It’s been a “few days” since I’ve blogged… not that I flatter myself to think anyone has actually noticed…but I’d like to make a plug for a site I was introduced to today and tell you why I think it’s worth note.
The site is
It is through expedia, so you’re going to get the same deals as you would if you use expedia directly, except for one little tid-bit: All the profits the site makes from you booking your trip through them goes to mission work! Is that awesome or what?! This site is one of the many venues that we have available to us to obey the command of Scripture – “..Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
Now I’m not so naive as to think that one simply planning their next trip to Vegas so one can strike it rich at the slots justifies one’s greed, or gambling addiction thus permitting him to continue in it – that’s not what I’m saying at all. But if we have ways available to us where we can do the thing we need to get done routinely and make even something as mundane as trying to find a good rate on a flight, hotel, car rental, etc. a way to further the kingdom of our LORD – then why would you not do that?
I was sharing with a LifeGroup class today how God is giving me a growing desire to be consumed with His kingdom. Jesus tells us to seek His Kingdom first, and I think this is a great way to express that passion. It is my desire that God work in my life, and the life of my family, so much so that as I do things I’m always thinking of the Kingdom of God and how I can best serve His purpose. I want to be so passionate about Jesus that I find ways to make everything I do glorify Him – whether eating, drinking, or planning a family vacation. =)
So in brief – “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.”
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)
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.
New Year’s Revolution:
“Thin in 2010!! That’s my motto, Brandy!”
“Good for you, Julia!”
“No more smokes for me in 2010. I’m starting the new decade by turning over a new leaf!”
“Speaking of new leaf; I’m going to get outt’a debt this year. ‘Been thinking about checking out that Dave Ramesy book form the library. This is the decade I start my journey to becoming a millionaire!”
“Whatever, Mark. Maybe then we can begin to go out on real dates instead of ‘splurging’ on the Dollar menu at McDonald’s!”
“Don’t knock it, Brandy, it’s still quality time; and you can expect even less of that! I gotta’ take extreme measures if I’m gonn’a reach my goal of at least paying off my credit cards in the next 12 months.”
Although this is a fictional conversation, it still holds true. All those who have ever set any New Year’s resolution knows exactly what I’m talking about. And if we could check back in on the three friends a month later, we would more than likely find them all hanging out at Micky-D’s; Brandy and Mark laughing at each others’ so-not-funny jokes as they sip their two-strawed milkshake, and Julia finishing off her diet coke (all that’s left of her #2 combo meal, value sized, she just consumed). And all was graciously purchased by Mark, or rather by Chase-Visa – since Mark used his credit card to get the points back. Our resolutions last barely as long as it takes us to conjure them up.
I’m not attempting to dissuade you from setting goals, but challenge you. I want to share a bit of my New Year’s Revolution. I’ve done the “I’m gonn’a hit the gym 3 times a week” or “gonn’a get a better handle on my finances” before. There’s nothing wrong with these goals or 99.9% of the other resolutions set by Americans, but this year has been different for me. I feel as if I’m in the midst of a revolution. As I look back upon the previous year, and consider changes that need to be instituted as of the coming year, all my resolutions (although some are seemingly similar to those set by others) have a dramatically different motive – Kingdom work.
My previous views of work done for the kingdom of God was restricted to “evangelistic” activities. For example, unless I was handing out tracts, working a bus route, teaching a Sunday School, or preaching in a jail, nursing home or a pulpit then I wasn’t doing kingdom work. But as I begin to take a good look at Jesus, He is turning my ideas of kingdom work over on it’s end. He said He came to do the works of His Father, yet we see Him involved in much more than knocking doors, or standing on a street corner holding up a sign with John 3:16 printed in bold red letters. We see Him keeping company with those who are society’s outcasts. We see Him pulling small children up in His lap. We see Him showing us what it is to truly live! Yes, Jesus preached to others that they must repent and believe on Him (I said Kingdom work is more than this but that does not mean to exclude it), but He did more.
The gospel changes everything. It’s not just a kernel of good news that we can tell people how to jump out of this over-heating hand-basket. It’s the story of God setting things to right in and through Jesus Christ. What sin has marred, and where death has been introduced, God has come in flesh and recreated, bringing life back into His creation. We were created in the image of God, sin twisted that image, and Jesus came reconciling the break. As Brandon said in an earlier post, “Christ is the perfect example of humanity.” The gospel is proclaiming liberty to the captives in telling them to repent of their sin and believe on The LORD Jesus Christ; but the gospel is also lived out by the followers of The God-Man, Jesus. It is spoken with the words of our mouth as well as the “words” of our actions. Many times it is forgotten, sometimes intentionally, that the apostle Peter not only tells us that Jesus suffered and died for our sins, but also encourages us with the truth that Jesus suffered for us and left us an example that we are to follow Him. (I Peter 2:21)
There is no way I can deal exhaustively with this, and I am still learning more of what it truly is to be a follower of Jesus; but I think Paul summed it up nicely in Colossians 3:17 “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” and I Corinthains 10:13 “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
So… here is my application, and then I will give you a challenge.
This has revolutionized the way I view my responsibilities as a husband and father. Kingdom work is being done when I speak with my children about Advent and help them memorize a short definition of The Incaration (not that one can fully define it, but you know what I mean… I hope). But Kingdom work is being accomplished just as much when I take my family out to play putt-putt and we laugh and play together. Neither is any less “spiritual” than the other, and both are vitally necessary (to use redundancy to stress a point). Kingdom work is praying with my wife, and discussing theological ‘discoveries’ with her, yet so is snuggling up with a bowl of popcorn and a movie, enjoying each other’s company and just being together. Both are needed. I am learning that my primary employment in God’s Kingdom is my own home. Ephesians 5:25-31 states that quite clearly “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’” and Ephesians 6:4 “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
And so my New Years resolution is born of my new years revolution – by God’s grace to be the husband and father God has called me to be through Christ. To follow Jesus’ example. And may my family see Jesus in me and thus follow Him, individually, with all their heart!
My challenge: Artist, Musician, secret writer of poems, English teacher, stay-at-home-mom – how will you do kingdom work this year? (Serious… tell me, I wann’a know!)