Traditions Of Men


One of the letters the Apostle Paul wrote was to the church in Colossae in which he said those believers should see to it no one captured their thinking by philosophy and empty deception according to the traditions of men or according to the elementary principles of the world (2:8).

There are a lot of parallels with that church and with Christians today in the west. As such we can look at Paul’s instruction and admonition to them about how to conduct themselves in the world and learn what we should be doing today.

By way of explanation, Rebeca Seitz, a knowledgeable PR professional who taught at the Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference a number of years ago, explained that she anchored her work in the idea that we live in a celebrity culture—the one God placed us in—therefore, those of us who work in the public arena need to learn how to be celebrity Christians, who are decidedly different from regular celebrities.

In other words, as I understand it, Rebeca says we should learn to use the traditions of men.

I’m reminded of God’s instructions to the Israelites the day before they left Egypt. Along with the particulars of the Passover, He told them to go to their neighbors and ask them for articles of gold and silver. Then this:

and the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have their request. Thus they plundered the Egyptians. (Exodus 12:36)

As it turned out, the gold and silver they took from the Egyptians ended up being the gold and silver they would turn around and give for the work of the tabernacle. So God had them make use of the culture in which they’d been living for His purposes.

He did that with Abraham; then with Jacob when he worked for Laban; in Joseph’s day, He again did so in Egypt; and years later when Joshua led Israel into the cities once belonging to the Canaanites, God again had them make use of the culture they were dispossessing.

Over and over God blessed his chosen people through the generosity of others or through victory over other ethnic groups. At the same time, He promised that through Israel all the nations would be blessed. Yet they weren’t to mimic the ways of those nations. They weren’t to intermarry, weren’t to adopt their gods, weren’t to follow their traditions.

In Paul’s words, they weren’t to be taken captive by philosophy or empty deception according to the traditions of men.

The point here is that the prohibition against adopting the worldview and lifestyles of the people around them was not a prohibition against interacting with them. King David, for example, teamed up with Hiram, King of Tyre, to build his palace, then to provide some of the material Solomon would need to build the temple.

The question is, how should a Christian today react to our culture? We aren’t a separate nation like Israel was. We’re integrated as were Daniel and Nehemiah and Joseph, and for a time, Moses. Daniel and Moses, we know, received their education at the government’s expense—the pagan government. Joseph and Nehemiah worked for their respective king—their respective pagan king.

I conclude that “culture” isn’t the problem. The traditions of men aren’t poison. The key is the actual admonition in Paul’s statement—“See to it that no one takes you captive” (emphasis mine). The point he wanted to get across in this section of his letter has to do with truth versus error. Earlier he explained: “I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument” (Col. 2:4).

I think it’s easy to look at the disappointing and discouraging things in our society and feel like the best part of valor would be to retreat. Paul wasn’t advocating that here. After telling the Colossian believers to set their mind on things above, he went on to give a string of commands that were very earthly: put aside anger, do not lie, forgive each other, wives submit, husbands love, children obey, do your work heartily. Then this:

Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. (4:5-6)

Am I to run from the culture—the traditions of men? I suppose if that’s the only way I can be sure someone won’t take me captive, but as a general rule, it seems to me we’re to stay where we are, surrounded by the traditions of men, but we’re to make sure we don’t get caught in their sway. We need to recognize them for what they are—empty deception—and live accordingly.

This post is an updated version of one that first appeared here in September 2011.

Published in: on January 12, 2017 at 5:00 pm  Comments Off on Traditions Of Men  
Tags: , , , ,

Reprise: Traditions Of Men


Denver Broncos Tim_Tebow_TebowingPaul said to the church in Colossae that they should see to it no one captured their thinking by philosophy and empty deception according to the traditions of men or according to the elementary principles of the world (2:8). In thinking recently about celebrity Christians, I admit to some question about how we believers are to conduct ourselves in the world.

By way of explanation, Rebeca Seitz, a PR professional who taught at the Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference some years ago, anchors her work in the idea that we live in a celebrity culture—the one God placed us in—therefore, we need to learn how to be celebrity Christians, which is considerably different than regular celebrities.

In other words, as I understand it, Rebeca says we should learn to use the traditions of men. I’m reminded of God’s instructions to the Israelites the day before they left Egypt. Along with the particulars of the Passover, He told them to go to their neighbors and ask them for articles of gold and silver. Then this:

and the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have their request. Thus they plundered the Egyptians. (Exodus 12:36)

As it turned out, the gold and silver they took from the Egyptians ended up being the gold and silver they would turn around and give for the work of the tabernacle. So God had them make use of the culture in which they’d been living for His purposes. He did that with Abraham, with Jacob when he worked for Laban, in Joseph’s day there in Egypt, and years later when Joshua led Israel into the cities once belonging to the Canaanites.

Over and over God blessed his chosen people through the generosity of others or through victory over other ethnic groups. At the same time, He promised that through Israel all the nations would be blessed. Yet they weren’t to mimic the ways of those nations. They weren’t to intermarry, weren’t to adopt their gods, weren’t to follow their traditions.

In Paul’s words, they weren’t to be taken captive by philosophy or empty deception according to the traditions of men.

The point here is that the prohibition against adopting the worldview and lifestyles of the people around them was not a prohibition against interacting with them. King David, for example, teamed up with Hiram, King of Tyre, to build his palace, then to provide some of the material Solomon would need to build the temple.

The question is, how should a Christian today react to our culture? We aren’t a separate nation like Israel was. We’re integrated as were Daniel and Nehemiah and Joseph, and for a time, Moses. Daniel and Moses, we know, received their education at the government’s expense — the pagan government. Joseph and Nehemiah worked for their respective king — their respective pagan king.

I conclude that “culture” isn’t the problem. The traditions of men aren’t poison. The key is the actual admonition in Paul’s statement — “See to it that no one takes you captive” (emphasis mine). The point he wanted to get across in this section of his letter has to do with truth versus error. Earlier he explained: “I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument” (Col. 2:4).

I think it’s easy to look at the disappointing and discouraging things in our society and feel like the best part of valor would be to retreat. Paul wasn’t advocating that here. After telling the Colossian believers to set their mind on things above, he went on to give a string of commands that were very earthly: put aside anger, do not lie, forgive each other, wives submit, husbands love, children obey, do your work heartily. Then this:

Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. (4:5-6)

Am I to run from the culture—the traditions of men? I suppose if that’s the only way I can be sure someone won’t take me captive, but as a general rule, it seems to me we’re to stay where we are, surrounded by the traditions of men, but we’re to make sure we don’t get caught in their sway. We need to recognize them for what they are—empty deception—and live accordingly.

Traditions Of Men


Paul said to the church in Colossae that they should see to it no one captured their thinking by philosophy and empty deception according to the traditions of men or according to the elementary principles of the world (2:8). In thinking recently about celebrity Christians, I admit to some question about how we believers are to conduct ourselves in the world.

By way of explanation, Rebeca Seitz, a knowledgeable PR professional who taught at the Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference, anchors her work in the idea that we live in a celebrity culture — the one God placed us in — therefore, we need to learn how to be celebrity Christians, which is considerably different than regular celebrities.

In other words, as I understand it, Rebeca says we should learn to use the traditions of men. I’m reminded of God’s instructions to the Israelites the day before they left Egypt. Along with the particulars of the Passover, He told them to go to their neighbors and ask them for articles of gold and silver. Then this:

and the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have their request. Thus they plundered the Egyptians. (Exodus 12:36)

As it turned out, the gold and silver they took from the Egyptians ended up being the gold and silver they would turn around and give for the work of the tabernacle. So God had them make use of the culture in which they’d been living for His purposes. He did that with Abraham, with Jacob when he worked for Laban, in Joseph’s day there in Egypt, and years later when Joshua led Israel into the cities once belonging to the Canaanites.

Over and over God blessed his chosen people through the generosity of others or through victory over other ethnic groups. At the same time, He promised that through Israel all the nations would be blessed. Yet they weren’t to mimic the ways of those nations. They weren’t to intermarry, weren’t to adopt their gods, weren’t to follow their traditions.

In Paul’s words, they weren’t to be taken captive by philosophy or empty deception according to the traditions of men.

The point here is that the prohibition against adopting the worldview and lifestyles of the people around them was not a prohibition against interacting with them. King David, for example, teamed up with Hiram, King of Tyre, to build his palace, then to provide some of the material Solomon would need to build the temple.

The question is, how should a Christian today react to our culture? We aren’t a separate nation like Israel was. We’re integrated as were Daniel and Nehemiah and Joseph, and for a time, Moses. Daniel and Moses, we know, received their education at the government’s expense — the pagan government. Joseph and Nehemiah worked for their respective king — their respective pagan king.

I conclude that “culture” isn’t the problem. The traditions of men aren’t poison. The key is the actual admonition in Paul’s statement — “See to it that no one takes you captive” (emphasis mine). The point he wanted to get across in this section of his letter has to do with truth versus error. Earlier he explained: “I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument” (Col. 2:4).

I think it’s easy to look at the disappointing and discouraging things in our society and feel like the best part of valor would be to retreat. Paul wasn’t advocating that here. After telling the Colossian believers to set their mind on things above, he went on to give a string of commands that were very earthly: put aside anger, do not lie, forgive each other, wives submit, husbands love, children obey, do your work heartily. Then this:

Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. (4:5-6)

Am I to run from the culture — the traditions of men? I suppose if that’s the only way I can be sure someone won’t take me captive, but as a general rule, it seems to me we’re to stay where we are, surrounded by the traditions of men, but we’re to make sure we don’t get caught in their sway. We need to recognize them for what they are — empty deception — and live accordingly.

Published in: on September 16, 2011 at 7:35 pm  Comments Off on Traditions Of Men  
Tags: ,

Celebrity Christians?


A few years ago when I was leaving a noted Christian writers’ conference, I was sitting with others in a van, waiting to head off to the airport. As I gazed out the window, I saw our conference speaker exit the hotel and step to the curb where a limousine awaited. After the bags, the speaker piled in and was whisked away.

Mind you, this individual’s name is well-known by Christians, but nothing I observed during the conference made me think I was listening to someone who felt entitled or stuck on themselves. Rather the opposite. But the limo created a divide.

On another occasion I watched writers flock to a speaker like groupies to a ball player. One editor noted that at conferences he was treated like a rock star. Not so long ago two friends, commenting on different occasions, mentioned a writer who paraded about very much like a rock star.

And we’re talking about Christians.

Some years ago after a church service, I had something I wanted to discuss with my (now former) pastor. The problem was, I had to wait in a fairly long line, not because people wanted to shake his hand but because they wanted him to autograph their bulletins.

What’s more, a few years ago I wrote a short piece that was printed on the back of our weekly, and a friend asked me to autograph it.

We live in a celebrity culture, as PR pro Rebeca Seitz (Glass Road Public Relations and Reclaim Management) pointed out in her 2010 Mount Hermon workshops. We can wish things were different, but this is the time and the culture in which God has placed us — a culture preoccupation with celebrities.

So what’s a Christian to do, embrace the way the world works? Should Christians become groupies, flocking to the name-author as if being in his shadow makes us Somebody, too? Should name authors take full advantage of their status and accept perks or adulation, or even expect such?

My inclination is to see what Scripture says that might give an answer to these questions. Nowhere do I see instructions for how to treat celebrities. I see instructions for how to treat neighbors and enemies and fellow Christians and parents and spouses and children and God and rulers and false teachers, but nothing about celebrities. Could it be, then, that we are not to put celebrity Christians in their own category or treat them any differently than we treat other Christians?

And what about Mr. or Ms. Well-know Christian Author?

I don’t see in Scripture that Jesus said, If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet — except for you celebrities.

In the book of Philippians Paul used Jesus, probably the person in Scripture who received the kind of treatment closest to that given to today’s celebrities, as an example of humility. The qualities he highlighted were Christ’s willingness to give up status, to take the role of a servant, and to sacrifice Himself.

Those are very un-celebrity-like traits.

Paul and Barnabas received celebrity treatment once. After healing a lame man in Lystra, the crowds wanted to worship them. Literally. They were ready to crown them with garlands and to offer sacrifices to them.

Groupies today don’t go that far, do they?

The truth is, the way we express adulation has changed. Animal sacrifice isn’t the accepted method, but we still give those few famous the kind of recognition once given to self-proclaimed gods — people like the Egyptian Pharaohs and the Roman Caesars.

Paul and Barnabas wouldn’t put up with it.

But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you (Act 14:14-15a)

So what am I saying? Should well-known authors not give autographs or pose for pictures? Should they wear a button saying, “I’m just like you”? Hardly. In fact, that kind of behavior, though well intentioned, could actually come across as elitist, as if the Name Author is too good to have his picture taken with a lowly No Name.

I guess the bottom line, for the famous and the not so famous is this: what matters most is our heart attitude. Our behavior should be its reflection.

If we are following Christ’s example of humility, we shouldn’t have a problem treating others with respect.

The famous aren’t idols and they aren’t property. They are people. And the not so famous aren’t unimportant, nor are they something to avoid stepping in. They, too, are people.

Finally, in a celebrity culture, it’s probably inevitable that well-known Christians will be marked as Somebody Famous. Wisdom would seem to say, however, that Average Christian shouldn’t jump on that bandwagon. And Celebrity Christian shouldn’t either — no one says a celebrity has to act like a celebrity.

Published in: on September 14, 2011 at 1:54 pm  Comments (9)  
Tags: , , , ,

Examples And Patterns


In a recent post “Art: Painting Inside The Lines” I mentioned God providing Moses with a pattern for the tabernacle He commanded the people of Israel to construct. This idea of creating a pattern seems to be one of God’s ways of working.

In a very bold, dramatic move, He chose a people of no special standing and set them apart to be holy as He was holy. The idea was, the nations around Israel would see this relationship God had with His chosen people and how He blessed them, and they would therefore acknowledge God as God.

First God set Himself up as the standard of holiness. Next He set Israel up as the model for relationship.

In another bold move, He later gave His Son as the One to whom believers are to be conformed. In other words, Jesus is the “gold standard,” and we are to allow God to mold us and make us after His image.

The Apostle Paul even writes that we are to be imitators of him as he is an imitator of Christ.

Patterns, examples, standards. You’d almost conclude a model is worth a thousand pictures, and we know what a picture is worth.

Here’s my question. How is it that Christendom has adopted so much of the culture, as if the culture is the pattern, the standard, the example?

We see it in churches that adopt a “business model” and try to “sell” Christianity or their own local assembly.

We see it in Christians trying to produce a moral nation rather than working to make disciples as Jesus instructed.

We see it in Christian bloggers who decide to “heresy hunt” rather than love our neighbors when Jesus clearly said our love would be what the world would be attracted to.

But I have to bring it home to my own industry. We see it in Christian writers who imitate secular writers and popular content rather than setting the standard and dictating the trends.

I just read a somewhat related blog post by Rebeca Seitz—not about writing but about marketing/promotion, not about content but about strategy. That’s OK, I think her point is well made.

We can fuss and fume and complain, or we can lead. Set the pattern. Invite others to follow.

Of course I don’t think that’s something a Christian should decide apart from God’s direction. Even in our leading, we still need to be followers first.

Published in: on September 22, 2010 at 5:36 pm  Comments Off on Examples And Patterns  
Tags: , , , , ,

More Mount Hermon, 2010


If you’ve been around A Christian Worldview of Fiction for any length of time, you already know I think the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference is topnotch. Every time I go, I learn more about writing and the business end of publishing, meet more writers, and get more inspiration.

This past conference was no exception.

I arrived a day early, having driven up from SoCal with Rachel Marks and Merrie Destefano (yes, the award winners!) That night I attended the Early Bird session taught by Austin Boyd (no picture! What was I thinking??)

The full conference started the next day with the noon meal (you can hardly call the abundant food provided by Mount Hermon “lunch”), followed by separate orientations for the first timers and the alumni. Author James Scott Bell taught the session for the latter group. About half way through, he invited agent Steve Laube to join him. They held an interesting dialogue about agent stuff. 😉

I had the privilege of sitting at Steve’s table for dinner that night for the purpose of asking him if he ever looks at a work he’s rejected a second time (he does). I was impressed by how much help he gave each of us, even those just getting started who aren’t close to the agent stage. He brainstormed ideas with everyone, listened to projects, and asked intelligent questions.

Later I thought to ask him for an appointment. When we met the last full day of the conference, he was just as engaged, and gave me some helpful suggestions. A+ for Steve Laube. 😀

A good part of my conference time was spent in Rebeca Seitz‘s Major Morning Track—Painless, Purposeful Publicity. I took one picture which is good for blackmail, but this one gives you the real Rebeca. As head of Glass Road Public Relations, Rebeca was full of information about the promotion side of publishing. She had stats and studies, anecdotes and outlines.

I’m nowhere near this part of the process, but I like to be informed. Rebeca gave us loads of info, all from the perspective of what an author can do.

I’ll be honest—there’s so much that at one point I thought my only hope, should I become a published author, would be to hire a PR firm. But that, of course, is crossing the stream before I know if I need to get to the other side.

More on Mount Hermon another day.

Mount Hermon in a Nutshell


I don’t think I can ever do justice in a blog post to a writer’s conference like the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference. Much of the value comes from the interaction with the people, and most of these are unplanned. Well … by me, anyway. I’m pretty sure God planned them from before the beginning of time! 😉

Some years, I’ve learned practical writing technique information or had especially helpful critiques. Other years the Keynote speaker has had wonderful, humorous, helpful things to say. Then there have been years when I learned more about the business side of things, especially how books are actually acquired.

This year’s conference was different. Yes, I had a great Major Morning Track with Rebeca Seitz of Glass Road Public Relations, LLC. But I think the over all value for me was two-fold.

One came in the people I encountered. From unexpected sources I received ideas, encouragement, support. There were unlikely connections, such as learning that Deb Raney calls home the little town my family moved to the one year we lived in Kansas, or meeting Doug Wolven, a new writer and first-time Mount Hermon attender who lives a mile or so from my place.

Other folks seemed divinely placed in my path to give me a piece of information I needed at a timely moment. Carol was one such person, Wendy another, and Kim, a third.

In a fiction class, I was most surprised by what became, from my perspective, the second great aspect of Mount Hermon this year. Author Marlo Schalesky started the workshop by getting on what she called her soapbox.

She said, to write because we want to isn’t good enough. Christians are called by God to affect lives. If we as writers can show readers God, from wherever we stand, they will know Him better. Story can be the vehicle because it is powerful; it can move and change people.

I love that focus.