Roaring Lambs

Roaring Lambs – By Bob Briner – Pg 65

Take, for example, the way in which the pro-abortion movement has entered the mainstream and gained respectability. Pro-abortionists score very well for their cause when they forcefully and all too often correctly, point out that the zeal of pro-lifers seems to wane when confronted with the real needs of children who are allowed to be born. With biting and telling sarcasm they ask where the marchers and demonstraters are when children go to school hungry, live in squalor and disease, are hijacked into the pornography trade and are abused in ever-growing numbers. It is always easier to protest, to carry a placard then it is to do the hard work of providing the cold cup of water in His name. (Besides, the cup of cold water rarely attracts television coverage.) The pro life movement will never succeed to the extent it should until its advocates and all other Christians work just as hard to produce good as we do to denounce evil.

Another Perspective…

The US Presidential election of 2008 has become similar to the US Presidential election of 2000 in that there has been a sharp divide between “conservatives” and “liberals” over the single issue of abortion. This amidst the backdrop of the first ever black Presidential nominee and an American POW and there’s no doubt why there is so much intensity.

As a Christian, I don’t resonate with “conservatives” or “liberals” in the current political landscape. Both seem too polarized, too divided, too focused on “their” issues, unable to see beyond “their party” to have a desire to make any kind of significant difference in the world.

So before I offer the title of this entry, another perspective, I’d like to state these core beliefs…

  • I believe that abortion is Biblically wrong.
  • I believe that marriage is Biblically defined by one man and one women.
  • Theses two beliefs are woven into my Christian faith.

Now for another perspective.

I think we as Christians get so wrapped up in “our issues” we selectively rank, order and even at times discard other issues. We have put aside specific things Christ talked about throughout His ministry; countless parables, lessons and actions. And I have to believe He did these things, because they were intrinsically important to His Father. He ministered to the poor, healed the sick, forgave the prostitute and picked a ragamuffin group of ministry-inexperienced fishermen to help change the world.

The consistent reaction I receive from Christians when I talk about issues of poverty, AIDS, the death penalty, genocide or countless other social issues in the states and abroad is a reaction of raised eyebrows, rolled eyes and large gasps.

“But what about abortion Danny?”, “What about gay marriage?”

And to that I ask, “What about everything else?”

Jesus’ ministry and his commands were as wide as they were deep. As a Christian my heart stirs for more than just “one issue”. I long for people to experience change, redemption, renewal and growth through the personal work of Jesus.

So as I have explored and researched the candidates this year, watched and read the political fodder, searched my heart and prayed for some clarity, I have found in fact, very little. One thing I am certain of however is this…

I believe my vote should be similar to the breadth and depth of the ministry of Christ.

Some within the Christian community might label this perspective as “emergent” and immediately categorize it as perspectives similar to Rob Bell, Tony Campolo or Shane Claiborne. I would say in response, “You’ve missed the point…again.”

I’m under no illusion that my perspective will change anyone’s vote or cause them to “abandon party lines” but that is not my purpose. My purpose is to offer another perspective so that after this election, when the yard signs are taken down, the news stations are covering something else and we resume our lives post-election, we can look at the world around us through the eyes of Christ. And do so, not with a narrow focus, but with eyes that see humanity, eyes that see compassion, love, forgiveness and justice beyond the tiny compartmentalized bubble we call “our life.” I hope we can begin to care far beyond our suburbs, $5 latte’s, and Saturday soccer games.

This year I will not vote on one or even two issues alone.
I welcome your thoughts and opinions.

Oprah’s “A New Earth” – A Christian Perspective…

As I worked out today Oprah was on the televisions in our fitness center. I was able to watch several portions of the show and learned Oprah is currently promoting the book A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle. Tolle is most well known for his book The Power of Now and could be considered a new-age philosopher.

Tolle and Winfrey have teamed up and are offering free web based classes that coincide with the book.

To begin, before you read the title of this blog and come with any preconceived notions, I don’t believe, we as Christians, should “stick are heads in the sand” to anything “non-Christian.” It is vital we have a healthy world view and can be culturally relevant to what is happening around us.

That being said, I believe Christians also have a responsibility to soundly, Biblically interpret what we hear, read, or view.

Here are several close paraphrases from the Oprah show I saw today…

Do you think A New Earth conflicts with other people’s religious views? – Oprah.
No, I think just like when you add sugar to tea, it’s still tea, it’s just sweeter. – Guest

I always thought Jesus came to earth to live, die and resurrect, but He really came to this earth to teach us how to do this thing called life.
– Oprah

There is no death of anything except in appearance – Tolle

Having never read this book, I’ll admit that I can’t begin to tell you how valid or invalid it is. But what I think I can do without reading the book, is interpret what I saw, do some research and form a basic opinion.

The first discussion about tea and making it sweeter implies that somehow my faith, Christianity in general, needs something added to it. I see this a lot even within the Christian community. We’ll ride the wave of programs and trends and books and seminars. Some of them are good and draw us closer to God, while others are just “filler”. Jesus Christ doesn’t need anything added to Him, nor does the Creator. Throughout the Old Testament it was apparent to see that people of all ages and backgrounds tried to add things to God. Yet in the end God’s response was the same, you don’t need anything or anyone but me.

The second discussion really surprised me because it’s so contradictory to the core believe of Christianity yet even Christians in the audience nodded their heads in agreement. If you subscribe to the fact that Jesus came to this earth to “be a good person” and “show us how to live” then the floor drops out from underneath your belief system. Jesus said numerous times before and after His death that He came so we could have a life eternal. Now, did he show us how to live and how to be a good person, yes! But that was a bonus. His #1 goal was to be a sacrifice for the sins we commit everyday. Prophets in the earliest days didn’t write about a “good person”, they wrote very specifically about a “Savior”. The role of Jesus Christ was predicted before His birth and lived out through His life and death on earth.

The final discussion I saw was an interview with Tolle himself in which he, in length, described that there is really no death. This again is contradictory to Christianity. If you believe there is no death, then Jesus came to earth for nothing. His sacrifice was in vein and the whole premise for Christianity is essentially irrelevant.

Books like A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose aren’t by any means new. There have always been practices, religions or programs that encourage individuals to rely on themselves and the world around them to live complete and happy lives. It’s interesting that many of the key concepts throughout the book have heavy Christian undertones. Selflessness, peace, joy, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control, etc. Yet the book relies on the reader to find these things within themselves and their world. There is no reliance or need for a Savior.

As a Christian I have no problem having open dialog about our culture and the beliefs within our culture. What I would like to encourage Christians to do is to soundly, Biblically interpret what we hear, read, or view. How do those things measure up to what God has said and what He continues to say?

For me, I am well aware that there might be some good principles in Tolle’s book. But without Christ, it is my opinion that Tolle’s words are empty and ultimately cannot totally satisfy us.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6

Confirming Ignorance

ig·no·rance (ig-ner-uhns)
n. The condition of being uneducated, unaware, or uninformed.

In less than a year we will be electing a new US President. Media coverage on the race has been pretty intense as pundits predict it will be one of the closest races on the Democratic side in years.

Everyone seems to have some opinion on who’s running, who they would vote for and who they would not consider. But my use of the word ignorance starts here as some of us don’t go beyond an ill-informed opinion.

We base these opinions on small packets of half-truths, innuendos and stereotypes. Our extensive research is based on huge generalities, copious amounts of political email forwards, advice from the pulpit and what the latest radio or TV host tosses up as “truth”.

Entering into a discussion about politics having done nothing to extensively research a candidate is ignorant and sadly I see it often.

I have slowly learned that while America waves their flags, ties their ribbons, and enjoys everything that comes with being a free nation, we don’t fully appreciate the freedom we bathe in on a daily basis. If we did, the act of voting wouldn’t be an option…it would be a necessity. Voting wouldn’t be just something we did every two or four years. It would be part of something we were engaged in year round. An active, informed, thriving discussion culminating with a regular vote.

So that is my desire, even for myself and my family. That we would engage in the political process. That we would investigate each candidate and form our opinions around extensive, multi-source research. And that we could have open and well informed discussion about the status of our country, the issues at hand and what the future could like for us and our children.

Passions and Talents: Revealed

Throughout my time in college, I never came to any realization about the difference between my passions and talents. I lumped them together and figured I would eventually discover what I was talented in and this would develop or lead me to my passions.

Almost three years since graduation and after writing an email to a friend, I had a bit of an “ah-ha” moment…a time when I felt the pieces come together and I’ve been able to solidify my views on our passions and talents.

I believe God creates each of us with different passions. Things that he has inherently written on our hearts, interwoven on the strands of our DNA. When we do or experience these things, we are not only operating exactly how God created us to operate, but I believe He takes pleasure in seeing His creation do exactly what He designed.

For me, I’ve discovered a very specific passion since my time in college. Anyone who knows me would probably say my passion is in areas of graphic design, web design, computers, maybe writing, etc. And while I even considered those things in college and would go on to get a degree in those areas, it is not my passion.

My passion is seeing lives changed, especially at the college level. I love investing in the lives of men, one-on-one, speaking God’s truth to groups, writing about God’s character and helping present Jesus in an applicable, relevant way to a culture that finds it easier to disregard Him. Now THAT is a passion!

But what about the design, web, print, etc.? Those I’ve discovered, are talents; tools that God has given me to use in my passion. They are good and I enjoy them, but when I’m doing those things, I don’t believe I’m operating to the exact specifications of the Creator. Call it 75%, maybe higher, but I don’t believe it’s 100%.

Could this then be a bit of a conundrum as my current job is 40 hours a week in my talent, not my passion? Three years in March at my work leads me to believe it’s not a conundrum at all. I love my job. I think the reason I have so much joy and peace is because God gave it to me, He designed it in me just as He did my passion.

Which draws me to some final thoughts, advice for myself, maybe for you…

  • It can take years to discover your passion(s). And those passions will slowly evolve and morph depending on where God has you in His plan.
  • Simultaneously you’ll come across your talents. Don’t get those confused with your passion. Talents are things you’ll need for your passion.
  • Don’t stop searching and seeking God on where you should be and what you’re to do. Don’t settle and believe where you are is as good as it’s gonna get, that God doesn’t want to continue to refine and define you and your life. And don’t trade a passion for a talent.
  • If you are in a place, like myself, where you know your 40 hours a week are in a talent, be patient. If you are seeking after what God desires He is going to reward your time and your efforts and deliver you your passion in some way, shape or form.

Passions and talents are uncharted waters for many of us, including myself, because I believe God is constantly shaping and re-shaping them. This is by no means a definitive guide on “How To Do Life” nor should it be used as the basis for any major life decision. It’s simply what I’ve been learning, thinking and writing about.

Hopefully you’re encouraged…

The Pursuit of Hapiness

Days away from finishing John Eldredge’s soon-to-be-released “Walking with God” and I felt pressed to include an excerpt.

He’s writing about how he recognized himself moving from a place of desire to need. So, he was going from an attitude of “I want this…” to an attitude of “I need this…” Eldredge’s thought is that once we move into that place, where we “need” something, that is when we begin to chase things one-by-one in hopes of finding satisfaction. He asserts that those things won’t deliver us true satisfaction.

Now this concept isn’t new. It’s taught often in the church. But as I read, I really resonated with a verse he referenced and the passage that followed.

And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ‘

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

“This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”

Luke 12:16-21

Eldredge’s writing which follows…

“The warning is not about cows on the hills and cash in the mattress. The dangerous turn of the soul described here is what happens in the fellow’s heart. I’ve arrived. Life is good. But not because he has found life in God. There is no greater disaster for the human heart than this – to believe we have found life apart from God. And this shift I’ve been describing – this coming to believe that what I don’t have but long for I actually need – is the opening stages of the disaster. For whatever reasons, we have come to believe that God is not enough.”

“And so, whatever else might be the reasons for our disappointments, there is no question that God uses them to draw us to himself. To wean our hearts from every other perceived source of life, so that we might come to find our life in him.”

Not Every Gospel Is Equal

I continue to make my way through a pre-release copy of John Eldredge’s “Walking with God.” I have one last chapter and it’s been really refreshing to get through a variety of topics.

One entry in the book is called “Not Every Gospel Is Equal” and after reading a few lines I knew I was going to like it. I will post several lines below but I’ll summarize briefly.

Eldredge asserts that Christians today often will not make distinctions and value judgments between various movements in Christianity, churches or Christians. Citing Matthew 7:1-5 when Jesus said, “Do not judge or you too will be judged.”

He counters this idea with John 7:24 “Stop judging by mere appearances and make a right judgement.” and Galatians 1:6-9.

Eldredge’s point is that Jesus, along with his disciples in writings to early Christians encourages us to make “right distinctions between the true and the false, the accurate and the not-so accurate.” Not to make ourselves look better or prove a point, but to make “right judgements.” We should feel comfortable holding up each other to the life and teachings of Christ and see if things align. He adds about some faiths, churches, people… “There are just enough Jesus words in there to make them sound like Christianity. But they are not preaching the Gospel Jesus preached.”

On this point I agree. And often times I think we (Christians in general and myself included) often error on the side of “not rocking the boat” or “well I shouldn’t really judge” when life before us, our churches, our relationships, our faith doesn’t align with Christ. We make agreements or we rationalize and remain in something that has “enough Jesus words” to keep us comfortable, our situation manageable.

Eldredge closes this particular entry by talking about a type of Christianity he calls “Christianity and“. He only spends a few paragraphs on it, but I’m sure you could spend chapters. The idea is, Christians get so wrapped up in issues or topics they become entangled in those issues and lose their loyalty to and focus in Christ.

For example, it could be “Christianity and conservatism”. That people could become more concerned about issues of conservative values than they do drawing people into an intimacy with God. I, like Eldredge, don’t have a problem with conservative values, but the focus is what I believe can become twisted. When we couple our faith with the world of politics, social reform, environmentalism, legalism and a variety of issues, those become our faith.

Don’t think however, that these issues aren’t important. Just like I don’t have a problem with conservative values, I fully embrace and engage in political debate, social reform, environmentalism, legalism, etc. But my goal and my desire and my focus should be on how I can introduce people to a deeper intimacy with God through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

Three additional points Eldredge makes…

  1. “The heart is central to the Christian life…”
  2. “…we are invited into a conversational intimacy with God…”
  3. “…spiritual warfare is real…”

In closing, as I said at the top, this entry was refreshing and challenging. Not every gospel is equal. We need to make right distinctions and right judgments between the true and the false, the accurate and the not-so accurate. We can’t settle for “just enough Jesus words.” And our focus or allegiance shouldn’t be with Republicans, Democrats, PETA, Evangelicals, denominations or organizations.

Our loyalty should rest with Jesus Christ and with Him alone.