General James Mattis on the Importance of Reading

I have been working hard at increasing the depth and breadth (and speed!) of my reading.  To be honest, I’ve often felt guilty for taking time in my day to read.  I always thought, “How many of my church members get the luxury of sitting down with a book in the middle of their day to read?”  I have come to realize how short-sighted and, frankly, absurd that notion is.

My whole job is to make sure that I’m learning the answers to a thousand different questions.  I have to work to understand deep, theological concepts so that I can adequately and simply communicate them to people who are struggling, hurting or confused over something that has happened in life.  For me to understand the answers, I have to continually be digging and studying which, of course, means reading.

In some way or another, you have to continue developing, too.  Whether it’s in your job, your family, or your soul, you are charged to keep growing.  We are constantly learning.  The question is whether we’re learning the hard way or doing the hard work to learn the easy way, which rarely happens without reading.

I recently came across one of the absolute best articles I’ve ever read on the subject of “professional reading” which could also apply to the area of general “developmental reading.”  It’s about the reading habits of General James Mattis who was recently tapped by President-elect Donald Trump to be the next Secretary of Defense.  In the Business Insider article, General Mattis talks of the primary reason that carving out time for extensive reading time is so important:

The problem with being too busy to read is that you learn by experience (or by your men’s experience), i.e. the hard way. By reading, you learn through others’ experiences, generally a better way to do business, especially in our line of work where the consequences of incompetence are so final for young men.

Thanks to my reading, I have never been caught flat-footed by any situation, never at a loss for how any problem has been addressed (successfully or unsuccessfully) before. It doesn’t give me all the answers, but it lights what is often a dark path ahead.

What about you?  Do you make reading a priority?  I encourage you to expand your horizons, develop a wide-range of interests (history, biography, theology, etc.), and begin carving out time whenever you can to invest in personal growth through reading.  I highly recommend you read the entire article here and check out the following extra posts for some tips and guidelines.

Additional articles on the subject:

Albert Mohler on “The Reading of Books”

My article on 7 Tips for Reading Better, Faster and Smarter

2016 Summer Series at The Gathering

I love the summer!  I enjoy the other three seasons, but I have a definite favorite.  It is possible that I’m more excited about this summer than I have been in quite a while, at least as far as it relates to my time as Lead Pastor at The Gathering goes.  I’m so ready for summer that we’re going to start a little early.

This Sunday, May 1, we’re kicking off our new summer series…

SoP_Blog

The Psalms are an amazing collection of the most interesting, relevant and Christ-exalting songs ever written.  It has been said that it is all of Scripture in one book.  James Montgomery Boice, in his 2nd volume of his work on the Psalms, has said of this book:

I have always thought of the psalms as the deepest and most spiritual portion of the Word of God…the psalms touch deeply on the hurts, joys, and spiritual aspirations of God’s people…they never lose their grasp on God or their faith in Him as the great, sovereign, wise, and loving God He is.

Steven Lawson, in his book, Preaching the Psalms, describes this book as having the power to comfort the afflicted, renew the soul, and magnify the Lord.  He says, “From the pinnacle of praise to the pit of despair, this book captures the full range of human emotions, “ but most of all, he continues, “the psalms led God’s ancient people in worshiping Him.” (pp. 78-79)

Those are a couple of reasons I am looking forward to this new series.  We all have struggles and joy and pain, and successes and the book of Psalms helps us to work through each of these and, ultimately, lead us to the throne of Christ in worship.

To me, summer has always been about taking a little time to relax, maybe travel a bit and take some away from the normal stresses of life, reflecting on what has happened in the year so far, and planning how we’re going to finish it out.  That’s what I see this series being about, as well.  Taking time out from our normal Sunday morning series to look at these reflections of the heart as the writers plumb the depths of their emotions as they deal with all the stresses of life and finding their way to the foot of the throne of God.  That’s something that I think we all need to experience!

Another reason I have chosen to spend the summer in the Psalms is that this is the season of vacations.  Everybody is on the go (as, to some extent, it should be).  When the kids are out of school, that time with family should be taken advantage of if there is an opportunity to travel together.  That doesn’t mean we take the summer off from gathering together as a church family, but it does take into account that some time out of town inevitably happens.

Because the Psalms can be looked at as individual units, this will be an expositional series where you won’t be lost if you miss a week.  I wanted to continue walking straight through a book, but one that isn’t dependent upon the last weeks message.  Psalms gives us that best of both worlds approach.

Finally, I decided to tackle this admittedly challenging book this summer because it seems everything I’ve been involved in over the last couple of months has been pushing me in this direction.  For a long time, I sort of avoided the Psalms because of the sheer volume of Psalms to cover–I’m not sure we’re ready for a 150-week series!  Actually, it would be even longer because there’s no way we’re covering Psalm 119 in a week!  Now, I think we’re ready. So, the plan is to begin working through it this summer and, if the Lord directs, we may pick it back up where we leave off next summer and on and on.  The prospect of an ongoing summer series in the Psalms is pretty exciting to me and I hope it excites you, as well.

So, take a week or two to enjoy sitting under the palms, if you get the chance, but make sure you commit the rest of the summer to sitting under the Psalms!

Transcript of 3 Gifts of the Savior Series: Hope

[Video available on my Sermon Video page here.]

The Gathering, Chattanooga

December 6, 2015

~The doctor slowly walked in and sat down with the look on his face that said it all.  Before he could say a word, tears began to stream down her face as she leaned onto her husband’s shoulder.  He tightly wrapped his arms around her and quietly wept, determined to take care of her for as long as he could.  

~It’s been 2 years since he actually held a steady job.  Never a day goes by that he doesn’t think of his ex-wife and two beautiful young girls, wondering what they’re doing today.  Every passing day on the street is one step further from any chance for a normal life again.

~Hearing the verdict was like a swift punch in her gut.  The color drained from her face as the reality that every tomorrow for the rest of her life would look exactly the same…and it was almost too much to deal with, wishing she could go back in time and change what rage-filled moment in time.


What happens when all options are eliminated and any belief that things can get better begins to fade; when the last bit of good news doesn’t come and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it?  

What happens when hope runs out?  

Everybody has reason to hope so long as there is some possibility that things actually can turn around.  That’s the very way the dictionary defines hope:  the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.  Sometimes, though, things don’t turn out for the best and there is no rational basis to think they will.  What do you do?

The answer to that depends on your starting point.

Many people start from a position that believes that all you get is what you see.  The philosophical term is “Naturalism.”  Someone who holds to Naturalism believes that the material, physical world is all there is; that everything that exists is nothing more than the product of chance.  There is nothing beyond what we can see and there is nothing beyond this life.  There is no God; no higher power, no after-life…and no real hope. 

Some people seem to have no problem with this.  They simply make the most of this life, realizing that this is all there is and they will someday simply cease to exist.

I think there is a problem with this, though.  As long as everything is going well, I can see how people can pretty easily hold to that position, but when we’re faced with no hope that things will get better, it might be different story. When you’re faced with the reality that the cancer IS going to kill you, that the world is falling apart, the harshness of reality can be overwhelming.  

Further, I think the vast major of humans want to exist.  The idea of nonexistence doesn’t set well with most people, especially the closer they get to the point of that non-existence and they can’t live within the worldview they claim to believe.  After all, we pay a lot of money to stay alive.  We seem to want to continue existing and I think the thought of non-existence is a repelling thought.

There is an alternative to having to think this way (at least in the short term).  To avoid the consequences of meaninglessness, many people embrace what is known as Existentialism.  They have no basis for believing there is any meaning in life—with naturalism, there can be no real meaning in life—but they can’t live that way.  They can’t practically live according to the system of belief they’ve embraced.  There is no basis nor reason for things like love,  rational thought, truth or hope. So, they invent meaning and purpose for their lives.   They pursue careers that can give meaning.  They have families so they can build a legacy after they cease to exist.  See, Existentialism separates the harsh reality that there really is no meaning in the world from the desire for meaning; the desire to have meaningful thought, to truly love and to have significance, even when it is known that there is no reason for them; no basis for believing in them.

So they create meaning for themselves; they make themselves who they are.

The problem for existentialists is that they are always faced with the reality of the objective world.  Death is always present; always threatening to destroy their meaning and purpose; always demonstrating the objective truth that what we have created is nothing more than an illusion.  Nothing we have can last, so the happiness and satisfaction we live is a fantasy we have dreamed up to keep us from the truth. They may act as though there is hope, but it’s just a sham.

For that person who is honest with himself and follows his worldview to its logical conclusion (which rarely actually happens), a new reality becomes evident.  They understand that the meaning in their lives is something of their own invention, but in reality, there is no meaning.  All of life is an absurdity and of no value.  We see this most clearly in those who kill for no purpose at all, simply because life has no value, no purpose, with no ultimate meaning.  To live or die is equally worthless.  Those who cannot find meaning and can no longer create meaning find themselves living according to another thought-system:  Nihilism.  

Nihilism is the reality for an honest naturalist.  It is the denial of everything that is real.  It is the end of the line; the natural conclusion for anyone who lives honestly as a naturalist.  It realizes that nothing matters.  Nothing is ultimately right or wrong, good or bad.  There is no such thing as love and commitment because it all ends in the same place—nothingness.  Nothing is worth investing in because it cannot last and means nothing. 

There is only one place for a true Nihilist to go:  Despair.

Few can actually survive living a life in which there is no trace of hope and, as a result, and end up either committing suicide or madness.  They lose it…sometimes taking out as many people as they can in the process.

If this is the case, there is really only one other possibility…one other hope.  That lies in Theism (and I would get more specific to Christian Theism):  The belief that there really is a God who has created everything that exists and moves freely within His creation.  

If there is a God who created it, who is Lord over it, then He must be the Highest of all beings and He must be able to communicate with His creation if He chooses to and in any manner of His choosing. This is where we get into the Bible, a book that tells us there is a God who has created a people in His own image, which means that there is reason for things like love and rational thought and purpose.  

We’re talking about a God who tells us that everything that happens to us can work towards making us better people that will not be lost at the time of that great objective reality, death.  Instead, we can live beyond the grave because He is beyond the grave. He is outside of time and space and makes it possible for us to be, as well.

If true, this is the only basis for real hope and it is one of the greatest gifts we could ever imagine. 

Assuming, then, that what is written in Scripture is true, we have another problem:  Just because there is an almighty, sovereign and holy God, doesn’t automatically result in everyone rejoicing that we don’t have to live in total despair due to meaninglessness.

 To the contrary, because He is almighty, sovereign and holy leads us to a problem:  The Bible tells us that his holiness; his perfection can only allow perfection into His presence.  

Because of the Fall of Man, the perfect relationship God established at the beginning of creation was marred, making mankind unfit for a relationship with God and, even worse, left us liable for our sin, punishable not by annihilation, but eternally paying for the offense against an infinitely holy God in hell.  As a result, God gave Laws to demonstrate what it would take for man to be made right with God and escape the payment for sin:  the Law had to be followed perfectly.  So, now we’re back to despair because no one can do that.

What we come to find out, though, is that God had another purpose for the Law and a purpose for our despair which was to make understand that in our own power, we are hopeless.  We cannot save ourselves.  In the Old Testament, God had made a covenant with man through Abraham that said so long as you obey me, I will be your God and you will be my people.  After centuries of trying and failing, the Bible paints a picture of a people in despair, crying out to God for a savior.  

Then came hope!  God spoke through his prophet in the midst of the despair of the Israelites and gave them reason to believe that things could and would get better!

Jeremiah 31:31-34

 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

God promised that He would do what man could not do…He Himself would satisfy the requirement of holiness.  God would make a way for eternal life, providing hope where there was only despair.  This fulfillment would be through His Son, Jesus, the Christ (the Deliverer) and over 700 years before Christ was born, God said gave his people hope by telling them what was to come:

He would enter Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt (Zechariah 9:9).

He would be betrayed by a friend (Psalm 41:9).

The betrayal would be for 30 pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12).

The money would be used to purchase the potter’s field (Zechariah 11:13).

The Messiah would die a sacrificial death for us (Daniel 9:26; Isaiah 53:8).

He would die with criminals but His burial would be with the wealthy (Isaiah 53:9).

He would rise from the dead (Psalm 16:8–11; Isaiah 53:10).

He would speak specific words on the Cross, he would be mocked, and people would gamble for His clothes (Psalm 22:1, 8, 18).

Remember, the definition of hope, according to the dictionary, is “the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.”  God gave the world a reason to hope and he gave the word a new meaning.  

In Scripture, hope is no longer about something that we want to come about or even that we think it might turn out for the best.  Biblical hope is a confidence that was is said will happen because God has said it.  So, when we say that we have hope for the future, we believe that there is a certainty of what God WILL bring about based on what he has said he will bring about. 

OK, so it’s one thing to say that God has spoken and that He has brought about promises, but how do we know that God’s Word and promises are true that lead to our certain hope?  

Put simply, we believe.  Now, I’m not talking about a simple act of the will as in choosing to believe against all evidence.  When we think about what we believe, there are, as I can see it, three possibilities:

1.  You can choose to believe something you know isn’t true (such as, I believe I can fly.  I believe that unicorns exist)— that’s called delusion. 

2. You can choose to believe something to be true but is actually false—that is error. (as in, I believe that the Vols will win the National Championship next year…though that might better be categorized as “delusion”).

3. You can believe something because you’re overwhelmingly convinced by evidence of it’s truth and reality.  In this sense, You know in your heart that the external facts give evidence to what is true.  

In the case of belief in Christ’s death and resurrection, the evidence is solid, but evidence alone is not enough.  Salvation takes faith, and God’s word says that He gives us faith as a gift…an internal certainty that His promises are true.  The Spirit of God convinces us to know what is true even though we can’t see it all with our eyes.

Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

In Hebrews 11:1 we read, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation.”

John 3:16 is clear that the one who believes will not perish but have eternal life.  It is this faith that leads to justification before God and eternal life through Christ.  It also is the basis for our hope that things actually will get better; that even through bad circumstances, we can hope for the good.  Look at Romans 5:1-9:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

So, when we trust in Christ, we are reconciled to God.  We are made right with Him, being declared righteous because Christ has exchanged our sins for His righteousness.

2 Corinthians 5:21

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

This righteousness makes possible for God to welcome us into his family, but also gives us hope in our lives here on earth.

Hope that even bad circumstances are investments into our growth and development:

Romans 8:28

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Hope that God will intervene when we struggle or when we are in need:

Romans 8:26

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

Matthew 6:25-33

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?[g] 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Hope that God will guide us every step of this crazy journey called life.

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Isaiah 30:21

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

This hope is only found in Christ, but it is found in Him.  It is real.  It is comprehensive.  It is eternal.

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. ~Romans 15:13 

Shallow Church

Of late, I’ve been dealing in my own mind with the sillyness that is the American church.  We are ridiculously petty and self-absorbed.  Like in the days of the early Church, today in many parts of the world, persecution exists and is running rampant.  Just last week, I heard of four children in Baghdad, under the age of fifteen, who were beheaded because they refused to denounce Jesus to ISIS terrorists.  Seriously?  Kids who died for their faith?  Would I do that?  Would my children?  Are we too tied up with important stuff like getting our feelings hurt because of the way someone spoke to us or because someone simply did something we didn’t like?  Are we too concerned with getting a good parking space, flipping off the driver who cut us off or other earth-shaking “First-world problems” to worry about serious spiritual growth that would result in a boldness that would allow us to die for Jesus if called upon?

God help us in this crazy world.  God help this crazy institution we call the American church.  May it not come to the point of requiring persecution to wake us up to the realities of the spiritual realm.  May we not have to be threatened with death in order to get serious about our walk with and commitment to Christ.  I don’t hope for or wish for persecution.  On the other hand, if it did (or does) come, the Church would undoubtedly be strengthened almost immediately.  Would you be a part of it?  For more of my thoughts on the subject, watch my message from Sunday:

John – Portrait of a Savior, Part 39 from The Gathering on Vimeo.

Conversational Scripture Reading

Have you ever tried praying Scripture back to God? I’m talking about actually speaking the text back to Him using conversational pronouns (I may have just made that term up, but you get the point), for example, changing “He” and “the Lord” to “You”.  It makes for an amazing prayer and worship time.  Give it a shot.  Here’s a good one to start with: Psalm 18:1-3

Ummmm…just one word of warning: be careful to know the context.  Every passage in Scripture is not suitable for this kind of reading.  There are sometimes specific prophecies, instructions, etc. that were for a particular people at a particular time.  Pick the ones that are obviously more universal, in nature.  If you have questions about whether a specific passage fits the bill, shoot it to me and I’d be happy to try and help you figure it out.

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Getting it Right

One of the things I had to learn once I started seminary was how to effectively and rightly interpret Scripture. I guess I hadn’t though much about it up to that point. I figured you just read the Bible and did what it said. From time-to-time, I would have people ask me, “Do you interpret the Bible literally?” Hm. Wasn’t sure how to answer that. I guess so. At the time, I didn’t understand what they meant. I later learned that some people interpreted everything literally. Since there are passages that instruct women to “adorn themselves in respectable apparel…” (1 Timothy 2:9-10), some churches have decided it best that women not wear make-up or shorts or anything other than long dresses. While I respect their desire for modesty and am totally in favor of the appropriate amount of cover-up, make-up, in my humble opinion, is not a bad invention. Therefore, I assumed that I didn’t take everything literally.

On the other hand, there were those who argued for allegorical interpretation of Scripture. In this case, stories like Jonah and the Whale, Daniel in the Lion’s Den, Noah and the Flood were not historical events but stories made up in order to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson. I definitely didn’t fall into that category.

So, when I got to seminary, I learned how to properly interpret Scripture. I learned that it is important that we seek out the author’s original intent according to the context in which he wrote. What was he trying to say when he wrote what he did under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit? I learned that there are different genres in Scripture just like there are different genres in other types of literature. As such, they must be interpreted accordingly. For instance, poetry can’t be interpreted the same as history. Imagery is used that cannot be taken literally. If it were, then a painting of the bride that Solomon describes in Song of Solomon 4 would end up looking like a strange work of art by Pablo Picasso…more like the Elephant Man than a beautiful woman.

During my studies, I discovered a device that is often used in Scripture called “Phenomenological Language.” When someone uses this literary device, they are simply describing what they see as they see it without using technical jargon or concern to describe what is actually happening. For instance, in Psalm 19, David, in describing the heavens that God created, writes:

In them he has set a tent for the sun,
5 which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them,
and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

Now, if we take that literally, we have a lot of problems with Scripture. As a matter of fact, this verse has been used by some who believe the Bible is full of errors. They say that if God essentially wrote Scripture, it should be known that the Sun does not actually move, but that the earth revolves around a stationary sun. This, therefore, proves Scripture errant. These people fail to realize the phenomenological language that is being used to provide word-pictures. David is simply looking up and describing the heavens as he sees it. The reality is, we know that the Earth revolves around the Sun yet we do the same thing today! Think about it: “What time is sunrise today?” “Did you see that beautiful sunset?” “I love watching the Sun rise over the ocean.” What are we saying about the nature of the Sun’s actions in relation to the Earth when we talk like this? Nothing. That’s not what we’re talking about at all.

In light of this, it’s important that we understand how we interpret language. Otherwise, it can completely derail our understanding of Scripture and how we live our lives.

I have another one for you. We talk about “going to church.” How often do you talk to your family and friends about going to church? It happens all the time, doesn’t it? Do you go to church every Sunday? What church to you go to? What are we doing? We’re using phenomenological language! It looks like we’re going to church, but that is not the reality. The Bible describes the Truth behind the language in places like 1 Corinthians 12:27, “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” Again in Romans 12:4-5, “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” As a matter of fact, there are over 20 passages in Scripture that talk not about going to church, but being the Church! Our understanding on this point makes all the difference in the world as to how we respond to it.

If I believe that I simply go to church on Sunday, then my level of commitment and involvement is very limited. I go to the store to get what I need and leave without another thought of it. I go to the movies and am entertained for a couple of hours and then get on with my life. I am, essentially, a consumer who gets what I need and then moves on with that experience having little impact on the other parts of my life.

If, on the other hand, I understand that I am the Church, that changes everything! I cannot be a father only when I’m around my children or a husband only when I’m around my wife. These aspects of my identity shape everything about me. They determine decisions and actions, attitudes and thoughts. That is me. In the same way, I cannot be a part of the Church only when I’m there. I am a part of the Body of Christ at all times and in all places. That fact should also shape decisions, attitudes, actions and thoughts. It should determine how I function within the Body as well:

I don’t ask whether I should serve. I assume that. Instead, I ask “Where should I serve.”
I don’t ask wether or not I should give. I assume that. Instead, I ask, “What should I give?”
I don’t ask whether or not I should participate. I assume that. Instead, I ask, “How do I participate.”
I don’t ask whether or not I should be a witness for Christ at work and play. I assume that. Instead, I ask, “How can I be a good witness in my context?

I hope you can see the importance of understanding Scripture rightly, and how our use of language matters, as well. If I talk too much about “going to church,” that will eventually shape my thinking about it. Instead, I need to begin reminding myself at all times and in all ways, that, because I have been adopted by the Father, redeemed by the Son and sealed by the Spirit, I am the Church. In so doing, I’m changing the way I identify and interact with all of the other members of that same Body of Christ, serving, giving and going with the right attitude and determination to glorify Him in all things.

Boys Will Can’t Be Boys

As the father of two active boys, I need to remind myself regularly of the truth that is found in the following video.

Boys are not like girls and it’s past time we stop treating them in the same way with the same expectations. Boys tend to be more active, sillier and LOUDER.  That’s not abnormal and attempts to medicate away or stifle normal boyish behavior is incredibly detrimental to our kids.  Yes, I understand and agree there are circumstances in which medication is appropriate, but I’m certain not nearly as often as it is used.  Age and maturity will usually take care of most of those problems in due time.

Maybe, like me, you’ve fallen into the trap of placing unrealistic expectations on your boys from time-to-time.  I believe we need to re-think how we’re treating our boys and how we can let them be boys while still maintaining reasonable expectations for their general behavior (and we must be honest that we sometimes fail miserably at the latter, as well).

Our goal for our boys is that they grow up to be strong, godly gentlemen.  It is impossible for that to happen if I do not allow them to run a lot, climb trees, explore, wrestle, fall (repeatedly), make noise and make mistakes, all the while teaching them what they did wrong and how to avoid the same results again without crushing their spirit because they made them in the first place!  I have failed at that more than once, which has given me the opportunity to show them what repentance looks like.  By now they should have a thorough understanding of that concept!

Boys aren’t girls.

They mature slower and learn differently.  My neighbor, who is an elementary school teacher, told me just last week that modern-day schools aren’t designed for the learning styles of boys.  They tend to be most conducive to girls.  When I asked why, she stated almost the exact same things that I heard in this video. She said they don’t allow enough time for kids to play and exert pent-up energy, they expect quiet all the time (which is nearly impossible when the former is not provided for) and punish them when they can’t.  I’m starting to understand this as my youngest bundle of talkative energy does much better after he’s unloaded a couple thousand kilowatts.  Most of the time, he doesn’t get that opportunity at school.

Will the situation change?

I don’t know, but let’s start the conversation with each other and with our teaching professionals and see.  I agree with Ms. Sommers that something needs to change in our expectations and practices in teaching children and unless we are prepared to address it, we’ll continue to see mal-adjusted young men failing to reach their God-given potential because we failed to help them do so in a way in which they understand.  We (and their teachers!) need to learn to “speak their language.”  When we do, I think we’ll start seeing little, immature boys becoming young, mature men, ready to meet the challenges of life with confidence and intelligence.  If that happens, we will all benefit…but perhaps, especially, our little girls!

Feel free to share your reaction to the video or your own story and thoughts on raising healthy boys.

Who’s Choice is it Anyway?

It is an understatement to say that the topic of Divine Election is a hotly debated one.  People are often very passionate and sometimes downright uncivil in their expressions of those passions.  People are cast with (what are intended as) disparaging labels, looked down upon with expressed disappointment, and dismissed as marginal when they admit to certain doctrinal beliefs.

That the Doctrine of Election is taught in Scripture is undeniable by anyone reading Scripture with honest eyes.  Getting beyond our preconceived ideas of what is taught is usually the problem and a challenge for any of us to get to the heart and truth.  Certainly, we can all find our various “proof-texts” or “spoilers” to opposing doctrinal positions.  However, a goal of theology involves avoiding outright contradictions in our formulations in our quest for the TRUTH of God.

If a seemingly opposing passage can be easily worked into a particular doctrinal position without either twisting or changing it’s basic meaning, it should be seriously considered.  If it cannot, then that position must be rejected since the teaching of Scripture does not contradict itself.  If there is interest, I may explore one or two examples in a future post.  For the moment, though, the point is that we must determine to approach the Scripture humbly and honestly, with no axes to grind but only a desire to learn of the nature and will of God.  Due to some of the inevitable implications, for many, MANY years I wrestled with this teaching, desperately wanting (kicking and screaming, as it were) to deny it on the one hand, and yet knowing that it was undeniable on the other.

On Sunday, I addressed the topic in part 15 of my series, Portrait of A Savior.  I pray I did an honest and adequate job handling this subject, building my argument from a simple reading of John 6:22-71 as well as additional supporting passages.  My goal was not only to teach how Scripture is clear of God’s sovereign choice in election, but also the great paradox of man’s responsibility to believe and freely respond (as well as to explore the origin of “belief” itself).

To the best of my ability, the only presuppositions I deliberately and unapologetically start from are that Scripture is perfect in it’s teaching and, whatever formulation of predestination, freedom, election or salvation, God must be clearly seen as the Sovereign originator of salvation.  To do otherwise is to elevate man’s position above that of God, thereby glorifying man above God, and that must not happen.  God will not allow that to happen.  Isaiah is clear that He will share His glory with no one (Isaiah 41-42).

Again, this is a tough subject, but an important one, nonetheless, and one that provides the Believer with a certainty that, regardless of the storms, the trials and circumstances, Christ will never let go of all whom the Father gives Him.  At the end of the day, we may disagree on certain aspects of God’s application of His work of salvation.  However, for Christians of various doctrinal differences, our agreement (I trust!) is that salvation is through Christ alone (John 14:6), by faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), resulting in repentance of sin and the desire for holiness (Romans 10:9-10).

My prayer is that, if you watch the following video, you will do so with a desire to hear from the Spirit of God through the Word of God, not with a closed spirit simply looking for grounds upon which to disagree or pick a fight.  I am certain there are plenty of opportunities for that.  That is, however, not my purpose.  My purpose is singular in nature and focus:  Soli Deo Gloria!

Portrait of a Savior, Part 15 from The Gathering on Vimeo.

For a pretty thorough handling of the Doctrine of Election, check out this explanation. (Sorry for those of you who, like me, aren’t big KJV people.)  It’s always a good idea to first study what you say you don’t believe to make sure you don’t actually believe it.  Caricatures abound!  😉

Portrait of a Savior, Part 11 video

Portrait of a Savior, Part 11 from The Gathering on Vimeo.

According to John, Jesus has the authority to both give life to whomever He pleases and to judge the living and the dead.  What does it mean to truly live the life given by Christ?  Is it possible to have eternal life and yet live a life of unrepentant sin?  I fear many people have received a false sense of security by holding onto a moment in which they prayed a prayer asking Jesus into their hearts, but after which have lived a life where there is no indication of transformation.  What does the Scripture say about this?  Can you be a disciple of Jesus if you aren’t actually being discipled by Him?  Can you say that you are a follower of Jesus if you aren’t actually following Him?

This was a difficult message to preach and I’m certain a tough one to hear, but I think it was an important one.  I pray God’s Spirit will be your guide if you decide to watch.  Blessings!

dp.

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