A Wider War?

War is a terrible thing. It’s also an old thing. Unimaginably old.

There is evidence in the Bible that there was a war in the heavnelies before there was even an earth. And that that conflict spilled over onto this planet at some point, with horrific, far-reaching consequences.

But every once in a while a war, with all the horror one entails, resolves things. Leaves things more stable and more conducive to human flourishing than if low-level, simmering, festering, attritional, “peace” had continued.

These are my thoughts today as I have a strong sense that war is coming. A war on a broader scale that what we’re witnessing in southern Israel and Gaza. A war that actively involves U.S. forces.

Again, war is ugly. It should not be romanticized, glamorized, or clamored for. But my sense is also that the aftermath of what’s coming, whatever it looks like, will leave things better for a lot of people who have suffered under oppression for far too long.

It’s just a sense . . . a feeling. Perhaps I’m wrong. I hope so.

Here’s what I know with great certainty . . .

God doesn’t cause all things. But He does cause all things to work together for the good of His people. (Romans 8:28) That, I know.

I also know that nothing catches our Heavenly Father by surprise. And that King Jesus is presently ruling in the midst of His enemies. (Psalm 110:1-2) And of the increase of His kingdom, and of peace, there shall be no end. (Isaiah 9:7)

Book Review: Finding the Right Hills to Die On

I was in Scotland. And over a warm brown ale so thick you could almost eat it with a spoon, I was getting to know a Baptist pastor I’d just met. (When in Scotland . . . !) I was looking forward to discussing one of my favorite 19th century Scottish Baptist preachers, Alexander MacLaren.

My companion outlined his journey in ministry for me, and mentioned how he’d started among the “Strict Baptists” but then later took a church affiliated with the “Particular Baptists” before ultimately finding himself in the non-denominational space. He recalled how he had once been asked if he was affiliated with a third denomination—the “Strict & Particular Baptists.” His smiled as he recounted in a gravelly Scottish highlands brogue his playful reply to that question, “Ahhh, I suppose I am a wee bit strict, but I’m not especially particular.”

That conversation revealed to me that over the last couple of centuries, the Baptists of Great Britain have divided and atomized into ever-more granular particles. (With their collective influence diminished with each divorce.) Today there are Regular Baptists, Union Baptists, General Baptists, United Baptists, Strict Baptists, Particular Baptists, and, of course, Strict & Particular Baptists, just to mention a few of dozens. 

Of course, one can easily trace similarly branching family trees among any and every Protestant denomination. It’s tough to make a credible argument that the Body of Christ is under-fragmented.

It seems there is no more deeply entrenched habit among Christians than to fall out with one another over some difference in doctrine. Many of those differences tend to seem quite minor to the dispassionate outside observer. 

Which brings me to Gavin Ortlund’s important book. 

What is indeed “minor?” And what’s a big deal? Finding the Right Hills to Die On is Ortlund’s valiant and extremely helpful effort to at least provide us some tools for answering those questions.

In the first half of this quick and engaging read, he makes a powerful case for what he calls “Theological Triage.” That is an intentional and thoughtful sorting of differences into Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary. Before that, he outlines the ditches on either side of the path he’s taking us down. Namely, either being too picky or not picky enough. 

The second half is practical application of the principles he set forth in the first half. He then concludes with a short section titled, “A Call to Theological Humility which, alone, is worth the price of admission. Here’s a quote from that conclusion, one that reflects the very humility for which the author is calling: 

In this book I am less concerned with convincing others of the particular judgements I have made and more concerned that, even where we disagree, we do so in a spirit of trembling before the word of God. This attitude is both the ground and the goal of theological triage.

Gavin Ortlund–Finding the Right Hills to Die On

Here’s why you need to read this book. It is the same reason I needed to.

Most of us have heard the noble bromide about doctrinal differences: “In the essentials, unity. In the non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity.” 

All heads tend to nod when it is uttered. What few believers know is who first expressed those words. Or when. It was an early 17th century Lutheran theologian named Rupertus Meldenius. He wrote those words in the middle of the Thirty Years War—the conflict that soaked the soil of central Europe in blood over sectarian differences. Estimates of deaths range between five million and eight million souls. 

Which hills to die on indeed. 

What’s the Attraction? How to Comprehend the Incomprehensible.

As you know, last week Hamas revealed itself to be “ISIS 2.0.” As you also know, Hamas’ surprise attack on Israel on the 50th Anniversary of the “Yom Kippur War,” and the savagery that followed, sparked celebratory rallies in places like London, NYC, and Sydney. (As well as countless college campuses.)

Because of where I live and what I do for a living, I travel among people who are largely conservative and Christian. So, I’ve seen and heard their questions everywhere recently. Questions I’ve heard from my bride over the last week. Those questions?

Why would people who say they value:

  • tolerance for LGBTQQ+ individuals;
  • equality for women;
  • Abortion access;
  • Socialist economics; and
  • democracy (Now!)

. . . side with Hamas–an Islamic terrorist organization–over Israel? Why would many Leftist organizations in America–particularly those on college campuses–try to rationalize and sanctify the barbarous murder of civilians, including women, infants, and the elderly?

Especially given that Israeli society embodies all of those values in that bulleted list above.

I recently described Tel Aviv and Haifa to a friend as cross between NYC without the skyscrapers and South Beach, Miami.

In a saner world, American Progressives would view Israel as a shining example of what they want America to be. But that is not the world we’re living in. (Below: Gay pride parade in Israel) Again, why?

Gay pride parade in Israel.

Seemingly every Christian I talk to, my sweet wife included, is bewildered and stunned at every image of a Pro-Palestine protest and every instance of seemingly intellgient political leaders who just can’t bring themselves to call murder and barbarism what they really are. Their jaws hang open as LGTBQQ+ activists proclaim support for a medieval system that would happily kill them and all their friends if given the opportunity.

They listen in disbelief as Harvard professors and congresswomen and professional talking heads describe Hamas’ invaders as “resistance” to an “occupation” that actually ended in 2005 with Ariel Sharon’s catastrophic return of Gaza to Palestinian control.

Many are quick to attribute it all to “anti-semitism” but I don’t think it’s nearly as simple as that. The ancient impulse of anti-semitism has spiritual roots that go back to Satan’s rage at a remnant of Israel bringing His destroyer, the Redeemer, into the world. But anti-Semitism is merely a thread in a much more colorful tapestry that is now on full display. To explain what I mean, allow me to regroup and take you back to last Monday.

Sassy Weather Apps and Apologists for Butchery

Monday, October 9 was Columbus Day; and Hamas’ Iran-funded invasion of Israel by air, land, and sea was roughly 48 hours old.

Now, I need to explain that I have a quirky weather app. It’s called Carrot and when you install it you can dial-in precisly how snarky you want it to be, on a scale from “bland,” to “somewhat snarky,” all the way up to “brutal.” I, of course, chose the “Snarky” setting. On typical days, the current weather summary includes a remark like this one, displayed just now as I’m writing this post:

These random comments are usually just goofy. But on Monday morning . . . I wish I had screen grabbed it . . . I launched the app and it said something along the lines of, “It’s Columbus Day. Let’s celebrate the mass murder of millions of people!”

The connection may not be immediately evident, but the view about Christopher Columbus tapped out by the clever twenty-something employee at the company which created Carrot, is very much of a piece with the views of the very groups that view Hamas as the righteous “resistance” in the current war. They have all been drinking from the same poisoned well–both philosophically and spiritually.

It’s groups like: The 1619 Project, BLM, Antifa, Democracy Now!, the mega-corporate champions of DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion), militant LGBT alphabet soup orgs, the identity poltics obsessed, the “de-colonisers,”and the usual stealth marxists in the major universities and teachers’ unions that have been chugging water from that well for a while now. A couple of generations of young people were raised on it.

The view that Columbus was unambiguously evil and the protests in New York, Sydney, and London celebrating the slaughter of grandmothers and babies in Israel are tiles in the same mosaic picture.

Want to understand why the members of BLM Chicago and Harvard Pride hate Israel so much they’ll cheer the slaughter of infants. Settle in. Stick with me and the world will likely make more sense to you than it does right now.

Clash of Civilizations

Right after 9/11 many smart people suggested reading one particular book if you wanted to understand why Al Qaeda militants flew airplaines into buildings in New York and Washington D.C.. So I did. I’m glad I did so.

The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order by Samuel Huntington came out only five weeks before the 9/11 attacks.

In it, Huntington points out that the world could (and still can) be viewed as a collection of “civilzations.” China, India, Russia, and Subsaharan Africa are all representative of individual civilizations.

There is an Islamic civilization that spans the Middle East, North Africa, and parts of Southeastern Asia. And then there is Western Civilization, centered in Europe, with a specific expression of it residing in England, Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand.

All civilizations, including ours, spring from a religious/spiritual foundation.

  • Indian . . . Hindu
  • African . . . Animism
  • Chinese . . . Confucianism and Folk Religion
  • Islamic . . . (take a guess)
  • Western Civilization . . . Christianity

It is significant that Winston Churchill used the terms Western Civilzation and Christian Civilization interchangebly. He understood something that many people, including many Christians, do not. Namely that the spread and deep rooting of Christianity across Europe ultimately created the greatest conditions for human flourishing the planet had ever seen.

In other posts (like this one) I’ve pointed to the work of academics like Rodney Stark and Tom Holland, who have demonstrated brilliantly and persuasively how Christianity made modern science and progress possible. Christianity leads to human flourishing because God is for human flourishing. It is He who so loved the world . . .

Christianity produced a civilization that, as it matured: found slavery abhorrent, elevated the status of women, fostered social mobility (the ability of lower class individuals to rise to higher levels through hard work and ingenuity), and raised living standards for all.

For reasons rooted in the “Unseen Realm” of the spirit, different religions produce different types of civilizations. Even different forms of Christianity produce varying types of cultures or civilizations. You may have noticed that Roman Catholic nations such as those in southern Europe and Latin America get levels of prosperity and stability that are different from the nations with Protestant foundations. Likewise, the Russian Orthodox version of Christianity produced a few of the benefits seen elsewhere, but not all of them.

So let me cut to the big thesis statement of this post and then follow it up with some explanation and defense: Israel is hated by Hamas for the same reason it is despised by American, British, and Australian leftists. They detest Western Civilization, and . . .

Israel is an island of Western Civilization in a sea of pagan, Islamic Civilization.

Which is why the rallying cry for Palestinian extremists and terrorist organizations is: “Palestine Must Be Free, From the River to the Sea.” Over the decades, Palestinian leaders have repeatedly been offered a “Two State Solution” in which they could could operate as a sovereign, autonomous nation, living in peace beside Israel. They have consistently rejected those solutions.

No, for them the only acceptable solution is the removal of all aspects of modernity and Western Civilization from land once controlled by Islamic Civilization.

It’s an expression of the larger “clash of civilizations” that has defined much of the world for the last 30 years. Western (Christian) civilization VS Islamic civilization. And although not expressly “Christian,” Israel is an island of Wester Civ. In a sea of Islamic Civ. And therefore must be eradicated.

That explains why Muslims across the Middle East despise Israel. But it also holds the key to why the BLM-ers and DEI-ers and 2SLGBTQQ+-ers and “decolonisers” in America despise Israel, too.

They all are operating from a (spiritually rooted) deception about Western Civilization. They view it as uniquely evil. They view it as the source of all oppression and slavery and stolen-land occupying.

Again, the roots to all of this are spiritual and connected to a spiritual conflict that has been underway since Jesus, having just restored “all authority in heaven and on earth” to Himself, sat down at the right hand of the Father in order to observe the making of “His enemies a footstool.” (See Matthew 28:18; Hebrews 10:13; and I Corinthians 15:24-27)

This conflict has been playing out for nearly 2000 years.

This hell-spawned hatred for Christian Civilization is the same thing that causes leftists (including feminist orgs and LGBTQ orgs) in the West to by sympathetic to Iran, even though Iran hangs gays and forces women to wear the hijab. And why both the Obama and Biden administrations have fallen all over themselves to cozy up to Iran. (It’s very much the Apostle John’s “spirit of antichrist” that he said was already in the world when he was writing his epistles.)

I don’t view the world through the lens of race, but BLM/Antifa/DEI does–obsessively and completely. Their narrative views Western Civilazation as “White” and as the root of all evil in the world. In their delusion, Western Civ. is always the “Oppressor” and any non-white cultures must be “The Oppressed.”

Take note that the Israeli-Palestinian situation fits this narrative perfectly. The same feminist and gay groups that side with Iran, side with Palestine against Israel.

This is why they furiously hate the very system that has produced all of the things they claim to value. It is why they hack furiously at the branch they, and all of us, are sitting on.

None of that makes sense unless you understand the spiritual dynamics of the (anti-christ) anti-Western cult. And make no mistake . . . it’s a religious cult.

Yes, it’s distressing to watch. But there is comfort in knowing that God determined long ago how this conflict will end. And He is as patient as He is kind.

A Story is Never JUST a Story

Okay this is just for fun. Don’t take this (or me) too seriously here.

Writing and storytelling is my chosen profession. I’ve studied the craft for roughly 40 years. One central thing I’ve learned is we humans are wired to receive and be influenced by story. I know that if I need to persuade you of something or sell you something, I’m much better off telling you a story than bombarding you with information (facts and data).

Jesus knew this. So do the best preachers and teachers. As do the best salesmen and propagandists.

Sometimes the storyteller isn’t fully aware of what he or she is selling. There are themes and agendas that can make their way into stories through psychological, subconcious, and even spiritual pathways.

I once invested several fascinated hours listening to Jordan Peterson unpack the biblical and Jungian archetypes embedded in the children’s story Pinnochio.

All of this, as my wife will attest, makes me always on alert for what script writers and documentarians are trying to sell me. We can’t watch anything on television without me dissecting the worldview, the assumptions, or the agenda of the creators. And a media creator without an agenda is the rarest of all birds these days.

Which brings me to a recent post of mine on Facebook about the trailer for Disney’s upcomng new children’s movie, Wish.

I know t will shock you to learn that I have some thoughts. But first, a couple of disclaimers.

  • I’m not a fan of some online folks who seemingly specialize in trying to get people worked up, freaked out, alarmed, or enraged about {the current thing.} I’ve been pretty focused the last few years on getting my loved ones and friends to chill out a little. So for every one distressing or alarming thing I post, I try to post 20 or 30 uplifting, heartwarming, or funny things.
  • Also . . . I’m not the guy who’s going to try to gin up a boycott. Sure, I quietly boycott a lot of companies and products that make it clear in various ways that they don’t want the business of my “ilk.” (I always wanted to have an ilk. Now it seems I do!) So I take them at their word. But I don’t need all my friends to join me in shunning them. I figure you can make those choices for yourself.

Having said that, I am a grandfather. And I have keen interest in what the popular culture is trying to sell my “littles” this week. So when the trailer for Wish popped up in a Twitter post this week, I watched it. What I saw stunned me. That’s not an exaggeration.

Before I continue, give it a watch.

Cute, right? Typical evil, powerful adversary being taken on by the unlikely protagonist. It’s as old a story as David vs. Goliath.

Actually, it’s a much older story than that.

Watch the trailer again, but this time mentially substitute the term “prayers” when you see “wishes” . . . and see if it doesn’t take on a different tone for you.

This isn’t David vs. Goliath. It’s Eve vs. God. (Seriously, Dave?) Stay with me, let’s break down the archetypes and symbolism here, Jordan Peterson style. Here’s what I saw in this two-minute, twenty-two second clip . . .

Exhibit A: The setting is an island off the coast of Spain. You have a King ruling a kingdom and a people called “Rosas.” The people are literally called “Reds.” In Genesis, the Hebrew word for “mankind” is a’dam (ruddy or red).

Exhibit B: The king has magical (supernatural) powers. And he loves to be adored (worshipped) by his subjects. (Is this a God archetype? And a patriarchial God stereotype, to boot?) Please note . . .

Exhibit C: All of king’s subjects send UP their wishes to the king so he can grant them. But not all wishes (prayers) get granted. The king’s explanation for this is that granting some wishes would not be in the best interests of the wishers.

Exhibit D: Our protaganist is named Asha. Asha happens to be a very important word/concept in the Zoroastrian religion that was prominent in Iran and parts of India before the Islamic conquest. In Zoroastrianism, Asha means truth or rightness or righteousness. The word/name has deep roots in ancient India and Iran, possibly rooted in myths about the cosmic conflict betwen truth and deception/lies.

Exhibit E: Asha is invited by the king to become an “apprentice.” An apprentice is a subordinate learner with delegated authority.

Exhibit F: Asha seems to learn that the king has selfish motives for refusing to grant everyone’s wishes. The King claims to be benevolent and have his subjects well-being in mind, but Asha seems to suspect that he’s really just holding out on everyone for his own vain purposes.

Exhibit G: Asha ends up under some sort of special, luminescent TREE. And there she interacts with a STAR. The brightest one in the sky. She sings: “So I look up to the stars to guide me. And throw caution to every warning sign . . .” We then hear her saying, “Last night I made a wish on a star. And the star answered!”

Exhibit H: The star comes down (falls?) and becomes her guide and empowerer in opposing the wicked king. (As you certinaly know, in biblical symbolism, “stars” represent both angels and fallen angels. And the leader of the fallen angels, Lucifer, is seemingly called a “morning star” in Isaiah 14:12. If this is indeed the veiled metaphor of the film, this chubby, adorable little star that becomes her new mentor (replacing the king) is the cutest “Lucifer” in movie history.

Exhibit I: Under the star’s direction, the newly empowered Asha begins to make “improvements” to the world. We hear the king say, “I believe I have just been threatened.” His queen asks, “Who would dare threaten you.”

Okay let’s sum this up.

Upon my first viewing I saw the metaphor of the Genesis account, but told from Satan’s twisted perspective. In Genesis a girl who had been invited to be the King’s image-bearer and apprentice is led to suspect that the King is holding out her and her fellow subjects. She questions his truthfulness.

A astral being appears and, at a tree, offers her what the King is deceptively withholding from her. Empowered by a different source of “magic” she will make everything better.

Of course, THAT is the big lie the first couple fell for and people have falling for ever since.

Am I imagining things? Perhaps.

Am I suspiciously imposing a narrative that isn’t there? Quite possibly! (But I think I come by my suspicions honestly.)

It’s only 2:22 out of a full-length movie. Will this analysis fall apart when the whole is revealed. I hope so!

All I know is that the Disney corporation has shown itself to be no friend of those who take the biblical narratives and revelation seriously as a source of truth and life. Quite the contrary.

I also know the enemy of our souls has a multi-milennia-long history of trying to portray our loving heavenly Father as precisely the kind of “king” we see in that trailer. Make of that whatever you will.

Again: My hope is that the trailer is tricking us into thinking the king is the bad guy. And that it will be revealed that the star is really the trickster here. It would make it a perfect and brilliant metaphor for the real Genesis story. But given that the folks who created Wish were behind Frozen, that’s a lot to hope for.

UPDATE: Here’s a reviewer for the San Diego Reader who saw precisely what I suspected from just watching the trailer. He says the movie “takes aim at the Judeo-Christian God.” Not surprisingly, the reviewer thinks this is a good thing.

And Amy Nicholson, a reviewer for the New York Times writes: “Oddly — and rather fascinatingly — this is a film about a spiritual revolution. Can Asha, a humanist, convince the islanders to reject the man in the embroidered robe who preaches that he alone is a conduit for miracles?”

Mysteries . . . Solved! Troubling Sayings . . . Clarified! Faith . . . Strengthened!

Have you ever wondered what Jesus drew in the dust when presented with “the woman caught in adultery?” Have you ever winced at Jesus’ seemingly brusque treatment of the Syrophonecian woman with the possessed daughter. Does Jesus really expect us to pluck out an eye or cut off a hand if they cause us to sin? Did Jesus Really call Satan “The ruler of this World?” Jesus Kills a Defenseless Tree? Why? What the . . . 

If we’re being real . . . not religious . . . real . . . we can all admit that, from time to time we read a verse or a passage in the Bible and say . . . “Wait . . . what?” Or, “What was THAT?” That is even true with the “red letters” in our Bibles. Yes, even some of the sayings (and doings) of Jesus are mysterious and, when we read them, they leave us scratching our heads. Those “red letter’s contain a lot of surprises. A few shocks. Even some scandals!

Get it here: https://tinyurl.com/NewestEBook

A Little Good News for Non-Fiction Writers About Readers

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

There is plenty of depressing news for writers floating around out there.

You may have seen the statistics about how fewer and fewer people actually want to “read” to absorb content online. Increasing numbers, we’re told, would rather push “play” on a video than have to read words to get information or entertainment.

Then there is the explosion in podcast consumption that parallels a rise in the popularity of audio books. This is primarily because of over-scheduled lifestyles in which you can’t read while commuting or running on a treadmill. But you can listen.

But the worst news I’ve heard is embedded in a statistic I’ve heard several people cite recently. It involves some variation of: “The average/typical non-fiction book reader only reads the first 20% of a book.” The usual takeaway advice from this is: “Put your best and most important content right at the front of the book so at least that part gets read.”

Now, sadly, in the book publishing ecosystem only the writer cares very much at all about whether a book actually gets . . . you know . . . READ. Everyone else’s concern is whether or not a book gets SOLD–and understandably so. The agent, the publisher, and the bookseller are completely focused on whether or not people BUY your book. To them, it doesn’t really matter whether or not the buyers ever read it or not.

Of course, we non-fiction writers do what we do because we long to inspire, inform, move, persuade, and illuminate. And we can’t accomplish any of those things if our books are bought but remain unread. Or even only the first 20% read.

Here’s the thing. I have no doubt that well-written fiction books get read much more deeply. And I’m confident that really good “page-turner” fiction books get read all the way to their exciting conclusions.

Well the same should be true of a well-crafted non-fiction work.

“Well-crafted” is doing a lot of heavy lifting in that previous sentence. You seen I read a lot of non-fiction and the vast majority of it is not remotely reader friendly–neither in the way it’s written nor the way it’s laid out on the page.

There are many things good fiction writers do that non-fiction writers should adopt immediately. At some future point I’ll create a little course that lays those practices out. But in the meantime, just know that a large body of people really do want you to inspire, inform, move, persuade, and illuminate them. And they’ll read you cover to cover if you’ll only make it easier and more enjoyable to do so. That’s good news.

Questionnaire for Prospective Authors

I routinely talk to people who believe they have a book in them. Some hope to write it themselves. Others are looking for ghost-writing help in getting it written. Several years ago I crafted a short questionnaire to help both groups clarify their thinking.

-> Why a book? (As opposed to a white paper, a flyer, a newsletter, or a series of blog posts.)

-> Who is this book for? (“Everyone” is not an acceptable answer.)

-> Reduce this target group down to one, prototypical reader. In other words, describe the ONE person you envision needing the book. (Their sex, age, background, situation, needs, etc.)

-> After this person has read your book, what do you want them to:

  • . . . understand that they didn’t understand before?
  • . . . feel that they didn’t feel before?
  • . . .  be motivated to do that haven’t done before?

-> Describe the tone and style of the writing in this book.  (Academic? Informal? Intellectual? Flowery? Profound? Humorous? Serious? Playful? Etc.)

-> What existing books would this book be comparable to? (What successful books will be sitting next to it on bookstore shelves?)

-> What materials will constitute the sources for this book?

Want to receive news and updates about resources for writers? Use the form to the right to drop me your email address.

The Closed Window: Minimizing Regret

Yesterday, it was my privilege to bring a short teaching from Ephesians to a group of precious men at a noontime gathering. I read from this tattered, falling-apart Bible I’ve had for more than 43 years.

As I opened it, I couldn’t help but think about the friend, Steve, who gifted it to me back then, having inscribed the presentation page (see pic).

Steve reached out and reconnected with me in recent years. Said he was living in Norman, Okla. and although he had some health challenges, he’d love for me to come see him some time.

With each invitation he extended, I’d mention that I do pass through Norman on my way to OKC periodically, and that I’d figure out a time to stop and reconnect.

I never did. And here’s the thing.

Today I learned that Steve passed away just the day before yesterday. I had no idea.

As my bride will attest, I occasionally say that a key to living well and wisely is minimizing regret. Well in this case I failed so very miserably.

And that window of opportunity is closed . . . for now. But we’ll have that reconnection some day. And we’ll have lots of time to reminisce about how foolish and hardheaded we all were back in the day. And at least one of us . . . still.

Time . . . is precious.

His Voice Not His Hand: The Discipline of the Father

Not long ago I was leading a discussion about about how God corrects and trains us (disciplines us). The text we were exploring was Hebrews 12:4-17. I pointed out that that many believers have been taught that God is using sickness, lack, pain, and loss as His “scourge” to teach us things and punish us. But we saw that it is actually His Word . . . His voice . . . that He uses to correct and train us. 

I pointed out eight or nine examples from New Covenant scripture in which God’s correction of one of His own was spoken.

What I failed to mention was that we don’t have to speculate. We have a living, breathing example of God’s methods of correcting and chastising . . . in Jesus.

Hebrews 1:3 says Jesus was and is “an exact representation” of God’s nature. He only did/said the things He saw His Father doing and saying. Right? 

Jesus frequently chastised, corrected, and trained His disciples. So how did He do that? Did He hit them? Did He put sickness on them? Did He cause their fishing business to fail? Did He kill a loved one? 

Of course not. When they missed the mark . . . when they failed to have faith . . . misperceived the situation . . . were operating out of the wrong spirit . . . He SPOKE to them. (Sometimes pretty sternly. Sometimes in exasperation. But it was always His voice, not His hand.) 

  • “Where is your faith? (Luke 8:25)
  • “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” (Matthew 8:23)
  • “Allow the children to come to Me; do not forbid them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Mark 10:14)
  • You don’t know what spirit you’re of. (Luke 9:55)
  • “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; but only one thing is necessary; for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
  • “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:9)

Jesus corrected and trained just as our wonderful heavenly Father does. With His voice . . . His Word. That means we can wholeheartedly and confidently resist the works of the enemy and the effects of the Curse.

God’s house is NOT a house divided against itself. Specifically, God isn’t simultaneously redeeming us from and rolling back the effects of the curse on one hand . . . and using those effects as His tools of discipline on the other. 

Time Travel

I’m sure you’ve experienced it. You hear a song you loved three, four, or five decades ago, and suddenly you’re transported to a very specific place and time when you listened to it with full focus.

That happened to me yesterday as CSN’s “Southern Cross” popped up on a playlist of mine.

In an instant I was in an Edmond, Oklahoma convenience store at 3:00 a.m. in the fall of 1983. With a mop in my hand.

I stopped and leaned on the mop handle to listen to this song because it was a favorite of mine. I was exhausted and a little discouraged and had just had several waves of drunks and addicts come through the store. So sailing the seas in the southern hemisphere sounded especially appealing.

This wasn’t a particular high point in my life.

When you’re 23; have changed majors three or four times; have managed to pile up more than 120 hours of college credit without getting a degree; feel reasonably intelligent and talented; and find yourself working the 11p-7a shift at a convenience store . . . it’s safe to say you’re not exactly killing it in life.

The truth is, I’d sort of lost my way a year earlier, had dropped out of school, started working full time, and bought an ’81 Corvette I couldn’t afford.

A few months prior to that “Southern Cross” moment, I’d snapped out of it and re-enrolled in college. I’d also taken a 400/month job as a Jr. High Youth pastor at my church. But I still needed to pay the bills and cover tuition. Thus the graveyard shift at the convenience store, five days a week.

I’d get off work at 7a, shower, go to class and struggle to stay awake, spend a few hours at the church, help with youth services two evenings a week, and sleep a few hours. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

As CSN briefly transported me back to that precise moment yesterday, I had this thought:

I wish I could go back and tell that bleary-eyed, sleep-deprived, directionless guy what a great adventure his life was going to turn out to be.

Extraordinary wife. Adult children who love God and like to hang out with us. A growing tribe of littles who call me pop. Meaningful work to do in abundance. And more blessings (spiritual, relational, and material) than I had any rational reason to dream of or hope for back then.

“Keep mopping buddy. Everything’s going to be okay. I promise.”