, it’s important to point out also that there was a Christian presence in Germany during the rise of Naziism but the churches were soundly sleeping. Becasue they were no longer thinking—no longer walking in the wisdom of God—they did nothing to stop it.

This brings me to lament, not just the holocaust, but also our current American culture. We’re just like Germany was before the rise of Naziism. No longer thinking. We haven’t had our freedom to think taken from us—we’ve given it away. And, we now have churches that are sound in their sleep. We have a nation of people who widely no longer know how to think. The masses follow what’s popular, which is what happened when German neighbors and friends turned against the Jewish people who lived and worked next door. The masses are easily manipulated which demonstrates how the rise of “fake news” can happened.

What happens when people no longer think? The Holocaust. Can this happen again? Something like it is almost guaranteed to unless we as a culture begin to think again. Just as the familiar quote states, “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.”

Think.

The Heart of Christmas

Forgetting Forward

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God looks on those with low estate,
the ones the world can’t see,
His light of life shines on our face,
His grace and peace; it’s Christmas.

But how will He if grace to be,
come to all who have such need?
Through angel’s speech he starts his reach,
a gift to all; it’s Christmas.

A world that’s dark with little hope,
heard herald promise long ago,
fear to flee, injustice cease,
the world is pleased; it’s Christmas.

His love uncommon ways to show,
His choice through young and poor,
Is this the way in stable stay?
This Good News; it’s Christmas.

Now light has dawned without much splendor,
the manger lay the humbled king,
a child to grow in precious wonder,
we come with gifts; it’s Christmas.

A cross this leads to answer pleas,
of what God’s plan entails,
He’ll save through death and bring to rest,
this is…

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As I Live

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As I Live

A poem based on Ezekiel 34

“As I live” is the promise you made,

Expressing how it could be, how it would happen your way.

The darkest of times in which you made such a claim,

When I knew I was hopeless, broken, helpless, and lame.

So “as I live” sparked thoughts for this man,

A new day of promise from your own strength demand.

“As I live” is about what you will do,

“I myself” will seek, rescue more than a few.

I hear these words, spark a flame in my heart,

Yet here I sit feeling alone in the dark.

It’s not that I doubt for believe you I do,

I just wonder when it will be, when this promise come true.

Even waiting in darkness I still choose to hope,

While I battle the struggles in solitude grope.

I need relief, you seem far away,

A tension in this call that won’t resolve on this day.

It’s in your words I will seek my relief,

“I the Lord have spoken” not susceptible to thief.

I’ve met many who say but never seem to do,

O God what you speak I trust to come true.

When will I see this promise, blackness to end?

Right now it seems shadow’s my only dear friend.

For your assurance I wait and I soon hope to see,

The day your grace returns to fight the struggle for me.

I can’t see the future, don’t know when this ends,

Just believing that someday your power will mend.

The idols I’ve made are now starting to fade,

They’re mute, blind, and dumb unable to save.

But “as I live” you’re still saying to me,

I will wait in hope ’til your rescue I see.

The Ideologue and the Pragmatist

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Which is better, an ideologue or a pragmatist? It depends who you ask, I guess. For some, if you don’t have ideals it doesn’t matter what you try to do you have no mooring. For others, if you can’t practically work things out it really doesn’t matter what you believe. Which is better? Again, it depends who you ask.

If you’re wondering why we need to even have this conversation it’s simply because we’re now at the center of a national shift in leadership from pure ideologue to pure pragmatist. If you’re trying to figure out why our nation is divided down the middle, this is it. Part of our country clinging tightly to a philosophy of government that most of our nation has never known. Then, another part of the nation scratching their collective heads wondering why none of these ideals seem to work—practically. (Of course, there’s a third part of our nation just wondering what the big-deal is as they watch it all happen but that’s a different conversation).

We’re now all waiting to see what happens in our nation. It’s probably anyone’s guess at this point, however, we all can learn something if we stop and think a little.

Ideology alone in leadership leads to a lot of failed programs. How do I know? Just look at the mess that is the Affordable Care Act. Driven by purely ideological elitists who think they know better than everyone what everyone actually needs. It’s a mess. Why? Because pure ideology cannot lead—it has no ability to do so. Pure ideology has great reasons to do things, at least in the ideologues mind, but in the end takes actions that at times seem quite unreasonable.

Pragmatism alone, however, is not the answer. Pragmatism without ideal blows with the winds of change and culture and tends not to be moored to much of anything. What does it look like when the leader of our nation is a pure pragmatist? We’re about to find out. The only thing we know is that our nation will now be led situationally. That is, what ever crisis’ arise, whatever economic changes occur, whatever international conflicts come calling, these are things that will decide the direction of our nation now.

Let me ask again—which is better the ideologue or the pragmatist?

Neither.

Or…both.

For Christians and church leaders the dichotomy between ideology and pragmatism is nothing new. We’ve been dealing with it for years. Most of time, just as in our current political culture, those who argue each position lob psuedo-theological polemics at each other. The ideologue contends that pragmatism is evil and the pragmatist that the ideologue is at best out of touch and at worst completely incapable.

Those who are paying attention to truth, history, and theology, however, understand that there’s nothing more profitable than doing something and knowing the reason why. Without understanding why, the what doesn’t matter near as much.

In his younger years as a leader, King Solomon understood this well. As a matter of fact, he understood this truth just enough for it to scare him a little. That’s why, when it came time for him to make a request to God for what he felt he needed most to lead his people correctly, Solomon asked for wisdom. Not just wisdom, but “an understanding mind to govern [God’s] people” and the ability to “discern between good and evil.” Solomon asked for understanding and discernment. In other words, Solomon’s request to God was simply that in order to lead effectively he needed to know the “why.”

Knowing why is wisdom.

Wisdom is where knowledge meets ability. True wisdom has more than ideals, it knows what to do with them. If we want to see how that works, we need to look no further than the early life and reign of Solomon.

What’s the point?

Well, the point isn’t really about who’s president or even the hope that he may have the same conversation with God as Solomon did.

The point is this: God has given everyone one of us an incredible gift. It’s the same gift, though in different levels of gifting, that Solomon received—who was the wisest man who ever lived. We have the ability to know why. We have the opportunity in our day to day lives, when we lead our families, when we go to work, when we influence our neighbors, and when we lead our churches to know why we do what we do. We have a God-given gift to live both by ideal and practical application. Truth and practice.

Ideal without practice is simply a head-in-the-clouds daydream. Practice without underpinning belief miss reason and eventually results.

Here’s the question: Why do you do what you do? If you know the answer to that question then what you do each day, when moored to objective truth and grace, not only has purpose but is also practical. What you do matters. Why you do it matters too.

Which is better the ideologue or the pragmatist?

Both.

Injustice – Who’s the problem and whose problem is it?

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Unless you’re living in a bubble or just don’t care, the events that have owned the headlines this year, other than the most ridiculous presidential race in history, probably have you wondering how this comes to an end. The racial tension primarily being manifested between young black men and police is demonstrating a systemic issue that’s obviously unresolved and is not going away. I’m sure we can all agree that pointing blame and accusing others will not bring peace to the turmoil that we’re experiencing in our culture.

But, why does it seem that racial division, injustice, and oppression can’t come to end? Why can’t we experience healing and unity in our nation?

May I suggest that a large part of the problem is that we’re looking for others to fix the issue and we’re placing expectations upon people, governments, and movements that they simply are incapable of living up to. Why is this true? For two reasons:

First, no government, movement, or authority truly understands the problem. Because of that, they expect to resolve the issue by asking other people to change. To them, the reason oppression exists is always someone else’s fault. The feminist and homosexual movements think the problem is the masculine male, the black lives movement thinks it racist cops, the socialist movement thinks the problem is rich people, the liberal movement thinks it’s capitalism, and the religious movement things the problem is behavior. They’re all wrong.

The problem is us – all of us. The reason oppression exists is because living on planet earth are a lot of broken people. We’re all broken. The problem is sin and no one’s sin on earth is worse than mine.

The reason no government, movement, or authority can fix the problem is because their only solution is that someone else needs to change.

This is easy to see as the tragedies that consume the headlines result almost exclusively with the pointing of fingers. Social media feeds are inundated with blame: “he should have complied,” or “he shouldn’t have been committing the crime,”or “he was innocent and only minding his own business,” or “they should not have used excessive force!” Divisive rhetoric that has a language of “us and them,” will never help.

Here’s a truth that we all need to settle upon:


If a black man is killed by a police officer, whether guilty or innocent, we should grieve! If a police officer is killed in the line of duty we should grieve! In no case, whether we believe the young black man was a criminal or if we believe the cop is a bigot should we ever cheer. We all should and need to grieve! Until there are tears running down enough cheeks we will not see change.


The truth is that we all need to change.

Secondly, no government, movement, or authority has the means to fix the problem. Let me explain this in a way I think will resonate: why is it that even though we have America’s first black president it seems that racial tensions are worse than ever? Why hasn’t our president fixed this? The answer is simple.

We’re expecting him to do something he simply cannot do.

The division, oppression, and hurt we see in our nation will never end because a president, white or black, stands at a lectern and tells people they need to behave differently. The problem can’t be fixed by resdistribution of wealth, it can’t be solved by more government aid, and it will never be resovled by congress. These people and programs simply do not have the means.

So, how can it change? How can oppression end?

When Jesus came on the scene, he came to cross every boundary of oppression, injustice, racism, and hate which people were either not willing or unable to cross. Jesus was the first. He demonstrated by his actions that the divisions of gender, race, or socioeconomic  difference can be crossed if someone is willing. Of course, he was willing but it also cost him big-time. Maybe that’s why it’s so difficult. We’re willing to see change as long as someone else is paying the price.

We’re willing to see change as long as someone else is willing to do the changing.

That, however, brings us to the truth of the only way that oppression, injustice, and hate will ever decrease. It will only happen through sacrifice. It will only happen through the people who are equipped to make a difference in something that no one else seems to be able to solve. If governments, movements, and authorities can’t do it, who can?

The church.

What I mean by “church” are people who believe and follow Jesus Christ. He is the Lord of the church and has given his people a promise – a new heart. It’s only through this heart that we will see grief become sacrifice. Sacrifice is the only way oppression ends. If you want to see what that looks like, look at the cross.

The church is the only institution in the world equip to bring an end to oppression, injustice, and hate. There is no other!

It’s time Christians stop expecting someone else to fix the problem. We must reach, we must go, we must span the gap!

This is where the conversation must begin but it will take more than talk. Someone needs to change – and it’s us.

 

Jesus the idol

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The above photo is a somewhat typical rendering of what some hold to be the image of Jesus. Honestly, it’s the typical none realistic “white Jesus” that has, in my opinion, given many an inaccurate view of what Jesus was really like. I’m convinced Jesus looked nothing like this, as many others are too. (By the way, I’m not picking on the source of this picture by using it–but simply want to use it to get you thinking with me).

What is that point? It’s the unfortunate truth that by many who consider themselves to be Christians, Jesus, at times, is merely an idol. I know, that’s a huge accusation but let me take a  few lines to break down what an idol is.

A good definition of an idol, especially for those who consider themselves Christians is this: anything that takes the place of God is my life for comfort, provision, security, hope, peace, or any other need that I may have. Christians should, and can, rely on God alone for these things. Anything we look to other than God for any need is simply an idol.

But, there’s a another important definition of idol that, unfortunately, is something that Jesus has become in many Christian’s lives today. I can describe an idol by how an idol is treated by it’s worshippers and thus reach another definition.

In  all of the history of the idols of the world, idols are treated in a very distinct way by their worshippers. How are idols treated? The worshippers only come to them when they need something.

You see, there are all kinds of idols. Idols that are worshiped for the hope of raising healthy, plentiful crops. Idols that are worshiped in hopes the god will give rain instead of drought. Idols that are looked to for fertility so babies will come for those who want them. And, when these needs are plentiful worship is ascribed to the tiny, mute, inept gods.

In times when the seeds are sown, the cisterns run low, and the pregnancy hasn’t come the idol is prayed to, appeased, and given sacrifices in the hopes the god will respond and bless. But, when the crops are harvested in plenty, the cisterns are full and babies are born, worship to the corresponding idol ceases. The idol is placed on the shelf for safe keeping until another need arises. Idols are only as good as the need. Of course, idols really have no value at all.

Unfortunately, many people who claim to know Jesus and call themselves followers of Him will set Him on the shelf this Lord’s Day for something far less–practically treating Him as an idol. By the way, anything in comparison to Jesus is just that–far less.

Here’s the truth: Jesus is not an idol. Profound, right?

But, all across American Christianity this Sunday, Jesus the idol will be placed on the shelf. It will happen in most, if not all churches including the church I pastor just as it happened last weekend. All across America people will place Jesus to the side while they pursue something “less” and miss the fact that He’s called them to something more.

Every person who calls themselves a Christian has been called to worship, serve and give Jesus Christ the honor He is due this Sunday–on the Lord’s Day. Every person who calls themselves a Christian is called to this in the context of the local gathering of believers into which that believer has been placed. Every Christian is called to follow Jesus exclusively, not simply because of what He may provide but because of who He is.  Every Christian is called to worship Jesus faithfully, in the local context of faith family (church) to which He’s called you; not when it’s convenient, not when you feel like it, and not when you have nothing else to do. Jesus is not an idol. Are you planning to treat Him like one?

Is Jesus an idol sitting on the shelf, or is He everlasting God who loves you and has called you to greater life in Him and only Him? If he’s the latter, He is worthy of the devotion of your worship. Not because or when it’s convenient. Not when you have nothing else to do, but because “in Him [is] life and the life [is] the light of men.” John 1:4

Search you heart. If Jesus is an idol–make Him God in your life. That’s who He is in truth. 

Photo cred: http://s952.photobucket.com/user/jessikinha_123_2009/media/Jesus.jpg.html

HB2 – How should a Christian deal with the controversy?

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House Bill 2

It goes without saying that the House Bill 2 in North Carolina, also known as the bathroom bill, is causing more than it’s fair share of controversy. As you probably know this is a legislation that is being presented in many states in one form or the other. And, the controversy is no less in any of those states either.

It seems also that the mainstream media has found tremendous ratings fodder by broadcasting and  stirring more controversy into the topic which has set the social media world into it’s normal inferno of argument. So, before you weigh in with your responses on your friend’s or some strangers post, Here’s a couple of encouragements I have for you:

  1. Be informed. Unfortunately, as with any controversial issue these days, most of the war is fought in the court of public opinion which is carried out widely on social media. The problem is this: so many weigh into the argument without being the least bit informed. So, before you decide to speak, you should probably read the bill (insert sarcasm here). Here’s a link to House Bill 2 so you can be informed: HB2. Here’s a link to another article that may also be helpful. HB2 Article.
  2. Ask the right question. No matter what side of the conversation you land on, there’s a pivotal and very important question that needs to be asked: what is the purpose of this law? I believe I know the answer to this question but before you can come to a conclusion about it yourself, you must answer this question too. Have you?
  3. Don’t say things that aren’t helpful. I believe this is pivotal for those on both sides of the issue, but I want to speak specifically to those who call themselves Christians. We have an opportunity. We can either use that opportunity to divide or to reach. Unfortunately I see Christians, and even pastors, speaking in ways that are not helpful. So, to publicly ask, “what wrong with America? why are we even having to have this conversation?” as a vitriol toward the LGBT community is not helpful. And, by the way, the answer is the same thing that’s always been wrong–we live in a fallen world made up of broken people.

What should the Christian do? Love. Does that sound crazy? Well, here’s some of what Jesus said we should do:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matthew 5:43–44) I’m not saying that the LGBT community is an enemy. They’re people. Though we do indeed believe very differently about sexuality and how sexuality should be lived out, they’re not my enemy. But I hope you get the gist of what I’m saying. If Jesus taught we should love our enemy, certainly within that He intimated that we should love those with whom we disagree even if that disagreement is intense.

Did you know that you can take a position on an important and controversial topic and still do it in love? I hope I’m demonstrating in this post that we can have a conversation without being unnecessarily controversial or unloving.

In case you were wondering, do I think that all multiple occupancy public bathrooms should be made unisex? No. But my position on this is not a discriminatory position. And, I’m pretty sure that’s not the purpose of the Law. If you don’t agree with my position please don’t decide indiscriminately that I hold it to discriminate. (See what I did there.) So, before you believe that the law was created simply to discriminate against the LGBT community simply because that’s what the mainstream media wants you to believe, think. Then, if you must speak, speak in love and in ways that are helpful. Then, when it’s time, vote your conscience.

Past Exhilaration

Forgetting Forward

Roller Coaster

I can still remember the day that I got through the fear. I remember it well. I was in the eighth grade and my parents took me and my brother to Disney World. The drive to get there from our home just outside of Washington DC seemed like it took forever, which is one of the things that helped me get over my fear. I told myself, “I’m not traveling all the way down to Disney World and not riding these awesome roller coasters everyone’s talking about, just because I’m afraid!”

So, there I was standing with my brother outside of the coaster I heard about the most: Space Mountain.

After the ride was over I realized a couple of things: one, I was still alive, and second, that was actually exhilarating! Like, I want to ride that again! I think we rode that crazy roller coaster eight times strait!

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In the Beginning, God… An approach to the New Year

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In the beginning, God… These words probably seem familiar because they are the beginning of the Bible. And, what great words they are–of beginnings. I can think of no better place to begin reading on the first day of the year than Genesis 1:1.


That’s what I love about celebrating the New Year, it’s a beginning. The beginning of something new.


Beginnings are great, especially if you understand why there is a beginning at all. The best way to understand the beginning of your New Year is by looking at the beginning of the beginnings. In the beginning, God…

  • Beginnings are deliberate.

If they weren’t they wouldn’t begin. In the beginning when God created, he created with and on purpose–deliberately. He began because He wanted to produce.

You have an opportunity to begin in many ways new, but this new beginning will not happen by accident. Beginnings never do. So, as you look at the beginning of a new year, what in this year would you want to see happen in your life? As you answer that question know this: your answer will never happen unless you’re deliberate in doing it.

Want to begin a new job? Want to begin a new hobby? Want to learn another language? Whatever it is, it will not happen unless you work at it on purpose.

Be deliberate.

  • Beginnings have a clean page.

In the beginning of beginnings it all began with a clean page on which God could begin His narrative. “The earth was without form and void,” was the beginning with which God was working. He could make it whatever He wanted to make it.

This may not be as true for us, since we are not God, but we do begin the New Year with a clean page. A page on which to write your story this year. More on what to write later, but the only opportunity squandered is an opportunity missed. So, don’t miss a great opportunity that comes with a beginning, the ability to write your story.

It doesn’t matter what happen last year. You cannot live this year on last year’s successes, nor are you confined this year to last year’s failures. You are free from that past. That is why Philippians 3:13-14 mean so much to me:

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13–14, ESV)

Start Fresh.

  • Beginnings have a plan.

God began with a clean page but not an empty mind. He had a plan for that which He would create. He didn’t lay out the plan for His creation to see before hand but we can clearly see, through the intricacy of what He created, that He certainly had a plan. And God fulfilled the plan He had. Earth, Heaven, the sun, the moon and stars, fish and animals, and yes, even you and me are a result of that plan.

To adapt a statement from D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, I’d rather try something and fail then try nothing and succeed. The best way to see your new beginning produce something deliberate is by having and working a plan. Without a plan you only have a dream. But, with a plan you ensure that you will always be doing something instead of nothing and something always produces…well…something.

Make a plan.

  • After beginning comes rest.

God gave a very necessary example to us when He finished working His initial plan. He rested. Hopefully you’re thinking something like, “The infinite God of all creation cannot get exhausted like me, so He had no reason to rest.” And, you’d be right. He wasn’t tired. But, He did “deliberately” gives us an example.

This example that God gave became part of the Mosaic Law. We are not under that Law, something for which we should all be thankful, but we do have permission–permission to rest. And, we also have a need to rest. As I’m writing this I’m writing it to me: make sure you take time to rest so you will have the energy it takes to continue to work the plan. Give yourself permission to rest!

Rest.


One more thing:

What story should I be writing and what should be my plan? The answer to this question goes back to the beginning; back to the beginning of beginnings. “In the beginning, God…”

Know that when God began deliberately, and with a clean slate, and with a plan, He had you in His plan. The best way to see success in your plans are to make sure they match His plans for you.

How do you know His plan for you? Well, let’s begin right here:

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27, ESV)

God’s primary purpose for you is that you live and reflect His image. He created you for that. Here’s one more:

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son… (Romans 8:29, ESV)

As you deliberately write a plan on the clean page of your life this year, begin  at the beginning  God has given you, to reflect the glory of God the Son. Make sure your plans merge with God’s plan and live the New Year in a great way for Him. As Dr. Henry Cloud wrote: “God did not put us on the earth to fail to reflect His likeness.” Succeed in that and succeed in your New Year.

Be deliberate, start fresh, make a plan, and rest.

Happy New Year!

 

The Great Divide

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SkyCycle

Unless you’re living in a vacuum, I’m sure you’ve noticed that on many major issues of our time, the people of our society are greatly divided. This division in thinking and ideology seems to be widening by the minute these days. But why?

At times, we seem to have the same chance of closing the gap between sharply contested topics like homosexual marriage and abortion as Evel Knievel had jumping the Snake River Canyon in his Skycycle X-2. (If you weren’t around in 1974, Evel Knievel didn’t come close to making it.) There are a lot of good people trying to have conversations to close the gap, of which I’m in favor, but the canyon between us seems to be widening ever further.

Why?

The differences of opinions and reasoning behind stances on such hot topics like same-sex marriage can become complicated quickly, but the reason for the chasm between the opinions of such an issue is actually quite simple:

The source of our information. Our starting point.

So much of the gap between the sides of the conversation, or at times the debate, is because we are working through completely different lenses of thinking. If the foundation and framework of our thinking is different, our conclusions can never be the same.

It’s seems so much of the debate ends up with the calling of people with opposing views evil or to have ill-intent. I don’t think that’s the case. At least, not all the time.

So, can we bridge the gap, or, at least bridge it enough to have a conversation? 

Since the audience of my writing is primarily Christian, I think it’s a good idea that I begin with us.

Do I think Christians should change the framework of our thinking? Heavens no! But, it may be that we need to change the way we have the conversation. (Before you come to some conclusion that I’m going to suggest we water down truth keep reading).

You see, so many engaged in public debate over these issues seem to think yelling the position they hold louder, or in a more provocative or inflammatory way, will win the argument. But, that’s actually not possible. It only widens the gap between us. Christians on street corners holding signs and screaming that marriage should be between and man and woman or that abortion is murder, isn’t going to change the minds of those who don’t view marriage or abortion the way Christians do.

How do I know? Because all the picketing and yelling about people’s rights to marriage or the woman’s right to choose does absolutely nothing to change my mind. My thinking is resolute.

So, where do we begin?

First, let’s talk about the best place to not begin. With everyone’s feelings.

If we can’t speak objectively, we can never come to a conclusion worth having. We have to have some kind of source for truth and my feelings or your feelings are not a reliable foundation for that. They never can be. They’re subjective.

Christian, if you and I are going to have a conversation worth having with those who may not believe the way we do, we can’t begin with our feelings either. We must begin with the objective truth as it’s been given. And, it has been given!

When it comes to any conversation of truth or seeking truth, the Apostle Paul gives some incite on where we should begin; at our foundation:

that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men. (1 Corinthians 2:5)

But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. (1 Corinthians 2:7)

Tim Keller does a great job in explaining that the “secret” wisdom that Paul is speaking about is not something that’s kept from man.

In the Bible, this word is used to mean not some esoteric knowledge known only to insiders but rather some wondrous, unlooked-for truth that God is revealing through his Spirit.

My conclusions on these difficult topics do not come from how I feel or whether or not I want someone to be able to live out their rights. It comes from questions like these:

Why are we here? Were we created? Do we have purpose? In searching within the truth for these answers we find the foundations that answer so many more questions.

Christian, don’t just know what you believe, know why. Search the truth of the Word and let God, through the wisdom of His Word, found and shape your thinking. It will be through Christians knowing why, that the chasm between the sacred and the secular will narrow through real, profitable conversation.