I was recently challenged by a person going through the 2018 - 2019 Colson Fellows Program to put together the list of books that I read in addition to the heavy load the fellowship put on me when I went through it last year. So I put that list together and published it here.
What I found out is that the hunger for knowledge and thoughtful exploration of the Christian faith is amazing. I was amazed at the number and the quality of the books that I supplemented. I am also amazed at the number of books I bought and set on a shelf. It's time to get reading again.
It is amazing how many people seem to communicate only with pictures that include a short pithy statement. The explosion of the internet, Facebook, iPad and smartphones has made us more dependent on these things, and less dependent on dictionaries, encyclopedias, essays and other sources of researched information and deep thinking. Some of the best literature from the prior century is left behind because people don’t take the time to pick up a good book.
What does that say about our society? We don’t have the time to read a book, but we have the time to get to level 427 of Candy Crush or Farmville? How did we get to where our priorities are so messed up? Those of us with an eye toward history would point to the 1960’s and the free love sexual revolution that took place. Yes, that era did change things and did set in motion the love of self, and the repudiation of our nation’s Christian heritage. But the change started much earlier than that, the flappers and the speakeasies of the 1920’s were a response to the teetotalling overreach of some well-meaning Christians, but the license that took place was due to something called the “Enlightenment.” This was where science started to take over the dominance of ecclesiastical thought.
The Enlightenment led to the Modernism which led to Post-Modernism, which we are feeling the effects of now. When we can determine our own truth and reality, it is not a stretch that we (as society) are confused as to what bathrooms to use, we are confused as to what gender we are. Today we are spiritual, but not religious, we are alone together. The outcome of this is a spike in suicide, a spike of violence against police officers, a spike in hatred of each other. Probably the most egregious effect of Post-Modernism is the radical tribalism that is taking place. Politics is rapidly turning into an idol with many people. The biggest problem with that is salvation doesn’t come from the ballot box. We can’t elect ourselves into a utopian society. We can’t fix our ills by finding the best people to put in office.
We have to fix ourselves. There, I’ve said it. We have to fix ourselves. To do that we have to use the only worldview that stands up to the hard questions, that is the biblically based worldview. Yes, that means we have to submit ourselves to an omnipotent, omniscient diety, and to give him sovereignty over our lives. We have to live by the precepts that the bible teaches, such as living in peace, reducing hatred, and loving one another. Then there comes the list of things we can’t do, and that’s the list that sets people’s head a-whirl. Abortion is wrong, same-sex marriage is wrong, transgenerism is wrong, but at the same time, judging and castigating one sinner over another is wrong.
Jesus said it best in Matthew 22:37-40, “Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” So with that said, that brings up one question, how are we to talk about the things that are wrong? The simple answer is to do it with love. The best example I can think of is Jack Phillips, the baker in Colorado who has been through much castigation and distress over the last six years. Yet, what he did, was along the guidelines of a Biblical worldview. He drew a line on what was allowed, and what wasn’t. He didn’t seek to injure, demean, or flout the two men who wanted a wedding cake. He offered to sell them anything else in the shop, but would not make a “Masterpiece,” wedding cake. As Christians, we are called to be that loving, that gentle, yet to stand strong.
So that brings me to my final point, God loves Donald Trump. He is made in God’s image, just like you and me. He deserves the dignity that comes with that. We may have differences, and debate would serve that much better than hatred and animosity. Because in the end, we have to realize that we are made in God’s image, and God loves us too.
This subject has taken a beating in the last few years. Since the Obergefell decision that made same-sex marriage the law of the land in 2015, the tide turned against religious freedom and Christianity in general.
First a little background. Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cake Shop in Colorado, was known throughout the community as an artist, a Christian, and in general, a soft-spoken kind-hearted man. He employed several people and the wedding cake business provided more than 40% of his income. When a same-sex couple came in and wanted to order a cake for their wedding, Jack politely refused. He offered them anything in his cooler, but would not design and create their “masterpiece.” They left the store. Thus began 5 years of court appearances, derision, ridicule, death threats, and being in the public eye. Due to the rulings of the Colorado Civil Rights Board, he quit making wedding cakes for everybody. But in doing so, he had to lay off employees. At the start of this year, he was only employing family, and they were struggling. Jack can be seen smiling and laughing, being the calm, humble, shop-owner and baker that he is. But inside, he was hurting.
On December 5, 2017, the case was argued in the Supreme Court, and any bystanders could tell this was no ordinary case. There were two groups outside the court protesting for their side. The attorneys inside the court were pressed for answers by very inquisitive and not very happy justices. The questions and comments led to much speculation, but nobody could guess the results. The court came back today, June 4, 2018 with a 7-2 decision for Jack. It was not a broad decision such as Obergefell, but gives some space for those wanting to express themselves in their faith.
Don’t get me wrong, there is no reason for hatred or injustice. Jack would bake and sell a cake for anybody. But he would not create masterpiece cakes for occasions that went against his beliefs. He not only turned away the same-sex wedding cake, but also a cake that was celebrating a divorce. The case comes down to a principle: People who hold one belief, regardless of what is is, should not be penalized for holding that belief. Justice Kennedy, during the oral arguments said, “[T]olerance is essential in a free society. And tolerance is most meaningful when it's mutual.” So we have a short period of time, before the liberal ideologues in the mass media get ahold of this, to talk with people, and bring up the past true definition of tolerance, and what it means to a free society.
Today was a great win, but it was only a battle in the wider war for our culture and our children’s minds. Let us continue to pray, to live the life we intend according to our faith. Let us deal with our friends and neighbors in truth and in love. Yes, that even includes those who would spew hatred at us in losing this decision. We need to pray for them even more. Help them to find the true spirit of tolerance.
For more information, see www.adflegal.org.
If you want to engage further with culture, get the tools necessary with a Colson Fellowship.
Christianity and LGBT issues. Are you ready to spend a month getting in the middle of this messy topic and understand the different viewpoints?
Do you want to dive into the different worldviews to the same depth? How about understanding Islam and the true differences between that and Christianity?
Do you want to start to use your faith and make a difference?
If you answered, “Yes” to any of the above, you may need to consider the 10 month Christian Worldview education and discipleship program from the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. This was founded by Chuck Colson who turned into a major activist for prison ministry. He saw the prison populations exploding and wanted to find out why. The Colson Fellow (or Centurions as they were originally called) are meant to be the men and women who take a stand and make a difference.
“For evil to flourish, it only requires for good men to do nothing.” This quote from Simon Wiesenthal, a holocaust survivor is valid today. It may be incredibly valid today. If you are a good man or woman, maybe it’s time to do something.
Ask me about this education. It made a difference in my faith and my life. That’s why I’m working so hard as a volunteer to bring this education to Middle Tennessee.
I’m a gun rights supporter. I’ve grown up with guns, I own guns, I’ve hunted and I have my carry permit. But I was ready to trade it all today for some reasonable expectation that children would be safe.
Then it became obvious that guns aren’t the problem. They are a distraction. They are a powerful distraction. I’m going to lose some people at this point, who are going to rant and rave that guns are the problem and that we need new laws to keep this from happening. What law would keep this from happening? What restrictions are necessary to keep our kids safe? The deeper you look, you realize that kids get stabbed, they overdose, they get in car wrecks, they fall off bridges, they beat each other to death. Removing guns will not keep out kids safe. It will only make us as a society feel better for a few short months until the next craze takes off.
If you want to ask a real question, one that REALLY needs to be answered, how about asking this: Is human life sacred or not? Because if not, then we can keep going the way we have been, and not feel guilty about the shootings, the stabbings, Jonestown, David Koresh, or the Holocaust. It would make it much easier to just go along to get along, if human beings were no longer sacred, important, or special.
If life is sacred, we would have to ask ourselves about the violent video games we turn loose on our kids. We would have to ask ourselves about the easy access to drugs and alcohol. We would have to look at what we as a society teach them. We would have to start treating each other, as if there was a special dignity, just with being born. Then we jump to the unborn, the “batch of cells,” that will someday become a unique, special human being, but needs parents, and love and care to get there. Will we as a society provide that love and care? Today we don’t. Today it’s more important for a woman to be able to have convenient options than to guarantee the rights of that small, special, vulnerable life.
If life is sacred, we need to look at our elderly. Are we ready to write them off and hope for them to die? Or will we spend more time with them, recording the stories, and anguishing as they suffer through cancer, alzheimers, ALS or a host of other ugly diseases. Or will we give them a way to “die with dignity?” The problem is that right to die soon becomes and a duty to die. Compassion does not end in death. Compassion does not end at all if it truly is compassion.
If life is sacred, should the shooter in Florida face the needle? Or should he be given life in prison and an opportunity to repent of his crimes and come to know his Lord and Savior. Do you know your Lord and Savior? If you do, you might consider making life sacred, from the unborn, to those waiting to catch the train to eternity. From those who are unseen or unwanted to the beauty queens and the royalty. From the Down ’s syndrome baby to Angelina Jolie’s latest adoption.
Is life sacred, or is it not?
It was 8th grade and graduation was coming fast. I was the valedictorian (don’t laugh, it made sense in 8th grade) and had to give a speech. But I had no suit to wear. My parents decided to take the trip into Phoenix to buy a sport coat that I could wear. I was excited, and anxious to go on a shopping trip just for me. It was Saturday and about 9 in the morning and I had been ready for more than an hour. My parents were taking their time. They had been out and had breakfast and coffee, but I didn’t understand what was keeping them. I found out when I barged into their bedroom.
Needless to say, that image is burned into my head. I had barged into their bedroom without knocking and without any level of respect. They were out and dressed and ready to go in 5 minutes. It was a quiet and tense drive to Phoenix, and not much passed between us while getting the sport coat and the trip back. I piece of my innocence was gone, never to return. I had also angered my parents and I had to deal with that for a few weeks.
We as a society have had a few wakeup moments in 2017. The sexual scandal after sexual scandal almost made us tired of the term “sexual harassment.” The political polarization of our nation ratcheted to new lows. A baker went to the Supreme Court to get relief from tyrannical laws that force him to celebrate events that his faith tells him are sinful.
Our society does not have the luxury of being innocent any more. It is time to grow up and let go of our petty squabbles and solve problems together. But how do we do that? What I am not going to do is to list all the things our society needs to do. It won’t work. If I say, do this or do that, nothing, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING will happen. So, I’m not going to tell you what to do. Instead, I will encourage those who are doing good. I will take notice of those who may not get much in the way of kind words, but I will work tirelessly to BUILD PEOPLE UP.
Remember the story of Nehemiah. He was so upset at the walls of Jerusalem being down, and all gates broken and burned that he asked to be released from his important job to go build the wall. His employer was so impressed, he sent help. But it wasn’t the government who rebuilt the wall, it was the families. Each family had a small portion of the wall to rebuild and in just a few weeks the walls around the city were complete. The story of Nehemiah is one of faith, hard work, perseverance, building people up and taking a stand. This is what our nation and our society is called to this day.
If you are called to stand the wall, I ask you to look at www.colsonfellows.org. This is the education that I have been going through and it’s been a lot of work. But it has been incredibly rewarding. One of the things I have to do in this program is to put together a 3 year ministry plan. Item number one is to bring this education to Middle Tennessee. Watch for more on that topic to come. I will also continue my encouraging people, and building them up. I will take a stand for truth and will use this podium to call truth to the darkness, in order to banish that darkness to the light. I will have relationships and conversations, some rewarding, some uncomfortable. I will work to make Jesus known throughout my sphere of influence. Not for my sake, but for his… and for yours.
Ring around the Rosie,
Pocket full of posies,
We all fall down…
We all know the script. After a tragedy such as what happened in Las Vegas, the news media will repeat everything 50 times, try to get new supposed experts to give opinions, and by the end of the day, the call for gun control pops up, and two milliseconds later, the gun advocates come up. Meanwhile, we are immersed in the worlds of those lost in the senseless slaughter; we hear stories of heroism and sacrifice. We learn of the reaction of the community, those who line up to give blood, those who send sandwiches to the local fire station, those who just sit with the victims, not doing anything more than providing human comfort when there are no words. Eventually the politicians get involved and great speeches with great promises, but in the end, nothing comes of it.
I was reminded last night that maybe there is nothing to be done, but instead we need to be. Yes, it sounds odd, but we need to be …
My pastor tells us that we cannot out-think evil. We cannot out-work the wicked. We can however, out love them. He also tells us not to worry, for worry does not get us anything. He is a wise man.
There is a tough message that we need to realize, however. We cannot go back to business as usual. We cannot revel in the misery of this situation, then go back to our normal lives and expect anything to be different. By the time the politicians are involved, there will be a number of new laws that are proposed. From new security measures, to gun bans, and surveillance of the citizenry. The problem is salvation won’t come on Air Force One, and righteousness doesn’t come with a new law. The problem is not in our government or our laws, the problem is in the heart of each and every one of us. It would be morbidly selfish to expect a law to come into effect and solve the problems and we can go back to our normal lives. In order to make changes in our society, we must change. Sadly, here are a few ways we need to change in ourselves…
If you love to point out the faults in others, you are part of the problem.
If you love to post edgy or sarcastic photo memes online, you are part of the problem.
If you harbor any sort of hate in your heart, you are part of the problem.
If you seek to push an agenda that is rooted in anything that is not kindness and loving, then you are part of the problem.
If you want to NOT be part of the problem, then we need to turn down the heat of the vitriol in our society. We need provide a safe space for us to have debate. Don’t get me wrong that safe space is not agreeing with another point of view, but being tolerant (truly tolerant) of others, and listening without mocking. We must hear other points of view in order to find a middle ground, or most likely a compromise, to fix the problem. There was a time when the politicians in our government would regularly seek to gather support for issues that affected the entire nation from all parties. That support may not have been given, but at the end of the day, they could share a civil meal.
If you truly want to help our society, make a serious effort to provide positive messages, in person, on the phone, and online. Keep away from the snarkiness and sarcasm. For those feed hate like gasoline feeds a fire. And hate is a cheap wine, we as a society have drunk too much of, for too long. Instead of giving in to the hate, try love. Try compassion. Try tenderness. Go to church this Sunday and look around, everybody there is a sinner just like you. We need to find the moral compass of our country once again. I think it might be found in a church pew, or in the pages of the bible. Sit in a pew with a friend, share a verse, ask each other questions. If you miss a ball game, or an hour of network news, it will still be there. We are called to do more for this world, and each other than to be a finger pointing at a problem, with no intention of lifting that same finger to help.
I have not posted in a while and I'm going to explain what has been going on and something that really has come the forefront of my mind.
I've signed up to be part of the 2017/2018 cohort of Colson Fellows. Chuck Colson was a special counsel for Nixon's White House and got caught up in Watergate. He pled guilty to obstruction of Justice and was sentenced to 3 years in prison. Through this period in his life Chuck found God. He instantly turned from a man who was solely interested in driving life his way, to surrendering his life to God. Having a spell at prison also gave him time to dig in and really put his faith on a good foundation. When he got out of prison he founded Colson Prison ministries and that ministry started small, but is now operating in more than 60 countries.
Chuck also wanted to know why the prison population is growing so fast so he founded the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. This is the 13th year that this ministry has sponsored a class of fellows who are looking to dig deep into Christian Worldview. That is something that. That is what I am digging into.
So far, it has been amazing.
Part of what I've been asked to do is to read 19 different books, talk about them, engage in twice monthly webinars, engage in the Bible with a daily devotional, watch videos, engage with my peers. It has been busy, but has been incredibly rewarding.
But what has been made epically obvious is that we don't understand the implications of being made in the image of God.
We are created. We did not "evolve" from the primordial ooze. We are not higher function apes. We are human beings, created as human beings, living as human beings, and we can thank our creator for that. Who is that creator, why almighty God himself. He fashioned us from the dust and breathed life into us. If you have a problem with that, then I would ask you to take a hard look at the foundation of your faith.
It goes deeper than that. If we are made in God's image, that says something about each and every one of us. With that fact comes a special dignity. For those of us with shame and body appearance issues, doesn't it feel good that God made us that way. People may see something less than dignified in us, but we are created from God in His image, we have something special because of that. If you are depressed, meditate on that for a moment.
Think about it from another angle. Have you ever walked down a sidewalk and saw somebody panhandling. They are dirty, need a bath, need a shave, need some new clothes, and we ignore them or sneer at them and walk away. I'm not accusing you of anything I haven't done or said myself. But, when we consider the image of God, the Imago Dei, is that how we should react? Or should we assume a certain dignity on that person regardless of their circumstances? Not only that panhandler, but the unborn and unwanted fetus is also made in the image of God. So is the white supremacist. So is the mass murderer on death row. So is the senior citizen who can no longer recognize their own children.
We need to understand the gift that God has given us just by making us in his image. We are dignified. You are dignified. You are special. Each human life is important, special, and has purpose.
You matter. So does everyone else.
Dad, you’ve been gone for almost 26 years now. Taken much too early at the age of 49. I’m now 52 and think about you every day.
I wish I could have bought you that classic car, an impala like you once had.
I wish you could have been there for my two college graduations.
I wish you could have been there to give me advice about moving across country.
I wish you could have been there when I went through divorce and remarriage.
I wish you could have been there for the birth of my children.
I wish you could have been on the floor playing with them all.
I wish you could have built rubber band guns for them.
I wish you could have shown them how to play the guitar.
I wish you could be here with me now, and help me work on the truck and the tractor.
I wish we could sit on the porch and watch the dogs and the chickens play.
I wish we could have cold one at the kitchen table and just talk.
Dad you gave me so much in life, a purpose, a sense of responsibility, a moral code. I wish I could give back to you now. I pray for you. I know you didn’t have much faith in church, and remembering the church we had in Pinedale and their traditions, I’m not sure I blame you. I wish you could have known Jesus the way I do and see that he is not there to limit or to condemn you, but to be there as a friend.
I went back to college because of your passing. I got two degrees and may yet get another. Most of all, i, as a son, want to make you, my father proud.
When the day comes and I pass on to eternity, I hope to see you there with my Father in heaven. May we hug and love one another, like we did here on earth. I know we didn’t always see eye to eye, but I know you always loved me. You have passed on a rich heritage of fatherhood, and manhood. I hope I’m half the man you were.
On this father’s day weekend, I won’t be buying a card or a cheesy gift. I’ll just remember the days at the kitchen table, or working on the house, or playing volleyball with you. I will remember fondly the jokes and the games and the laughter. Thank you for being my father, and thank you for being a good man, and a good role model.
I miss you.
Your loving son......
I probably delve into politics more often than is healthy, but when a national politician takes a federal nominee to task for his religious beliefs, it gets me going.
Let me set the stage, Russell Vought is President Donald Trump's nominee to head the Office of Management and Budget. This is an important post, but it's not the Secretary of State. On June 7th, during the confirmation hearings, Senator Bernie Sanders took Vought to task for something he wrote in a blog about the muslim faith. The one sentence at issue is this, "Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ his Son, and they stand condemned."
From an article by David French in the National Review (you can find it here), we get Senator Sanders and Mr. Vought talking about this sentence...
Sanders: Let me get to this issue that has bothered me and bothered many other people. And that is in the piece that I referred to that you wrote for the publication called Resurgent. You wrote, “Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ, His Son, and they stand condemned.” Do you believe that that statement is Islamophobic?
Vought: Absolutely not, Senator. I’m a Christian, and I believe in a Christian set of principles based on my faith. That post, as I stated in the questionnaire to this committee, was to defend my alma mater, Wheaton College, a Christian school that has a statement of faith that includes the centrality of Jesus Christ for salvation, and . . .
Sanders: I apologize. Forgive me, we just don’t have a lot of time. Do you believe people in the Muslim religion stand condemned? Is that your view?
Vought: Again, Senator, I’m a Christian, and I wrote that piece in accordance with the statement of faith at Wheaton College:
Sanders: I understand that. I don’t know how many Muslims there are in America. Maybe a couple million. Are you suggesting that all those people stand condemned? What about Jews? Do they stand condemned too?
Vought: Senator, I’m a Christian . . .
Sanders (shouting): I understand you are a Christian, but this country are made of people who are not just — I understand that Christianity is the majority religion, but there are other people of different religions in this country and around the world. In your judgment, do you think that people who are not Christians are going to be condemned?
Vought: Thank you for probing on that question. As a Christian, I believe that all individuals are made in the image of God and are worthy of dignity and respect regardless of their religious beliefs. I believe that as a Christian that’s how I should treat all individuals . . .
Sanders: You think your statement that you put into that publication, they do not know God because they rejected Jesus Christ, His Son, and they stand condemned, do you think that’s respectful of other religions?
Vought: Senator, I wrote a post based on being a Christian and attending a Christian school that has a statement of faith that speaks clearly in regard to the centrality of Jesus Christ in salvation.
Sanders: I would simply say, Mr. Chairman, that this nominee is really not someone who this country is supposed to be about.
Let that percolate for a minute. It almost sounds like a B movie courtroom drama. But it gets better. There is a link to the video of this interaction, hosted by the Office of Management and Budget, you can see it here, or can you. When I went to write this article, the video is no longer available