How should we attempt to reason with unbelievers? How many points of connection should we hope to make with the unregenerate? I know we need to be ready to give an answer for the reason of the hope that is within us, but does that mean we must justify it on the grounds that unbelievers set forth?
I am all for giving reasons why we believe what we believe, but think we must guard against exalting logic above that of God’s revelation of Himself. When we begin to use logic, in the stead of dependence upon The Holy Spirit, to convert the unbeliever we commit a error – two of which are.
1. We deny what Scripture teaches about the depravity of man, and insist that man is capable of reaching the conclusion that the claims of Scripture are true if he is just given enough intellectual impetus to stop fighting the truth. When we do this, we are actually appealing to a higher standard than Scripture. If the veracity of Scripture is not accepted unless another source verifies it then that other source takes precedence over Scripture. The other sources are useful, and it shows that Scripture is accurate in it’s records – it is not that I am saying we should not employ archeology, history, and the like at all – but outside sources are not to be the determiner of whether we believe Scripture or not. The Word of God is believed to be such by Christians because they hear the voice of The Shepherd in it. The Holy Spirit grants a conviction that it is what it claims to be. Thus when presenting the truth of Scripture to the unregenerate we must proclaim the truths of God as they are – authoritative. To appeal to any outside source to try to convince them to accept the truth we are actually diminishing the truth we are attempting to proclaim.
2. We deny the Holy Spirit’s power to regenerate the unregenerate. This lack of faith has led to inflated stories, or just plain fabrications, in order to sway a person to accept what is being said. We think that unless we can give the unregenerate something he can identify with somehow then he will not believe. Sometimes this desire to identify is so great that we even leave out bits of truth thinking that if we can get them to accept some of the truth we can work in the rest; or we just don’t want to scare them off, so we don’t give them the whole truth.
This can lead to personal issues within the thinking of the believer as well. For once an outside source is set as authoritative over Scripture then all of Scripture must be in a constant state of scrutiny. This is different than our approaching Scripture always with an understanding that our preconceived notions of what it teaches may need to be changed. This scrutiny is of the Bible itself. It is a constant wondering if it is correct seeing as “science” seems to contradict it or at least give seemingly believable explanations for things. Or if we appeal to archeology then there is always not quite enough evidence to “exactly” prove the veracity of Scripture. This leads the Christian on a search to prove what doesn’t need proving. Eventually faith will dissipates and we want explanations for everything and begin to hold Scripture in suspicion unless we can prove to the unbeliever’s satisfaction that it is true.
Extra biblical sources are good, but they are never effective in converting an individual. They may provide hurdles for an unregenerate man to jump over, but he will jump over them. Extra biblical sources provide data that can be interpreted by one’s presupposition. For example – we see order in the universe and patterns in nature. The Biblicists says it evidences it’s Creator, the unregenerate will claim it is a process of billions of years of evolutionary sequences. We see a consistent morality in every human as evidence of God’s law written on their heart, the unregenerate may give evolution as an answer to that, or just social traditions passed down as the reason for morality. We must give them God’s truth as the primary authority.
We are to employ apologetics; we are to reason with men (for our faith is reasonable – contrary to the popular opinion of unbelievers), but we are to reason from the Scriptures. We reason with the Scriptures as our foundation, rather than reason being our starting point in trying to prove the Scriptures true.
The reformers called it “Sola Scriptura”. The Holy Spirit inspired Luke to pen it this way in Acts 17:2: “And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures,”
I watched Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” with the family last night. My wife thought it didn’t make sense, my 4 year old was captivated by it (loving the Jabberwok, which concerns me a bit), my 2 year old was scared of it before I even hit play, my 7 month old could care less, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Anyone who knows me, knows that it’s not far into a story before connections begin to be made in my mind to illustrate truth. I think that’s one of the things I liked about the movie so much – the connections were plain as day. I’m not saying Tim intentionally made them that clear; but even with the cover of gnarled tree branches, a protagonist that looked like death warmed over, and a villain with a head to match her ego; theological connections were not masked much at all. Although there are various rabbit trails that we could follow, I will follow what I believe to be the white rabbit – the one, over arching theme of the entire film. I’m not trying to do any injustice to Burton’s or Carrol’s genius by being reductionistic; I simply want to let the trees fade a bit so we can more clearly see the forest.
There was one statement Alice made that summed it all up: “Since the moment I fell down the rabbit hole, I’ve been told who to be and how to act, but I’m going to make my own path!” Shortly after her entrance into Wonderland, she was shown a scroll of the history of Wonderland. Interestingly enough the history of the place had not all taken place as of yet. To whoever wrote it, it was history although it hadn’t happened yet. And here is where Alice’s struggle comes in. She says she couldn’t kill anything if her life depended on it, yet everyone (everyone good that is) is telling her that she has to. The villains of the movie also know about the historical scroll, and they are attempting to stop Alice, although Alice still doesn’t think she is the one to slay the Jabberwok. So sure are Alice’s friends that the record of the scroll is correct that they are all anticipating “Frabjous Day” – a day yet to come that celebrates what is yet to occur (another glorious illustration I may elaborate on in another post). For the entire movie it looks as if all who believe this day will come are lunatics. And yet there’s another twist, one I think we all can identify with more closely. The White Queen tells Alice how to kill the beast, but that Alice must choose to do so. There is even a point where the queen asks for volunteers, waiting for Alice to step forward (which she doesn’t do at that time).
To make a short story even shorter… Frabjous Day comes, and Alice is there, voluntarily, decked out in full battle attire, just as the scroll recorded she would be. She voluntarily slays the Jabberwok, just as predetermined in the scroll and does so in the exact place as foretold by the scroll. What had always been history in the scroll became history to the inhabitants of Wonderland. Their anticipation of what was to happen was fulfilled. What appeared to be insanity was really faith in what had been promised ahead of time (again, something I’d love to blog about later).
But for now, I ask you… how did all this work out as it did? By mistake, or by design? How is it that Alice, seemingly forging her own path, actually fulfilled the path predetermined for her? How is it that the antagonists willingly played right into the hands of “destiny”? Although through the movie it seemed possible that the scroll could be wrong, that Frabjous Day may not take place, that Alice wouldn’t fight the Jabberwok or be victorious if she did – was that actually the case? Was someone in control of the entire situation? If so Who?
Now, I encourage you to climb back out of the rabbit hole and make application to your own life.
What does Scripture say anyway?
Scripture doesn’t address music style (this is really the main argument between “traditional” and “contemporary” church music), but there are generally three passages that those who do not accept contemporary church music will submit as biblical footing for their stance.
“Harping” on the wrong thing:
I Samuel 16 records the event where King Saul had an evil spirit that plagued him and was advised to hire a skilled musician to play for him. He hired David, who was skilled at the harp, and when David would play the evil spirit would leave Saul.
Now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and a harmful spirit from the Lord tormented him. 15 And Saul’s servants said to him, “Behold now, a harmful spirit from God is tormenting you. 16 Let our lord now command your servants who are before you to seek out a man who is skillful in playing the lyre, and when the harmful spirit from God is upon you, he will play it, and you will be well.” 17 So Saul said to his servants, “Provide for me a man who can play well and bring him to me.” 18 One of the young men answered, “Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence, and the Lord is with him.” 19 Therefore Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said, “Send me David your son, who is with the sheep.” 20 And Jesse took a donkey laden with bread and a skin of wine and a young goat and sent them by David his son to Saul. 21 And David came to Saul and entered his service. And Saul loved him greatly, and he became his armor-bearer. 22 And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, “Let David remain in my service, for he has found favor in my sight.” 23 And whenever the harmful spirit from God was upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand. So Saul was refreshed and was well, and the harmful spirit departed from him.
It is apparent that music does have an affect on the individual. That is a point that is agreed upon by both sides of the debate. If music didn’t affect us in some way then there would be no point in employing it in worship, or love sonnets to our spouses, etc. Music can calm and relax us, facilitate in a workout or give us the perfect rhythm to dance around the room with the love of our life. I would not play “Eye of the Tiger” to a room full of 4 year old children if I was trying to get them to lie down and nap. This passage does not address musical styles, simply that music is influential. To use the passage as definitive on style would be the same as trying to say that only music played with the harp is God honoring music.
No… that’s really music, Josh:
Exodus 32:17-18 is another passage, probably the most favorite of the traditionalist.
15 Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets that were written on both sides; on the front and on the back they were written. 16 The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets. 17 When Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a noise of war in the camp.” 18 But he said, “It is not the sound of shouting for victory, or the sound of the cry of defeat, but the sound of singing that I hear.” 19 And as soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. 20 He took the calf that they had made and burned it with fire and ground it to powder and scattered it on the water and made the people of Israel drink it.
In this passage, Moses and Joshua go up the mountain to receive the 10 Commandments from The LORD. While away, the people convince Aaron to make them an image of God. They make a golden calf out of their jewelry and as they celebrate and worship their newly made god they employ music. Joshua hears it and thinks it’s war going on. Moses has a more discerning ear and correct Joshua by telling him it is not a victory cry nor cry of defeat, but singing that he hears. The point that is often attempted to be made by this passage by the traditionalist is that Joshua thought their celebration sounded like war. Most contemporary music employs drums and other rhythm instruments differently that classical, baroque, or other westernized styles. The heavy rhythm is equated to war-like sounds and lumped into the genre that Joshua must have thought he heard. It is over looked that Moses corrected Joshua, as well as the fact that since they were on a mountain and the people in the valley below, the distance alone would have distorted the clarity of the music along with the voice of the people.
Again, style of music must be superimposed on the text. If one side wants to employ Joshua for their purposes of saying the music sounded like war, the other side can just as easily side with Moses and say it’s really music. Moses wasn’t enraged with them over the idol they had erected. The text doesn’t even allude to the music tipping him off to their idolatry. It wasn’t until he saw what they were doing that his anger burned hot. It is notable, however, that music is such a vital part of worship, that it is even included in idolatry as if not even idol worship would be “complete” without it.
Music & Glory:
II Chron 5
1 Thus all the work that Solomon did for the house of the Lord was finished. And Solomon brought in the things that David his father had dedicated, and stored the silver, the gold, and all the vessels in the treasuries of the house of God.2 Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the fathers’ houses of the people of Israel, in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of the city of David, which is Zion. 3 And all the men of Israel assembled before the king at the feast that is in the seventh month. 4 And all the elders of Israel came, and the Levites took up the ark. 5 And they brought up the ark, the tent of meeting, and all the holy vessels that were in the tent; the Levitical priests brought them up. 6 And King Solomon and all the congregation of Israel, who had assembled before him, were before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and oxen that they could not be counted or numbered. 7 Then the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord to its place, in the inner sanctuary of the house, in the Most Holy Place, underneath the wings of the cherubim. 8 The cherubim spread out their wings over the place of the ark, so that the cherubim made a covering above the ark and its poles. 9 And the poles were so long that the ends of the poles were seen from the Holy Place before the inner sanctuary, but they could not be seen from outside. And they are there to this day. 10 There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets that Moses put there at Horeb, where the Lord made a covenant with the people of Israel, when they came out of Egypt. 11 And when the priests came out of the Holy Place (for all the priests who were present had consecrated themselves, without regard to their divisions, 12 and all the Levitical singers, Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun, their sons and kinsmen, arrayed in fine linen, with cymbals, harps, and lyres, stood east of the altar with 120 priests who were trumpeters; 13 and it was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving to the Lord), and when the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the Lord,
God inhabits the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3). When we worship Him in word, prayer, song, or sacrament He is there with us. This passage makes a clear statement, yet with a positive example, that music is most definitely a part of worship. The ark was brought into the Holy Place, the priestly attire was being worn, but it wasn’t until the musicians played and sang that the cloud filled the Lord’s house. Yet we do not have a comment on style. We can imagine what it might have sounded like by familiarizing ourselves with whatever Jewish music we have available to us today, but that is about as close as we can get. We do know that whatever it sounded like, it poured forth from a heart of worship to God.
Music is an outgrowth of our worship. We express our emotions through it, and communicate them to others. But at the end of the day we are not left with anything definitive about music styles. This is when the traditionalist will turn to secular musicians for support. They will quote Mic Jaggar to Frank Zappa. Trying to prove the music controls people. The assumption is that if it makes you want to tap your foot, then you’re under it’s control and it could just as easily make you want to punch your parent in the face. I understand that secular rock musicians use their music to promote rebellion and wickedness. I also understand that it is a swinging away from the previously accepted genre. But this pendulum swing is what has happens in cultures. For example. The classical period, the period lasting about 70 years (1750 to 1820) and cushioned between the Baroque and Romantic periods, is just one example of the same “cultural rebellion”. It wasn’t always called “classical” in it’s own time, it was the contemporary genre of the day. In contrast to it’s predecessor complex harmonies and multiple coexisting melodies, it was more simple with clearly defined melodies as opposed to emphasized harmonies. The new music was a result of the emphasis upon ideals of classical Greek culture. Interestingly enough, in a book I read by one who is opposed to contemporary music, and in support of the classical style, the author quoted Henry David Thoreau saying, “Music… has helped cause the destruction of the Greek and Roman empires and it will sooner or later destroy America and England.” [“Music Matters” by Cary Schmidt pg. 21] I have read Dr. Jack Hyles quoting Plato as saying in his Republic, “The introduction of a new kind of music should be shunned as imperiling the whole state.” [sermon titled “Jesus Had Short Hair!” by Dr. Jack Hyles] But music styles have changed since Plato, and it’s these “new” styles (now become old) that they are wishing to cling to.
All that has been determined by the Scriptures given thus far, is that music is influential and can be used for good or bad. If the traditionalist is to assert that their style of music is godly and contemporary is ungodly then there will need to be more than an assumed dualism. The topic of musical styles and the morality of them should be founded upon Scripture alone and not a mistaken premise or faulty illustration.
My desire is to be thoroughly “Sola Scriptura” in all I do, as I hope
is evident quickly as you read through this. Although I am going to
begin with a premise given to me many times over by those who condemn
contemporary music. I address this mistaken illustration initially
because anything can be proven from a false premise.
The illustration often used to prove the morality of music goes
something like this:
If I write a letter, then that letter has no moral quality. It is
neither good nor bad as it stands alone, but when I put letters
together to form words it then has value as it communicates something.
Color is the same way. Red is neither good or bad, but can be used to
paint pictures that have moral value.
The illustration then says music is the same. A single note is amoral,
but string that not along with other notes and it begins to
communicate, and once communication occurs the it is either good or
The problem with this illustration is that it is not founded upon an
accurate understanding of any of the forms of communication it uses in
the illustration. It is true that all three forms of communication are
moral, and it is true that a single letter, color, or note does not
have moral value. It is also true that once communication occurs it
carries a moral message. It fails to realize that all three of these
are not just communication forms but art forms as well. This
illustration, in not allowing for variation of style, subtly
encourages one to subjectively place the moral value completely upon
the style instead of the what is being communicated. Let me show you
what I mean by recasting the illustration in a more accurate light:
If I write a letter, that letter has no moral quality, but letters
combined make words. Even still, these words do not have a moral
quality unless they are combined to communicate ideas. It is the
sentence that communicates. I can use the word “God” positively or
negatively. It is not just the word, but the context in which it’s
used. Then there is style. One can employ prose (and in various forms)
essay, etc. Various styles will better carry the message. Even
Scripture employs different writing styles throughout, which will
determine how the words employed are interpreted.
A color, standing alone, is neither good or bad. But when employed to
paint a picture, that picture takes on a moral quality. But this
picture can be painted in the style of Monet, Rembrandt, Picasso, or a
myriad of others.
Now let’s move to music. A stand alone note is not good or bad, but to
string them together in a melody begins to communicate. But I can take
the melody to “Twinkle, Twinkle” (a Mozart melody) and play that in
All factors combine to make a whole, not just the stringing together
of letters to make words, colors to make pictures, or notes to make
melodies; but one must also account for style in the evaluation of
music. Monet was an impressionistic painter, his lines were not as
much defined as Rembrandt’s’ seemingly exasperatingly detailed
portraits, but both have beauty and both can be used to draw
positively and negatively moral things. But style in art enables us to
say things through the combination of all those elements in powerful
ways we otherwise would not be able to say.
Just as there are some forms of art that are truly not art but the
equivalent of setting of a bomb in a paint shop, so every style of
music is not acceptable – but then again it would be agreed that both
in artistry and music those unacceptable styles have no symmetry or
beauty to them but are products of chaos. We must be careful not to
impose our musical preferences as the determining factor of what is
good and what is not.
So, a quick recap before we move on:
1.Music is not just a language, but an art.
2.Art have varying styles in which it communicates
3.The same style can be used for good or evil
4.There are some exceptions to the rule above, but those exceptions
are few (styles rooted in chaos)
5.We must not elevate our preferences as the determiner of good and pad style.
Does this sound complex? If so then you’re beginning to see that the
reductionism taken by those who want to simply dismiss contemporary
music out of hand has skirted the issues. This reductionism fits quite
well when trying to make areas black and white that Scripture doesn’t
address in those terms.
(to be continued…)
Mr. Findlater, a henpecked husband, is weary of his marital situation. Thinking only of how unappreciative Mrs. Findlater is of him and all he does, he has a two fold desire: 1. to be rid of Mrs. Findlater, and 2. to live in the South Seas with the native poster girl of his dreams – Lalage. Whenever circumstances become somewhat uncomfortable for him, he retreats to his dream world where he lays in a hammock with Lalage doting over him, telling him how wonderful of a man he is and how much she appreciates his company. He shares with his dream darling his other dream that he has – that of coming home from work and finding out Mrs. Findlater has died of a stroke. He confesses to his imaginary belle how this dream brings him much joy. Lalage (now taking on more of an alter ego of Mr. Findlater or a demonic presence than a fantasy island girl) suggests to Mr. Findlater that he could assist in the removal of Mrs. Findlater. At first he balks at the idea of such a hideous thing, but as they walk along contemplating it, he begins to warm up to the idea. Oddly enough, while talking with Lalage, he happens upon a gun, loaded, and unattended. With a little encouragement from Lalage, he decides to take it, thinking owning a gun could be an adventuresome thing.
He thinks no more about Lalage’s proposition until one day he is in a public restroom alone. The door strangely is stuck shut and he can’t get out. He calls for help, yet no one can hear. He leans out the open window and yells for someone, but no one is able to hear him. Lalage suggests that this is the perfect room for an alibi to Mrs. Findlater’s murder. This begins the elaborate scheme of Mr. Findlater, from working out to get in shape so he could climb the rope in and out of the window, to a silly disguise so the neighbors don’t see him entering his own home when he intends to shoot his wife – he even convinces Mrs. Findlater to leave all her possession to someone other than him so it appears he has no motive to murder.
The day comes, and he sneaks out, as he walks into his house, fully anticipating the fulfillment of his 3rd dream, his 2nd dream becomes reality – the doctor comes down the steps, seeing through the disguise and informing him that Mrs. Findlater has passed due to a stroke. Yet unlike the look of satisfaction that he has in that dream, he has more of a look of unfulfilled desire.
You see, Mr. Findlater’s two initial dreams lead to his third – the murder of his wife. (As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.) Having brought you up to where the story ironically leaves us, I’ll leave you to ponder the point I want to make:
“But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.”
To quote another character created by A.A. Milne (the author of this elaborate plot)… “Think! Think! Think!” ~ Winnie the Pooh
The stated purpose of this blog is “Engaging the culture with the gospel of Jesus Christ”.
Yet I am becoming increasingly aware of a dangerous mindset that I was adopting. It is possible that I may be the only one frequenting this blog with this erroneous thinking, but I would still like to take this time for a bit of friendly admonishment – just in case.
In engaging the culture with the gospel, I had forgotten that I was to engage it WITH the gospel, not swim in it looking for neat little traces of the gospel. The engagement is to be confrontational not matrimonial. Now I’m not saying one is not able to see gospel truths in culture. There are traces of redemption in many places, movies, music, art, literature, etc, and it is precisely these points that we can use as a fulcrum to launch us into confronting others within our culture with the good news of the redemption that is in Jesus Christ, that He is both LORD and Savior; although there is another aspect of the gospel that must take effect during this engagement – that of sanctification. In other words, there will be points of confrontation, or areas within the culture we are engaging, that we must seek to change for the glory of God. Culture, by definition, is “the quality in a person or society that arises from a concern for what is regarded as excellent in arts, letters, manners, scholarly pursuits, etc”. So as we engage our culture we are engaging what those around us exalt as excellent or deem praiseworthy. Some of those things can be “redeemed” and other must be rejected. I’m not giving you a hard/fast rule by which to tell what aspects belong in which pile, but there are a few admonitions I would give (these are some things I have struggled with):
- Don’t confuse “high” class arts with godly and “low” class arts with carnal. Classical music is no more acceptable a style to God as folk music. (I pick this as it is a major point of contention among some Christians.) Each comes from different cultures and both contain beauty, style, require talent to play, etc. This would be like telling a man who painted a picture of the empty tomb that his picture is wicked because it’s not done in the style of Monet or Rembrandt.
- Don’t ignore the value system that is depicted by the aspect of culture. This is the other extreme pictured in an attitude of “license”. It takes the aspect (music, art, dress, etc.) and tries to redefine it. This redefinition can be done with some things, and others are so closely tied to the world’s system that they are inseparable (for at least the present time in the culture).
- Don’t cling to an outdated meaning of an aspect. For example, there was a time when beards in America were worn by those who were flaunting their rebellion. But to say that the same philosophy is touted by those who have beards today would be incorrect. If some today wear their beard for a rebellious reason then they are wrong; but the beard itself doesn’t carry that meaning per the culture.
- Don’t let your sense of right and wrong be set by the culture. To keep the beard example going, I don’t think one should refrain from having a beard necessarily, just because a majority of rebels do. If one’s reasoning for having one is that Jesus had one, I don’t see why one should permit popular culture to “high-jack” it. (Now, if the beard would stand in the way of the people in the said culture from listening to the gospel, then one should fore go the beard.)
- Don’t just follow culture. It’s okay to be “in style”, but it’s also okay to be creative. If we’re not careful we, as Christians, will simply let others create music, art, and dress and we will “hi-jack” their ideas. It is okay and expected for the church to be creative in those areas.
- Don’t associate a particular culture with Christianity. There are some who are stuck, as it were, in the 1940’s. They think Christianity looks, talks, and acts like a 1940’s American. This is grave misconception of most of the modern American Fundamentalist movement. When I say we must engage the culture we are in and thus replace some aspects, I do not mean impose an outdated culture on it. To do this would be to err on the other side so as to not accept anything of the current culture, assuming it’s all evil.
- Don’t think just because the unbeliever creates something that it’s evil. This is a product of dualistic thinking. Remember Jubal in Genesis 4:21? He was in the lineage of Cain. None of Cain’s descendants called up on The LORD. Yet we are told that Jubal is the father of all those who play lyre and harp. John Gill notes of Jubal in his commentary “he [Jubal] was the father of all such that handle the harp and organ: he was the inventor of instrumental music, both of stringed instruments, such as were touched by the fingers, or struck with a quill, as the “harp”; and of wind instruments, such as were blown, as the “organ,” which seems not to be the same we call so, being a late invention; but however a pleasant instrument, as its name signifies.” It would be wrong for one to say instrumental music is wrong, since an unbeliever invented it. There are many things we use today that benefit or enhance our lives that were devised by unbelievers.
So, in conclusion, what are the rules of engagement? I would say that they are given to us in God’s Word and it is our job, by God’s grace, to seek them out and employ them. We are to do kingdom work, we are to image God, we are to plant banners in every area of culture reclaiming it for the Kingdom. We are to be a light, and salt – to show others how to truly live. We are to engage our culture; and I don’t mean put a ring on it!!
My first son was born while I was still in college. I was taking life at a fast pace, and he wasn’t up with the pace I was running on – he couldn’t even crawl, let alone run. I remember asking my wife, almost daily, when he would begin crawling and talking, thinking he was progressing at a slow rate. She chided me as he was only 2 months old. I kept longing for the day my son would walk, talk, run, and wrestle. I am now at the point to where he can do all those things, and it’s wonderful, but it’s mingled with sadness. See up until he has reached this point, his entire life, I was longing for this stage. While I was longing, I was missing. I missed his entire life waiting on the “real fun” to begin.
Most Christians are exactly like I was with my son, affected by the same syndrome. They’re longing for the day when they will “go to heaven” and really start living. Not seeing that Christ came that we might have abundant life NOW. There are some who say “Eternal life is a present possession.”, but they mean nothing substantially different than anyone else, as this dualism has affected them also. All they mean is that the assurance that you will go to heaven when you die is something you can have now, thus giving you the ability to make it through this life in hopes of the next. Spending this present life wishing things were better and waiting for the time they can enjoy the eternal life they claim to presently possess. Viewing this life simply as an “investment” for the next, they fail to realize they are wishing their life away.
This syndrome creates a dualistic outlook consisting of a spiritual world where things really matter, and a physical world which is relegated to nothing more than kindling for the judgmental fires of God. This perspective fails to see that God is the Creator God Who is all about redeeming all of creation, not just nebulous souls that are longing to cast their fleshy shells on the garbage heap in exchange for some type of new “spiritual” existence. Forgetting that God pronounced His creation good, they spend the beginnings of their new life wishing their new life would start. Victims of the “can’t wait ‘till I grow up” syndrome, they fail to truly engage in kingdom work. They ostracize themselves from culture, since they believe all this world has to offer is bad and will burn one day anyway. They have a distant look in their eye and can’t wait to walk on those golden streets. Instead of bringing God’s kingdom to bear upon His creation, they create a hierarchy of vocations, the “full time ministry” positions being the most important. They live in a world where there is secular and sacred. In short they fail to actually do what God has created them to do – image Himself. It’s been hinted at in previous posts on what that entails: Not only do we live morally pure lives, we create music, art, clothing styles – redeeming our native cultures, employing them as tools through which to tell the gospel story, worship our Creator God, and fulfill the task of imaging Him. We tell stories (through various media), create technology, harness resources, etc. Setting up signposts wherever we go, showing others what it’s like to live as a citizen of God’s Kingdom – pointers to the reality of the new creation and anchors for the hope of when it comes in its fullness.
We should, and do, anticipate the time when Jesus will appear and the kingdom will come in it’s fullness, but not to the neglect of actually living it now; just as I anticipate the day when my sons will become men, but not to the neglect of enjoying them as babies, little boys, and young men. As a matter of fact, the neglect of the first part of their lives will drastically affect the development of the second. All we do as believers is kingdom work, not just what we classify as evangelism. If we so much as give a cup of water in the name of the Kingdom we will be rewarded (Mark 9:41). We should be bringing God’s kingdom to bear everywhere we go, in all we do.
So what am I trying to say? Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10)
I asked a friend if she would like to post a “guest post” as I think there is much we could benefit from what she has to share. What she has written is below.
I’m writing to begin a discussion on the subject of parents and their children, focusing on single parents in general. For the record, I’m 25 years old, divorced, and the mother of a three year old little boy.
As a Mother, I wear many hats. I’m the nurse, the chauffeur, the maid, the boo-boo kisser, the audience, the enforcer, the toy-box dumper and picker-upper, the bather, the hugger, the bed-time story reader, and the one he misses when he sleeps over somewhere.
As a Single Mother, I’m the repairman, the discipliner, the bike riding teacher, the throwing a ball teacher, the hot wheels playmate, the how to potty like a man teacher (yes, that one was fun. Pfft), the voice of reason when I realize I’m arguing with a three year old, and the only one he comes looking for in the morning when he wakes up.
Think about all that for a minute. Soak it in. Have you ever thought about that? The child- and what he/she sees when they look at their parents?
In the death of my marriage, I chose to try to be the adult, and though some days are harder than others, and I’m still learning to have patience, I firmly believe that we are better off without him in the picture. I won’t go into much detail on why we are better off; I’ll simply state that in the end, he chose drugs and running away from problems rather than being the adult and working through them. If I didn’t know for a fact that I’m alive today because God was with me through-out the entire course of my marriage; I would’ve already had a breakdown. I wouldn’t have been able to think past myself and would’ve NEVER had the courage to let him walk away. I say courage, because that’s exactly what I felt the day he walked out of our lives, after my mind ran through emotion after emotion- fear, anger, pity, confusion, fear, worry, self-pity, fear, worry, anger, revenge, loathing, shame, fear, shame, anger, shame, shame, shame, worry, worry, I was panicking at the thought of facing the choices ahead of me- I could follow him, and stay under the thumb of a tyrant, without being shamed for having a failed marriage, or I could stay, and fight my own fight, and become a strong, independent single mother, and deal with the shame between myself and God. With that thought- my mind released everything it was considering. “Ok. I’m going to be Ok.” I had to literally stop thinking, and give every second of being scared and feeling all those emotions to God. I knew that he had already brought me this far, he wasn’t going to desert me now. I felt courageous that I could do this. I was reminded “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13)
Are there days that I still worry that one day my son might resent me for the divorce? Yes. Are there nights where I can’t sleep for all the thinking? Yes. But the secret to moving forward in life- is taking everything one moment at a time, and giving to God all the day’s worries. We are not guaranteed tomorrow. If we live in front of our children as giving our lives for God daily, they will see that, and become that as they grow. Am I the perfect example of this lifestyle? No. Of course not, I have more flaws that I’d care to admit here. But, if the goal of your day is to show your children what you want them to become- you must establish this thought process; to consider what they see when they look at you. Once you’ve done so, you’ll begin to see that what your children see when they look at you, is who you really are. My son told me today, that his “Poppa is a Superhero.” (my father). Children see things that we as adults have outgrown. They mirror us, and how we behave in front of them is vital to their growth and development. For them to understand the difference between being the child, and the adult- they have to witness it for themselves in daily life. No, You might not be a superhero, perhaps not even rich, or famous; but when they look at you, they see all those things I said above, they see that you love them; that you laugh with them, that you cry with them, that you have opened yourself to them. They will demonstrate this in their actions and attitudes toward you more than anything else because they strive to be like their parents.
As single parents- we worry that our children won’t be well balanced because of so much time with one specific gender- and not enough with both. We worry that they will blame themselves when they are old enough to feel the pain of divorce; even if they were too young to remember the absent parent.
I’m Not saying by any means that single parents worry more than parents of in-tact homes. Parents in general often worry every minute of every day over the health and safety of their children. However, where single parents have the most flaws- is in that they carry the “ramifications” of their decisions with them while raising a child alone, with every mistake- they feel the “it’s all my fault” bug bite them; And a good deal of them get sucked in and wallow in it.
Single parents worry that their children will either hate them for the choice they made in getting a divorce- or perhaps rebel to get attention they feel they aren’t getting at home, but- as I said before, this is experienced in in-tact homes as well.
The problem I’ve seen with single parents is we get the “it’s my fault” syndrome and forget that we have to be parents. There isn’t another parent in the home to pick up the slack- if we stop and wallow in our self-pity, then we either become the child- forcing the children to grow up way to fast and become our caretakers- or worse, we can turn to drugs and alcohol in that same process, either of these choices is WRONG. This kind of self-pity destroys the children who witness it. There is enough worrying about screwing up your children when you’re doing a good job- let alone when you stop being the adult and forget the fact that God loves us through every decision we make. He may be disappointed in the choices we make- but he has given us freewill- the opportunity to live our lives and grow in him or apart from him.
Everything happens for a reason.
If there is one person I can help- by telling some of my story, and acknowledging that it was God, and ONLY God that brought me through it, then it’s worth it- to re-live it through memory.
To those of you who may believe that a “Bad Father” is better than “No Father” please re-think that, as I believe the damages from a bad parent are lasting.
God doesn’t want anyone to be a “Poor Me” person.
He wants us to fully depend on him and his promise to never leave us nor forsake us. (Hebrews13:5, Deut 31:6,8 , Joshua 1:5) No matter who argued the most, who picked fights over stupid issues, who walked out and never looked back, God is the one that will NEVER leave.
God has made many promises to his children.
The children of broken homes have a promise of their very own- That God is the father to the fatherless. (Psalms 68:5)
In Him, they can depend, they can place all their trust in him, they can give him the love that they feel a loss for- and have that love returned to them a hundred fold. (Proverbs 3:5 says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.”)
Even though we may not fully understand why this relationship/marriage failed, we MUST put our Faith in God to restore us to His will, and His will ALONE. To make a very cliché quote: “God can fix a broken heart if you give him all the pieces.” Cliché, but very true. You MUST give it all to God in order for him to mold you- the clay into the piece he is perfecting. When I say give Him all the pieces- what I mean is, FULLY SUBMITTING to His Will.
It is important to remember that when facing divorce with children who are above infancy- that you instill in their minds and hearts that this divorce was not the result of anything they’ve said or done.
Children in the middle of divorce feel the death of the marriage just as parents feel it. It may not be as much of a betrayal to the child as it is to you that “so and so cheated” and you’re getting divorced, however damages from divorce and even arguing in front of your children is sometimes irreparable.
You are the parents.
You must be the adults.
You above everyone else in this world have been placed in charge temporarily of a beautiful gift from God himself. He’s given you this clean slate, this fresh new mind, and said- “take care of this, show this child how to bring me Joy.”
There is a prayer I’d like to share with you- One that I found when I was pregnant and was facing fears of my own.
Our Heavenly Father,
You have entrusted to us a life so fragile,
So vulnerable, so completely dependent.
We are afraid.
How can we bear so weighty a responsibility?
What if we make an uncorrectable mistake?
What if we love too leniently, or discipline too severely?
Free us from the fear of failure.
Teach us that parenthood does not come like a cake mix- in four easy steps.
Only in the daily doing of it
Will we learn the proper balance.
Give us the grace to be good hosts.
Remind us that this little one, who will walk beside us
For a few short years, is only a guest in our home.
We have no ironclad claims to his soul, body, or life.
Let us offer hospitality and kindness,
Gentle nudges, and loving hands to mend the hurts.
Sustain us in the storms of life.
When we have reached our limit, when the world has done it’s worst,
Help us to say “Into thy hands, O Lord, we commit it all”
In life, in death, today, and every tomorrow,
O Thou who stillest raging winds, be near.
Through Jesus Christ who was once a little baby, Amen.
This prayer, this realization that children are merely guests in our homes, should awaken us all to what we’ve said to our children, what we’ve hidden from them, how we’ve acted in front of them, how we have behaved as children ourselves pretending to be adults. Children are open vessels just pleading to be filled.
What are you filling the children in your life with?
Notice the Children that you are around on a daily basis, How are you filling those open vessels? Strive to help them to bring the Father of all Fathers Joy. “Bring up a child in the way he should go, and he shall not depart from it”
I’d like to say Thank-you to Daniel and Brandon both for allowing me this opportunity to share with you. Grace and Peace.
In the previous post, Brandon challenged us to employ our imaginations in creatively imaging God. An awesome challenge and much needed. I want to tie into his post, and the string of thought I want to tie into it is one that has been on my mind all week – that of the failure of the modern fundamentalist movement. There are many inadequacies with fundamentalism, and I don’t intend to address them all as that would take a good sized volume at least. I do, however, wish to approach the movement from the aforementioned perspective of creatively imaging God and show that it removes this God given mandate replacing it with man-made tradition.
Fundamentalism, as a whole, has abducted a culture and superimposed that upon Christianity. According to fundamentalism, Christianity sounds a certain way, looks a certain way, uses a certain translation of the Bible, etc. It leaves no room for fluctuation among various cultures, let alone fluctuation of the culture it is submersed in. I have even seen instances of fundamentalist “church plants” in other countries where the natives are taught to dress like the American Fundamentalist, the building they meet in looks the same as well. Pews and hymn books are shipped in – it’s a bit of “Fundamentalist Heaven on earth”. It’s as if they have teleported the building and the people thousands of miles across the sea and plopped them down in the middle of a village. Some breeds of fundamentalism even refuse to use a specific style of wireless Mic; insisting on a pulpit or lapel Mic., as “liberal” preachers use the other style. Apparently they forget that before the headset Mic, “liberal” preachers used lapel Mics as well. Some elevate the hymn book to the only God accepted way for congregational singing, placing it in opposition to the worldly projector screen. I’m not saying they don’t mean well, just that the error of associating a culture with Christianity is a dangerous one.
New music is sparse as one can’t write anything with a modern or contemporary style to it or it is considered worldly. Art, in most of the movement, is not even viewed as a possible outlet for worship. Everything must conform to a predefined standard of what the leaders of the movement deem to be “godly”. If it’s popular then it’s probably worldly, and a dualism emerges that supports the fundamentalists’ idea of creating their own culture that separates them from the rest of the populous. They force one’s creativity in a box, only permitting them to trace the same pictures drawn by the fundamentalist before them. The “artist” becomes so inundated with trying to stay inside the prescribed lines, that Christ is no more the subject of the picture. The style becomes the substance. The approval of those listening, many times, becomes equated with God’s approval; and one who produces a copy of the previous imagines themselves to have produced a picture pleasing to God. God has created us to be His image bearers and part of that task is carried out in our mimicking our Creator by creating as well. The fundamentalist movement redefines what imaging God is. It creatively takes biblical terms and attaches unbiblical meaning to them. There are songs to be written, art to be painted, buildings to be constructed – whole cultures to be employed – in imaging God and furthering His kingdom here on earth.
So what am I saying? Is this just a rant against fundamentalism because I seem to have a personal beef with the movement? No, not at all. I’ve struggled with how to speak truth without harming those who have ascribed whole heartedly to a lie. It’s hard. Sometimes I wonder if it’s similar to how a surgeon feels while removing cancer. Trying to remove the cancer without harming the patient. I can’t just ignore it any more than the surgeon can skip the surgery due to fear of being the bearer of bad news, or causing the patient some discomfort. So if you are in the fundamentalist movement, I am not attacking you; but as one who was raised in it (by parents who no doubt love The LORD with all they are), and is seeing the movement for what it is; please step back and see if what I say is truthful. I realize it is difficult, for legalism presents itself as holy and right. It has a form of godliness to it, but does it stand up to biblical examination? Sometimes truth looks more like a knife, and the one who appears to intend your murder is actually your savior, so I challenge you to step back for some examination. For those who were never in the grips of this legalistic movement, then pray for those who are. Maybe something said here will help you understand the effects of it in the lives of others. I realize that I have not dissected fundamentalism, exposing the heart of it. My intention in this post isn’t to dig up and expose it’s root, but rather to examine one of it’s fruits and cause the reader to think.
“You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. ” Matt. 7:16-20
“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:26-27
I picked up “BoneMan’s Daughters” because I had heard that Ted Dekker is a great story teller and can weave a tale that the reader can feel living in his bones. It has been sometime since I have read a novel so I thought I’d give it a shot to see if the claims could be substantiated. I must say they most definitely were!
But the thing that got me most was how much within his work I saw a hint of the love with which God The Father has pursued His beloved. Although I am a father myself (sons, no daughters) it was not my fatherhood that connected me with the story. It was his massive theme of redemption that drew me deeper and deeper in. He’s a great novelist because he can tell a story to mirror truth rather than just a good moral lesson.
I know that if I explain how Ryan Evens (the rejected father) attempted the redemption of his daughter from the grip of a self-proclaimed incarnation of Satan named Alvin Finch, I run the risk of spoiling the bulk of the story. I do not wish to do that to any reader, nor the author.
I will say this – you will vilify those Ted wishes you to hate and you will resound with compassion for those whom he wishes you to do so. You will probably even see yourself in the very characters he has taught you to despise. And then, after seeing your own shortcoming in the sins of those apparently in the wrong, he drives home with a sledge hammer the nail that unites his tale to the real story that he has been shadowing from a far. In my estimation, “BoneMan’s Daughters” is an example of how a novelist does kingdom work through his field – by telling a story that effectively points to The Story.
Read it, and let me know what you think.