For Me . . . What’s My Focus?



We live in such a “me” era, which started with the “Me Generation” back in the 1970s and has only escalated with the Generation Me of the following decade. So I hesitated to feature the words “For Me” in the title of this post. On one hand the phrase seems quite contemporary, but does it fit with what God’s word has to say?

Actually “For me” is the beginning of one of the Apostle Paul’s most well-known statements recorded in the Bible: “For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21 – Most translations say, “For to me . . .” but the difference doesn’t seem to affect the meaning). In other words, the concept of focusing on the individual has a place in Scripture. Essentially Paul was making a declaration about his life—what he valued, what was of utmost importance to him, and the short version that encapsulated the focus and direction of who he was, could be summarized in one word: Christ.

Recently I heard a sermon that turned that question back onto the hearer, or onto those reading Paul’s statement. If I were writing the line, when I came to, “For me, to live is ___,” how would I fill in the blank?

Would a truthful answer be something like, For me, to live is being a writer? Or since I’m such a sports fan and am so excited for the beginning of the new NFL season, would the truthful statement be, For me, to live is football. There are lots of options. For me, to live is my family. For me, to live is fiction. For me, to live is reading.

Obviously there are many good things that can fit into the blank, but none more significant than Paul’s original statement. Nothing is better than Christ. Not good story telling. Not art. Not speculative fiction. Not any of the things we so often make our focus, the things we write about and value.

Paul’s statement, instead of encouraging us to fit Christ in with our passion (I can fit Christ into my passion for football by praying for the players, for example), challenges us to live in such a way that Christ becomes our main focus.

Narrowing our focus in that way can be hard. We love our family. We love our pet. We love our job. We love our community of people who think as we do and have a passion similar to our own. In short we love our speculative world.

I love storytelling. I love competition. I love to discuss and debate. I love pizza. I love fantasy. I love the Dodgers. I love the Denver Broncos. I love my friends and family.

The question is, do any of the things I love become the thing I live for? For me, to live is ___. Where does my love for my favorite things fit into the eternal scheme of things? Would I rather have Christ than football? Than fantasy?

I don’t believe for one minute that imagination is evil or that speculative stories, by nature of their inventiveness, are evil. Otherwise, we’d have to believe that Adam and Eve, who were part of the world that God called “very good” had no imagination, and there’s nothing in Scripture to tie the fall of humankind to acquiring an imagination. So I have to conclude that our imagination is God-given.

On the other hand, we know from any number of passages, that sin changed the color of our life. We don’t simply have a dirty spot that needs to be erased. Instead we are scarlet, and it colors our will and our intentions and our preferences and, yes, our imagination. But ditching our imagination does not deal with the problem. Only Christ’s blood shed on the cross can wash us so that what was scarlet becomes white as snow (Is 1:18).

He didn’t wash only our will. Or only our preferences. He washed even our imagination. But just as our will must be brought under subjection to Him, so our imagination must be brought under subjection to Him.

In fact, if we can say with Paul, For me, to live is Christ, than there’s nothing that we ought not bring under His rule and sway. In other words, for me, I’d rather obey Christ than read fantasy, than watch football, than spend time with friends. Or at least that’s where I should be.

This article is a revised version of my post this week at Speculative Faith.

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Published in: on September 21, 2017 at 5:08 pm  Comments (1)  
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Thankfulness In The Argument Culture


Broncos linebackerI’m a dye-in-the-wool Denver Broncos fan, a political conservative, a Christian. Occasionally I visit some Broncos fan blogs and interact with others who are passionate about the Broncos. Inevitably, though, someone will say something that reminds me, not all these people who love the Broncos like I do, love God the way I do or even like Him. And probably a lot aren’t political conservatives.

Yet if we were in the stands at a Broncos game, we’d be cheering them on as loud as we could. Together. And when the opposing quarterback fails to complete a pass, we’d yell in unison with the rest of the fans, In-com-plete. That’s what you do when your team has the No Fly Zone as your secondary.

The point here is this: football fans lay aside their differences when they come together to cheer for their favorite team. The only differences that count at that moment are between those in orange and anyone wearing the opponent’s jersey.

My guess is, football fans don’t let religion or politics divide them because they don’t discuss the topics. But in the argument culture, our opinions have begun to divide us.

Things are becoming extreme in a land built on the right of free speech and freedom of religious expression. Now when people speak publicly, someone is bound to be offended and to call for a free zone.

The common approach is for someone to express their view. A commenter then tells them how stupid their ideas are. Then a third party will call the commenter a name and the commenter will cuss out both the original writer and the third party. It could go on from there, but it likely will end up with someone unfriending someone else.

Because in all likelihood, people who read blog posts or Facebook updates are doing so at sites they mostly agree with. When someone of a different viewpoint projects a new idea, it rarely sparks meaningful dialogue. Rather, the ensuing discussion is apt to be filled with vitriol and a repetition of talking points which originated somewhere else. Things like, Donald Trump is not my president. Or Hillary (her critics hardly ever use her last name and certainly not her appropriate title) is a liar. And, Black lives matter. Or, All lives matter.

Welcome to the argument culture we have created. What is substantive in the slogans we throw at each other?

Even “reputable” news outlets seem more interested in headlines that will get readers to click over to their site than they are in fairly representing the story or the people in it. Click bait. We’ve apparently proven we’re vulnerable to certain emotive words that will prompt us to action, so the “news” sites use those words with gusto.

First_Thanksgiving_in_AmericaThen along comes Thanksgiving Day.

Suddenly we’re suppose to pause, to relax, to hang out with family, to think about the things we’re thankful for.

In truth Thanksgiving calls Christians to do what we should be doing all year long. Even in an argument culture, we are called to be different. This is what Paul told the Roman Christians:

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. [Rom 12:14-21 NASB]

These were believers who weren’t simply at odds with others because of how they voted. No, they were living in fear for their lives. They weren’t simply being unfriended on Facebook. They were being hauled off to be part of Caesar’s massacre.

Yet Paul says, weep with those who weep. Don’t celebrate the downfall of your enemy. If he’s hungry, thirsty, serve him. Don’t take justice into your own hands. Make a difference by doing all you can to be at peace with the very people who hate you. Don’t stoop to their tactics, but conquer their vitriol with God’s gentleness.

Are these the features that mark the Church? Is this what the world knows about us?

It should be. We are new creatures in Christ, so we ought not live like everyone else.

One of the ways I want to put this passage into practice is by being thankful. You see, despite the fractured nature of our culture, we still have a great deal to thank God for.

I lost a friend this year—a woman nearly ten years my junior, so her death seems especially wrong. But I am genuinely thankful that I will see her again. It might seem cliché to some, but I can look each of my Christian friends in the eye and say, See you later, knowing that I will, either here or in life after this life in the presence of our Lord and Savior. I am so grateful for that assurance. So thankful that Jesus Christ made it possible.

Politics and hurt feelings and misunderstanding might make relationships hard at times. But death is the ultimate divider. If we think our culture is fractured, that’s nothing compared to the last line, when people stand for or against God. Now that’s a division.

The fact that I can shake hands with the man at church who has terminal cancer and say, see you later, indicates that God through Christ has conquered the divide. He is the great uniter.

Lessons Learned On The Football Field


Broncos linebackerToday is the beginning of the NFL preseason. The Broncos have traveled to Chicago and take on the team under the direction of their old coach, John Fox. So it seems fitting to revisit an article from a few years ago.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget a play that happened in the Ravens-Broncos NFL season opener a few years ago. As it turned out, it had no bearing on the result of the game, but I suspect it had great impact on the young man involved.

Danny Trevathan, a second-year Denver Broncos linebacker [who has moved on through free agency, to Chicago, no less], made a remarkable play on a pass from Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, jumping the pass route, intercepting the pass, and racing to the end zone.

Trouble is, in his enthusiasm to begin his celebration dance, he dropped the ball before he crossed into the end zone. What should have been an easy Denver touchdown turned into a touch back, giving the Ravens the ball again on the 20 yard line.

Fortunately for the Broncos and for Danny Trevathan, the game wasn’t close, and there wasn’t enough time left for the Ravens to mount a comeback. But that kind of play is often one of those momentum changers.

The thing is, Danny Trevathan really had made a great play. It was a third down, with the Ravens driving and perhaps just enough time on the clock for them to at least make the game respectable if they could score and then recover an onside kick.

But after making his terrific, timely interception, Danny didn’t wait for others to praise him. He went for the glory himself, and in the process robbed himself of the very thing he sought.

I couldn’t help but think of a number of verses in Scripture that tell us pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall. Besides Solomon’s wisdom in Proverbs, David talks about God abasing “haughty eyes,” James declares God’s attitude toward pride, and Peter repeats the same thing in an extended version:

God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you at the proper time. (1 Peter 5:5b-6)

Sadly Danny Trevathan apparently hasn’t learned the principle of letting others praise you and not your own mouth. Apparently he hasn’t learned that God abases the kind of pride he was ready to display.

But what a fortunate guy. True, his blooper happened in front of a national television audience, but it didn’t cost the Broncos the game. And it happened in a game. I mean, football is big business, and all, but it didn’t happen in a venue where people’s lives hinged on what he did or failed to do.

Plus, he gets to learn a valuable lesson that just might last a lifetime. In truth, this lesson could influence his entire worldview. Might it even be an opening for him to learn about God’s attitude toward pride? Now that would make Danny Trevathan a real winner . . . in spite of dropping the ball on the one foot line.

This post is an edited version of one that first appeared here in September 2013.

Published in: on August 11, 2016 at 6:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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Entertainment – What Does God Think About What We Watch And Read


Highway_road_workers_(9245786301)On Twitter today, agent Janet Grant (Books & Such) linked to a research study by the Barna Group concerning the viewing habits of Americans. I’d be interested in a similar study on reading habits, but I digress.

I’ve been thinking about entertainment for some time now—in large part because I write fiction, one of the entertainment pastimes. Some writers validate fiction as a worthwhile pursuit by identifying it as art. But is all fiction art? When does a story become art? Are the stories that aren’t art worthwhile? How can we determine what is art and what is worthwhile?

Interestingly, I think the road to the answers to these questions lies through an understanding of work.

Scripture tells us to do our work as for the Lord. Paul mentions this in his letter to the Ephesians, for example, when he says, “With good will, render service as to the Lord and not to men” (6:7). He says essentially the same thing to the Colossians. In this case, however, he elaborates a little:

Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men. knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. (3:22-24)

Some people might argue that Paul was speaking specifically to “slaves” and therefore the passage doesn’t apply to us today. There are several problems with that view.

First, “slaves” in Judea during the first century weren’t as we understand “slaves” today. These were people who committed themselves to service in order to pay a debt. Mosaic Law mandated that those under such obligation would be freed every seven years, whether they’d paid their debt or not. Hence, it’s foreseeable that some of these slaves were skating, biding their time until the seven years were up, and consequently not doing a good job at all for those they worked for.

Second, Scripture tells us that all Scripture is given for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness. Consequently, a passage addressed to someone else can still contain truth we can apply. For example, I learned a great deal about teaching from Scriptural instruction to leaders and to parents. The passages in Nehemiah and in Proverbs were addressed to people other than teachers, but that doesn’t mean God didn’t intend for teachers to learn from them too.

Thirdly, the last line says, “It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” Since I as a believer do serve the Lord Christ, I have to think this passage actually is addressing me directly.

One way or another, then, this passage speaks to believers today, and we can conclude that we are to do our work for the Lord.

Earlier, though, Paul said he was praying for the Christians at Colossae, “that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (1:10).

The “in all respects” reminds me of another verse in chapter 3—“Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (3:17, emphasis mine).

“In all respects” and “whatever you do” bring me to the issue of entertainment. Scripture seems quite clear about how we are to conduct ourselves in our work, but what about our leisure? Doesn’t our entertainment fall into the category of “whatever”?

I’ve written several posts on the subject at Speculative Faith (“Is Entertainment A Waste Of Time?” Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4), but I haven’t been entirely satisfied with my position on the matter. I see in Scripture a clear statement that we are to work six days and rest one day.

I see in nature, with our physical need for rest, that we must sleep a third of our time. I also understand that in the same way our body needs exercise and food, our mind needs exercise and food. Hence, some “leisure” is simply a way of giving our minds what we need, and in a sedentary work environment, it may also be providing our body with the exercise it needs.

writing in diary August_Müller_TagebucheintragBut where does “mindless” entertainment come into the picture? Over and over I hear, often based on a quote from J. R. R. Tolkien, that escape is a good and appropriate thing for us to do, that escaping through stories is a good thing. We are prisoners escaping from what has held us, Tolkien’s analogy goes, not soldiers deserting in the midst of a battle.

But how do we know we aren’t deserting?

The prison escape seems to me to take the freed man home or at least some place better. Mindless entertainment seems to do neither. Home is where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God—a transcendent place of wonders too amazing for Paul to write down when he was transported there in a vision. It puts us in God’s presence, creates satisfaction, gives us hope.

Does mindless entertainment accomplish any of these things? Does it take us to some place better? How could it if it is mindless? God didn’t make us mindless, and for us to live in a mindless way even for a few hours, seems to me to be a downgrade of circumstances, not an upgrade.

One last thought—what might be mindless for one person, may not be mindless for another. Take sports for example. I remember when I first learned that the linemen in football actually had a plan, that they were assigned differing blocking schemes based on the play that was called. Suddenly running backs plowing straight into a pile of hulking bodies didn’t see silly. The whole game took on greater purpose. Someone else can watch the same game I watch, however, and see nothing but men running around in a way that seems disorganized and unproductive. An entire game of this would seem mindless to such a person.

I have to think the reverse is also true—things others find challenging for whatever reason might indeed be mindless to me (like tinkering with the engine of a car! or watching golf! or NASCAR!! 😉 )

What I’m questioning, I guess, is entertainment that a person declares to be mindless, then engages in fully, for hours. How does that fit in with, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father”?

The bulk of this article is a re-post of “Work, Sure, But Entertainment?” first published here in November 2011.

Published in: on June 1, 2015 at 5:26 pm  Comments (7)  
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Deflategate


Pittsburgh_sign_(2981919088)The day after Championship Sunday, football fans were talking about “Deflategate.” By Thursday night the story was the lead on our local news and we don’t even have an NFL team.

If nothing else, the US takes our sports seriously. Football, which had so recently ascended to the top of the heap, replacing baseball as America’s game, has been struggling. 2014 was the year of disaster for the NFL, but the problems went back further.

What was it, 2007 when Spygate dominated the talk shows? New England (yes, the same team involved in this year’s debacle) broke NFL rules by filming an opposing team’s sideline during a game as their coaches sent signals to their players. A big deal? Most people didn’t think so, but it was against league rules.

Then in 2012 the New Orleans Saints were caught in the bounty scandal. Reportedly as many as 24 defensive players were paid for hard hits on opposing quarterbacks. The head coach, Sean Payton, received the stiffest penalty—a year’s suspension—because he knew about the program and did nothing to stop it.

A number of pundits, however, claimed that most teams had some similar program in place, but the Saints were the ones caught, and the League wanted to send a message to the others by the harsh sanctions.

Need I mention the Ray Rice mess that took place this past summer—domestic violence caught on camera, and the League suspended him for two weeks. When cries of protest arose, then Commissioner Roger Godell backtracked and handed down a tougher penalty. But when another video came out, the longer suspension was turned into an indefinite suspension, which Ray Rice contested, and won.

Meanwhile, Adrian Peterson came under fire because he took a switch to his young son. He received the full wrath of the commissioner’s office—they weren’t going to pull another Ray Rice.

Once the season got started, things seemed to quiet down—only a few drug suspensions, the $70,000 Ndamukong Suh fine for stepping on Aaron Rogers, purposefully—just average stuff.

But now, with deflategate, we’re back to the issue of cheating, specifically the charge that someone on New England’s sideline deflated the game footballs in the AFC Championship, reducing the pressure by two pounds in 11 of the 12 game balls. Under inflated footballs. The way Tom Brady likes it.

Is this really such a horrible crime, fans ask, especially those hoping for a Patriot Super Bowl victory. I mean, no one got clocked on camera, no pictures exist of bruising on a child’s body. No money exchanged hands at the expense of purposeful bodily harm. And no one was intentionally stepped on. What’s the big deal?

Add in the fact that no one thinks the Colts would have own the game if those balls had been properly inflated. In other words, the Pats cheated, but they would have won anyway.

So does that make cheating, not cheating?

And is cheating a big deal?

Well, in some schools, if you cheat you get kicked out. What if the NFL adopted that policy? If you cheat—take performance enhancing drugs, spy on the opponent, put a bounty on another player’s head, deflate footballs—you get kicked out of the League.

Which would elevate cheating to a level higher than domestic violence.

It’s not really an easy thing to determine. On one hand, we have a tendency to say, It’s just a game. Lighten up. But the reality is, pro football is big business. Not only are the players contracted for huge sums of money, the teams are raking in the green with their ticket prices and all that goes with attending games. Then there’s the league with all the merchandising and TV deals. And then we come to the real money connected to the sport: gambling. As my brother reminded me, millions of dollars are tied to NFL games, sometimes on the over-under of game scores. What have deflated balls (because who knows if the Pat’s quarterback would cheat in the Championship game, he hasn’t been cheating all season?) done to the scores and to the win/loss of millions of bettors?

But let’s pretend for a second that cheating didn’t cost anybody anything. It just gave one team a slight edge which they didn’t need anyway.

Is there really nothing wrong with them sending the message to every kid out there, Do anything, even break the rules, in order to win.

We’ve been sending that message for some time. Al Davis, when he coached the Oakland Raiders, used to say, Just win, baby. His teams did all they could, including things that weren’t legal, to win games. In fact, some of the rules the NFL has now were put in to stop some of the shenanigans the Raiders pulled (like fumble the ball forward or bat it forward to get the necessary yards for a first down, or to score a touchdown).

And now it’s the Patriots. If they go on to win the Super Bowl, no matter what happens afterward, the message will be clear—cheaters do prosper.

But we’ve been sending that message through other avenues than sports—corporate greed, for example, and government corruption. CEOs can lead their companies into bankruptcy and still collect million dollar bonuses. Lobbyists can bribe, uh grease the palms, no give payola, how about, gift legislators who they wish to influence, and the process is “legal.”

Maybe it’s time we say enough with the cheating. People need to play fair. Hard work, not hard cash or who you know or how much you can get by with, should enable someone to get ahead.

So I say, throw the book at the Patriots. They have a history of cheating and of walking as close to the line as they can get when it comes to playing by the rules. Just ask Baltimore about the six eligible receivers stunt the Patriots pulled the week before deflategate.

Cheaters ought not prosper, and if the NFL commissioner’s office doesn’t see that and doesn’t take action, more than “the integrity of the game” will be lost.

Published in: on January 23, 2015 at 6:28 pm  Comments Off on Deflategate  
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Football Friday


BroncosIt’s the NFL draft, what can I say? 😉

I love sports. Usually this is my favorite time of the year—basketball playoffs, hockey playoffs, and baseball just getting started. But mostly basketball playoffs.

Because the Lakers are AWOL this year, leaving the troubled Clippers to represent LA, I’d just as soon see the Spurs of San Antonio win. But to be honest, I’ll be content if any team other than Miami wins. I don’t know what the media love affair with LeBron James is, but I’m not a fan.

Hockey is exciting during the playoffs, and with two SoCal teams in the hunt, it’s more interesting than usual.

This is the second best time to pay attention to baseball because it is now that teams sort themselves out as top tier or lower tier. Only the top tier will be around during the best time to pay attention to baseball—the final drive to the playoffs and the playoffs themselves.

The only thing to detract from those exciting times is the beginning of football! Of course some people think football started this week with the draft or some weeks ago with the flurry of free agent deals.

I don’t usually pay much attention to this phase of the game because the big execs and the players in combination with their agents make all the decisions. I don’t get to tell my team, the Denver Broncos, to sign my favorite receiver, Eric Dekker, or to keep Champ Bailey out of respect to a future hall of famer.

No, this is the part of the game where money talks, but also where the decision makers have done the studying to know what the team needs and who’s available in the draft and in free agency and who they can afford. It’s all beyond me.

So mostly I recognize names of college guys who played in SoCal and the big profile guys the media talks about all the time.

It does get a little exciting, though. For example, the Broncos must have just completed some deal because they now have higher second round draft pick, which they’re about to announce. I can only imagine that they think the player they want might not be around for six more picks. So I can hardly wait to see who that player is.

Of course earlier AFC West rivals San Diego traded up also (they already picked ahead of Denver) in order to take a defensive player they wanted.

The Broncos first pick was a cornerback—a position where they needed help. Last year they had critical injuries late in the season, losing their best cover corner, Chris Harris to a torn ACL. I can’t imagine he’ll be ready to come back by training camp, but no one is talking as if he’s not the Broncos starter.

So now they have their second pick, a wide receiver this time—hopefully good enough to replace my favorite guy who will be off catching passes in New York this year.

But there you have it—my rambling thoughts about the second round of the NFL draft, up to the point that the Broncos picked. Is there a spiritual analogy to all this? A life lesson? No, not really. Just a football fan, spouting off.

Your turn. Anyone care to weigh in on how your team is doing in the draft? Or what sport you prefer or what activity you prefer to sports? Feel free to have your say. 😀

Published in: on May 9, 2014 at 6:28 pm  Comments (2)  
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All In


What’s the difference between a football fan and a player, one of our pastors recently asked. Both want the team to win.

Fans might invest in some team gear, maybe paint their faces, make signs, buy tickets, give up a Saturday to go to the game, and cheer passionately.

Meanwhile, the player has his livelihood on the line. He conditions, studies, practices, and gives every ounce of physical and mental effort to succeed, week after week. His commitment isn’t a few dollars and a day or two here or there. He’s invested in the team’s success long before preseason rolls around. Essentially, he’s all in.

That’s precisely what Christ says the Christian should be. We’re to pick up our cross, even hate our family. In other words, be all in.

Jesus followed this admonition by making a couple comparisons. First, He asked, what builder starts work without being sure he has enough to complete the task? What king goes to battle without first assessing whether or not his army is strong enough for him to succeed? So too, God made the assessment that what He needs from His followers is total commitment. (See Luke 14:26-33).

None of this is new to those who have been Christians for any length of time. But I began to think about this commitment in comparison to the kind of “all in” requirement of human bondage.

Recently I read and reviewed Kay Marshall Strom’s book The Hope of Shridula. That next week, the first book in the Blessings of India series, The Faith of Ashish, was offered as a free Kindle e-book, and I snapped it up. Just last week I finished reading it.

The story is about slavery — not the kidnapping and selling of one human by another kind, but that which results from the exploitation of the needy.

It reminded me of the history I’d read about railroad towns in nineteenth century America which enslaved workers. The corporate employer created worker towns and charged inflated prices at the corporate stores, so that when it came time to pay a worker his wages, he often owed more for his rent and food than what he had earned.

This is the story played out in The Faith of Ashish and The Hope of Shridula, though the setting is India in the middle of the twentieth century. Different players, same exploitation.

In the case of the poor Indian family, they borrowed a small amount of money from a rich landlord to save their son who needed medical attention. The condition of the loan was that they move to the workers’ quarters and tend the landlord’s fields. But as time passed, their debt increased rather than dwindling because they were charged for their living quarters and food and for anything else the landlord wished to add to their account.

Essentially they became his slaves. They were unwillingly “all in.”

Their debt required it of them.

So here’s the comparison and the contrast I’m seeing. Each of us owes an insurmountable debt to God, one we cannot pay, but we are not His slaves. We are slaves to sin and guilt and the law, not to God.

However, Christ paid our debt, and asked us to go all in. Nothing else will do if He’s to write “paid” in His ledger beside our name. Essentially, he then transfers us from the dominion of darkness to Christ’s kingdom, and we then do become His slaves. We belong to our Master.

Oddly enough, we’re not all in as payment for what he gave us. He wipes our debt free of charge instead of coercing our servitude in return.

But we still belong to Him.

Yet, what a difference between the rich, greedy, exploitive landlord and our loving God. The former takes to benefit himself. God gives to us what we need. The landlord demeans and keeps his slaves in their place. God calls us friends, even His children. The landlord uses and mistreats his workers. God loves and cares for His bondslaves.

Here’s how Jesus described it in Matthew:

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. (Matt 11:28-30)

A couple things seem clear to me. First, if we are all in for Jesus, we are free from the bondage of sin, but if we reject His payment for what we owe, we are, whether we realize it or not, ensnared — hook, line, and sinker — by sin.

Which brings up the second point — there is no part way in. There are no fans of Jesus, only followers. The people who are on the sidelines, though they might dress up and cheer, are not part of the team. To be a Christian means to be all in.

Work, Sure, But Entertainment?


Scripture tells us to do our work as for the Lord. Paul mentions this in his letter to the Ephesians, for example, when he says, “With good will, render service as to the Lord and not to men” (6:7). He says essentially the same thing to the Colossians. In this case, however, he elaborates a little:

Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men. knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. (3:22-24)

Some people might argue that Paul was speaking specifically to “slaves” and therefore the passage doesn’t apply to us today. There are several problems with that view.

First, “slaves” in Judea during the first century weren’t as we understand “slaves” today. These were people who committed themselves to service in order to pay a debt. Mosaic Law mandated that those under such obligation would be freed every seven years, whether they’d paid their debt or not. Hence, it’s foreseeable that some of these slaves were skating, biding their time until the seven years were up, and consequently not doing a good job at all for those they worked for.

Second, Scripture tells us that all Scripture is given for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness. Consequently, a passage addressed to someone else can still contain truth we can apply. For example, I learned a great deal about teaching from Scriptural instruction to leaders and to parents. The passages in Nehemiah and in Proverbs were addressed to people other than teachers, but that doesn’t mean God didn’t intend for teachers to learn from them too.

Thirdly, the last line says, “It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” Since I as a believer do serve the Lord Christ, I have to think this passage actually is addressing me directly.

One way or another, then, this passage speaks to believers today, and we can conclude, then, that work is to be done for the Lord.

Earlier, though, Paul said he was praying for the Christians at Colossae, “that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (1:10).

The “in all respects” reminds me of another verses in chapter 3 — “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (3:17 – emphasis mine).

“In all respects” and “whatever you do” bring me to the issue of entertainment. Scripture seems quite clear about how we are to conduct ourselves in our work, but what about our leisure? Doesn’t our entertainment fall in the category of “whatever”?

I’ve thought about this for some time, and even wrote several posts on the subject at Speculative Faith (Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4), but I haven’t been entirely satisfied with my position on the matter. I see in Scripture a clear statement that we are to work six days and rest one day.

I see in nature, with our physical requirements, that we are to sleep a third of our time. I also understand that in the same way our body needs exercise and food, our mind needs exercise and food. Hence, some “leisure” is simply a way of giving our minds what we need, and in a sedentary work environment, it may also be providing our body with the exercise it needs.

But where does “mindless” entertainment come into the picture? Over and over I hear, often based on a quote from J. R. R. Tolkien, that escape is a good and appropriate thing for us to do. We are prisoners escaping from what has held us, the analogy goes, not soldiers deserting in the midst of a battle.

But how do we know we aren’t deserting?

The prison escape seems to me to take the freed man home or at least some place better. Mindless entertainment seems to do neither. Home is where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God — a transcendent place of wonders too amazing for Paul to write down when he was transported there in a vision. It puts us in God’s presence, creates satisfaction, gives us our hope.

Does mindless entertainment accomplish any of these things? Does it take us to some place better? How could it if it is mindless? God didn’t make us mindless, and for us to live in a mindless way even for a few hours, seems to me to be a downgrade of circumstances, not an upgrade.

One last thought — what might be mindless for one person, may not be mindless for another. Take sports for example. I remember when I first learned that the linemen in football actually had a plan, that they were assigned differing blocking schemes based on the play that was called. Suddenly running backs plowing straight into a pile of hulking bodies didn’t see silly. The whole game took on greater purpose. Someone else can watch the same game I watch, however, and see nothing but men running around in a way that seems disorganized and unproductive. An entire game of this would seem mindless to such a person.

I have to think the reverse is also true — things others find challenging for whatever reason might indeed be mindless to me (like tinkering with the engine of a car! or watching golf! or NASCAR!! 😉 )

What I’m questioning, I guess, is entertainment that a person declares to be mindless, then engages in fully, for hours. How does that fit in with, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father”?

Published in: on November 21, 2011 at 6:28 pm  Comments (1)  
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