Observations on the Passing Scene – 3.4.17

I am constantly making observations about the world around me, but have rarely shared them in writing. I usually reserve them for candid conversations with those who help me process my observations to the point of understanding. I value this practice, because it seems like we can lose sight of the shifting environment around us.

And just like the frog slowly boiling in the pot of water, we can be surprised by how sharply yet subtly our surroundings have changed.

The current state of affairs in our nation has lead to some interesting observations.

Not-my-President’s Day:

Donald Trump is a polarizing President in already polarized times for our nation.

I voted for him. He was not my first choice, but nonetheless I voted for him. I was as surprised as anyone when he won (and I have my electoral predictions to prove it).

And based on our process, he was elected President. Now, nearly half the nation did NOT vote for him, so I recognize the sentiment behind rejecting him because he does not represent your vote.

However, he is still the President. He may not represent your values or your vote, but he is in fact your President.
This may be troubling to you, and I understand that.

This sentiment is widely expressed, but is there any room for this for us? (By us, I mean followers of Christ)

I would argue no. Because we know that the Lord establishes those in positions of authority (Romans 13).  We are all subject to the law and to the government officials placed in positions of authority.

I think it would be wise for us to take a step back and ask: Am I being a source of division, or a source of unity?

Our nation is divided enough as it is. This same nation needs to see a united Church, looking to Jesus for answers, because looking to Washington DC will leave us lacking every time.

Lawlessness:

Why have we become so comfortable with the breaking of laws?
Lawlessness is almost celebrated in our current culture. We have even had government officials allowing riots and the destruction of property to continue without taking action in a timely fashion.

Consider that: the very people elected to uphold the law allowing lawlessness to continue much longer than it should.

This is troubling to me.
Why? Because to me it reflects the subtle but steady moral decline of our society. This is not a social issue. This is not a political issue. It is a spiritual issue.

If you don’t believe me, at least take a quick look at your Bible and see all of the times lawlessness is mentioned.

Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.
1 John 3:4

You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; this is why God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of joy rather than Your companions.
Hebrews 1:9

These are just a couple of examples pulled from the countless in Scripture. It is humbling to consider how the continual, ongoing practice of sin is tantamount to lawlessness.

Pretty serious stuff here.

Disagree without being Disagreeable

I was having a conversation with a few friends of mine who represent the opposite end of the political spectrum. We were having a candid conversation about the current state of affairs. I stated my positions, they stated theirs.
And in all of this, something amazing happened.

We didn’t fight, curse, snarl, character assassinate, name call, etc. We simple left the conversation and went on our way with a better understanding of opposing views.

It seems we are losing this art. The art of disagreeing without being disagreeable.

How do we regain this ability? Outside of just generally being respectful of everyone, I have discovered that it helps to practice empathy. A simple “Why?” can go a long way in aiding understanding.

Consider your background.
When I consider mine, it is not a surprise that I hold more conservative views.

I was

  • Raised in the Southeast
  • By middle class Christian parents
  • Including a father in law enforcement
  • And then I joined the military at age 20

I went to one of the most progressive universities in the country but that experience could not overwhelm the factors mentioned above.
My worldview was set. And the person you are talking to/disagreeing with, has the very same set of inputs influencing their views.

Disagree without being Disagreeable.

My Word for 2017

“For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war.”

2 Chronicles 16:9

For the past few years I have adopted the practice of selecting a word for the year. Last year it was new, the year before that it was steadfast, and the year prior to that it was sacrifice.

This year, the word I have selected is fully. My purpose in selecting this word was very simple: I want to be a fully committed follower of Jesus. The question I have asked myself is “What does it mean to be fully committed in —insert aspect of my life—?”

In other translations of the verse above, the word fully is written as perfect and can be defined as whole.

We can all relate to this image. Imagine if our level of commitment to the Lord was represented by this battery icon, what would yours look like?

In your relationships? In your finances? With your time? What does fully committed look like to you?

The Bible has a lot to say about the devotion of our hearts. Consider this sobering excerpt about the wisest man ever –

“As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been.”

What did Solomon do as a result of this?

He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD; he did not follow the LORD completely, as David his father had done.”

There are always consequences to our actions. What were the consequences in the case of Solomon?

“The LORD became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice.”

So the LORD said to Solomon, “Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates.

Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son.”

1 Kings 11:4-6, 9, 11-12

Consider the greatness of Solomon. Consider the wisdom of Solomon. Even he suffered the consequences of a divided heart. How is this possible?

Consider the consequences for King Asa in 2 Chronicles 16:9. His foolish actions as a result of partial devotion to the Lord resulted in serious negative consequences.

Consider the image below. A compass. When using a compass it is critical that you are pointing in the right direction. It becomes even more critical the farther you travel in the direction you choose. A minor mistake at the outset can lead you astray by a huge margin as you travel great distances.

Our lives are like that too. I think this is why the Lord is looking for fully devoted followers, because partial devotion still leads us astray as we travel great distances in our lives. It seems that partial devotion is really no devotion at all because you end up missing the mark anyway.

Imagine the story of Solomon as if your name replaced his. Imagine the idols Solomon fell prey to reflected more contemporary idols. For me it would read something like this:

“As Brian grew old, his earthly desires turned his heart towards money, status, selfishness and comfort. His heart was less and less devoted to the Lord and he missed out on all God had for him. He hoarded his money and spent it on selfish pursuits leaving his family wanting for his attention. His children suffered as their father neglected them, and his marriage was never what it could have been. He missed countless opportunities to have an eternal impact. At the end of his life, the Lord showed him how he had missed the mark and Brian died knowing that he could have lived so much better.”

Wow. Even writing that breaks my heart. I do not want that to be my story. Nobody does.

The good news is, there is hope.

Remember

“For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him”

The Lord is looking throughout the ENTIRE earth to STRENGTHEN those whose hearts are FULLY His.

This year, and beyond, He is going to find me.

Journal Entry: October 9th 2016

October 9th, 2016

In some ways, I have allowed politics to become an idol. Maybe THE idol in my life right now. I follow it incessantly, yet hardly pray for my country, or open my Bible. I KNOW the truth, and the truth is that my country is not what I want it to be. Our values are not what I want them to be.

But doesn’t that miss the point? Is God not sovereign?
The answer of course is yes, but my idolatry and obsession over this election means that I am living more like it is a “no”.
Humbling indeed.

Both of our primary candidates are so deeply and fundamentally flawed. I recognize we are all deeply and fundamentally flawed, but can you recall a time where both candidates are such a far cry from anything resembling submission to the authority of God? This troubles me, but probably not for the right reasons as I think about it.

It troubles me because it means that the America that I have in my mind, that I believed would be present in my future, is fading rapidly. This America had strong Judeo-Christian values, was proud of what it meant to be an American and all that came with that.

This identity is dying and it breaks my heart. But it also means that (selfishly) my life will be harder. Prosperity will be threatened, my values will be of the minority and maybe even censored before too long.

So what are the right reasons for being troubled by this? Obviously the moral decline of our leadership is indicative of the moral decline of our nation. Wayward morality always has consequences. History has proved this time and time again. Heck, you don’t even need the Bible to see it but I believe Scripture provides the most coherent explanation.

Say what you want about the Founding Fathers, because many say they weren’t Christians. I don’t argue that here, I will say that they did view the world with a moral framework. There was a starting point, a foundation of morality that they looked to for inspiration and guidance.

We are losing this framework. We have no foundation or starting point to look to. And like a house without a strong frame or a body without bones, we fall in on ourselves.

There will be suffering and more suffering. Physical, psychological, social, economic. This is probably the saddest part of this, but also the greatest opportunity because suffering forces us to ask some pretty big questions.

What is the purpose of this?
Why do I suffer?
Is there any hope?

It is here that I return, because the answers to these questions, and the example of our lives is where the Church is indeed Salt and Light.

Salt prevents decay. Light shines brightest in the darkness.

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:13-16

The Gospel: Watch, Hear, Experience

The Gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ and His redemption of our sins. I read this. I know this. I have said this and I believe this. But, what does it look like? Jesus arrived on the scene in human flesh 2,000 years ago, and has appeared in various mediums of art for the last 2,000 years. We have depictions of Him all over the world. What does the Gospel look like? What does it sound like today?

Change gears for a moment:

I appreciate artistic expression and I believe this is a manifestation of God in me. In all of us. The Creator of light, sight, sound, hearing, flavor, taste, colors and everything in between left his imprint on us. Being created in His image means so much more than appearance.

The art of communication is my preferred medium (those that have experienced the horror of me singing or observed my drawing skills will back me up on this). This art is increasingly robust in the Christian faith and with the technological advances of the last decade, we have access to SO MUCH great content. I have included some of my favorites below! I hope and pray you enjoy watching, hearing, and experiencing the Gospel in a whole new way!

John 3:16 – The Story of Love

G.O.S.P.E.L.

The Story of God

Comment below with some of your favorites and I will be sure to watch, hear, and experience the Gospel again!