Discernment Addendum

In his sermon yesterday, my pastor, Dale Burke, pointed out an interesting fact from the scripture passage we were studying, Luke 12:13-34. One disgruntled, and apparently greedy, person demanded that Jesus arbitrate a dispute. As part of Jesus’s answer to the guy, He told a parable in which the central character dialogued with himself.

The man was a rich landowner and experienced a further blessing: his harvest produced a bumper crop. As a result, “he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do …’ ”

Later, he talked to his soul: ” ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come …’ ”

My pastor’s first point was that the rich man was talking to the wrong person about his situation—himself instead of God.

Lo and behold, when I began reading the book of Ecclesiastes this morning, I found the same thing. Chapter two starts out, “I said to myself …”

So how often, I wonder, am I talking to myself instead of talking to God? I think this is especially important in our postmodern culture that advocates “looking within” for the answers to just about everything.

Seems to me, God wants our eyes on Him instead.

The Psalmist asked God to search him and try him and see if there was any wicked way in him. He didn’t say he would examine himself to see if there was any wicked way.

Left to myself, looking within is fraught with deception and wishful thinking.

Why would I want to look within when I can look to God who is omnipotent, all knowing, wise, and good? How silly for me to rely on the fallible, selfish, narrow-minded, incomplete counsel I give myself. 🙄

The key to discernment, then, is to ask God to reveal His perspective rather than trying to ferret out truth from my own partial and imperfect attitudes, beliefs, and ideas.

And of course, God has already revealed His perspective in His Word, so I need to pray for His Spirit to open the eyes of my heart to understand and apply what He has revealed.

With God’s perspective in mind and by asking for His counsel and wisdom, I can approach the task of analyzing what I read and see, trusting that He will supply the discernment I need.

Published in: on March 1, 2010 at 1:41 pm  Comments (3)  
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Writing for the “Spiritually Interested”

I wasn’t going to link to it or even reference the source of these thoughts, but I want to copy a chart, and therefore have to give due credit.

Recently editor Mick Silva has been blogging about writing for seekers, those operating with a postmodern perspective. In one post entitled “Why Is The Shack Still Selling?” he asks

How do these “pioneers” differ from the more traditional Christian book market?

By “pioneers” I believe he means authors who are engaging the “spiritually interested” within the Christian framework (in another post, though, he includes authors such as Rhonda Byrne, author of The Secret, and Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now, so I may be assuming too much).

Anyway, here is the chart I found interesting.

    Pioneers value / Traditionalists value
    Mystery over certainty/ Certainty over mystery
    Experiential faith/ Propositional truth
    Freedom from structure/ Structure to their freedom
    Personal authority/ Authority figures
    Love at the expense of truth/ Truth at the expense of love
    Authenticity over status/ Status over authenticity
    Relationship over rules/ Rules over relationship
    Maleable [malleable], interpretive/ Concrete, quantifiable
    A story over principles/ Principles over a story
    Seeking over knowing Knowing over seeking

In many ways, this list is nothing more than a description of a person influenced primarily by postmodernism versus a person influenced primarily by modernism, and to be honest, I don’t see the Christians I know on either side of the chart.

A few years ago, I asked my pastor, Dale Burke, what he thought of postmodernism, and his answer was insightful: it’s just a philosophical approach to life, no more right or wrong than other approaches. We can glean good things from any number of philosophies, but the key is to square what we believe with the Bible.

Well, that puts my pastor, my church, and me decidedly on the side of propositional truth, doesn’t it? Yes, and the first proposition is to love God with all of my being and the second, to love my brother as myself.

So does that mean we are part of the “Pioneers,” putting love over truth?

Yes, except another proposition we believe says we can know the truth and the truth will set you free. And that statement is supplemented by Jesus’s declaration that He is the way, the truth, and the life, that no one comes to the Father except via the Son. Which again shifts us back to the camp of the “Pioneers” because we value relationship over rules.

Sort of. Because Jesus also said, If you love me, you will obey my commandments. So now it seems we’re back on the “Traditionalists” side.

I could go on, but I want to make two salient points.

First, if someone values seeking over knowing, will they ever find? Jesus says, Seek and you will find, ask and it will be given you, knock and the door will be opened. Is someone genuinely—authentically, to use the term ascribed to the “Pioneers”—seeking if he has no intention of finding?

And secondly, the apostle Paul, when he preached in Athens started where the Athenians were—as idol worshipers who loved a good debate and to learn something new.

Granted, authors aren’t preachers, but we have the same mandate as the “professionals”: to go and make disciples. So if there are, as it seems, a host of spiritually interested who have broken free of the humanism and rationalism espoused by modern philosophy, shouldn’t we meet them where they are?

Even so, I think we need to keep Paul as our model. He was committed to preaching Christ, and Him crucified. What he excelled at was showing the Athenians that their “Unknown God” they worshiped was in fact known.

It seems to me, the challenge before Christians is to show seekers that what they’re looking for is the very thing we looked for too. And found.

God and Fiction, Part 1

In his sermon last Sunday, my pastor (Dale Burke) jarred my thinking once again in regards to the purpose of fiction. No, he wasn’t talking about fiction per se. But he did point to the fact that in a culture of unbelief, a Christian is responsible to point generation next to God, for it is in losing sight of who God is that all society breaks down (see Romans 1:18-32).

The implication might seem to be that every adult should therefore focus on teaching children about God. Well, I agree to a point. I just don’t think our responsibility stops with kids. As Pastor Dale pointed out in his message, the important first step is for each of us to have authentic faith ourselves. It seems fairly obvious that we can’t pass on what we first don’t possess.

What I saw growing up was a lot of people passing on the trappings of what they no longer believed. I saw people still going to church after they no longer believed in the God that church claimed to worship. I sat in Sunday school classes and listened to adults explain away the miracles of the Bible, including the virgin birth and the resurrection.

There are churches today who would embrace that same thinking. They no longer believe the Bible, no longer believe in the God of the Bible, and yet they cling to some vestment of morality that originated in the Bible.

God is love, they say, so that’s what they’ll believe. And Jesus came to a chorus of angels declaring peace on earth, so they’ll believe God is for peace. Somewhere in this line of theology is the idea that we are to be like God, so we are also to be about love and peace. The end.

And this is what many people call Christianity. It fits so nicely with our culture of unbelief because it never challenges the main tenants: God, if he exists, is whatever you want him to be (to challenge this idea would be to sacrifice peace). Truth is evolving (to claim it is unchanging would create schisms). Right and wrong is relative (to say another’s behavior is wrong would not be loving). Since life is a result of chance, it is of little value. (To hold to the preciousness of human life is unloving—to a woman who wishes to escape an unwanted pregnancy, to the unwanted child because a poor life is worse than no life, to animals because their lives are as valuable as humans).

So what does any of this have to do with fiction? Simply that fiction is the going form of communication in our culture. Maybe it has always been so. At any rate, we who know God as Father because Jesus Christ slipped from Heaven into the skin of a Jewish baby and ultimately crashed through the sin barrier that had us roped off—we are responsible for telling the truth about God. Yes, He is love, but not love in isolation from His justice and mercy and grace and goodness and jealousy and humility and omniscience and infinity and steadfastness and creativity and immutability and …

Yes, God is for peace, but lasting peace that comes only from right relationship with Him. And He is also for truth and goodness and joy and patience and kindness and gentleness and self-control and …

All this to say, maybe, just maybe, Christian fiction should, above all else, tell the truth about God. In story.

Published in: on May 13, 2009 at 11:21 am  Comments (4)  
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