Generosity Redeemed – A Theology of Generosity

GENEROSITY REDEEMED

The way we understand and practice generosity is rooted in our theological perspective. Our theology of generosity, in turn, shapes how we use our resources, live our lives, and steward God’s blessings.

Generosity becomes clearer when we possess a theological understanding of God and His glorious riches.

Many Christians have a shallow, un-enchanted vision of generosity (I suffer from this as well). Often, generosity is a guilt-driven duty or a sentimental desire for psychological well-being or a reciprocal relationship with God, as if God needs anything from us. The deadliest perspective links giving to salvation. Reader beware, dead works will not result in eternal life (see Ephesians 2:8-9). Modern Christians, especially in America, seem to have unintentionally embraced ideas influenced by pragmatism and the Enlightenment regarding generosity. Additionally, adding a dose of moralism renders an unbiblical concoction.

The argument is commonly something like: “The Bible encourages giving as the right thing to do, promoting the expansion of God’s Kingdom while helping those in need. Tax benefits are a bonus!” While not entirely wrong, it’s incomplete and may be misguided. Some Christians use out-of-context proof-texts and persuasion tactics to motivate giving, which can be confusing or manipulative. What’s missing is a full-orbed Kingdom vision and a robust theology of generosity.

Theology, seen through a biblical lens, is more than just knowing things about God. Theology is about intimately knowing God Himself. Knowing God serves as the cornerstone of all Christian faith and activities, including stewardship and its handmaiden, generosity.

Let’s explore a biblical vision of generosity by asking questions of Holy Scripture.

In the beginning, who created?
At the cross, who died?
At the grave, who is risen?
Who is seated at the right hand of the Father?
At the conclusion of human history, who restores all things?
Who is God?
Who am I?
What are God’s purposes?
What is Jesus Christ Lord over?

Whether we realize it or not, our actions and choices in life inevitably reflect our underlying theological and worldview commitments. The way we understand and practice generosity is rooted in our theological perspective. Our theology of generosity, in turn, shapes how we use our resources, live our lives, and steward God’s blessings. Therefore, we need to make sure we have a good theology.

God created the world and deemed it “good.” This signified its intrinsic value because God is creator and God is the source of all good. This declaration demonstrates the richness of the potential embedded in creation, waiting to be discovered and developed. Entrusting man with dominion, God commanded the care and cultivation of Earth’s latent resources for His glory and the good of humanity. We hear echos in the greatest and second greatest commandments.

Jesus answered, “The most important (commandment) is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:29-31

Dominion

Dominion in the Bible is often overlooked or misunderstood. It is not about exploitation or oppression rather, theologically, it is stewardship, responsibility, God-given authority, and accountability to God, all directed toward His purposes. Properly understood, dominion is God-centered, not man-centered. As image-bearers, we share in God’s moral character traits, albeit as finite and fallen creatures. All humans are assigned a time and place to serve God’s purposes, exercising dominion over what God entrusts to us. In doing so, we reflect His moral character and bring His glory to the world He created and sustains. Dominion is humanity’s responsible and caring authority under God’s ultimate reign. I believe that exercising Godly dominion is a proper response to God’s grace, kindness, and goodness to us by glorifying Him and enjoying Him.

The first statement of the Westminster Shorter Catechism tells us the chief duty of man and what were created for (purpose).

Q. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.
(The Westminster Shorter Catechism)

If God is the creator of all things, it means he holds the title deed of every atom in the entire universe. There isn’t anything in all of creation that God doesn’t own, including you and me. The air you breathe, the food you eat – it all belongs to God. He is the one who enables and allows you to breathe, eat, and even understand this sentence as you read it.

A Principle v. A Person

At the foundation of a theology of generosity, you won’t find just a biblical principle; rather, you’ll encounter a person—Jesus Christ. A distinct Christian life will be shaped and guided by principles of generosity that flow from knowing Jesus Christ. Remember, theology is knowing God, not just knowing things about Him.

Only when we retrieve and recover the riches of Christian faith in Christ as the ultimate gift from God, can we undertake any real form of generosity.

The one true definition of generosity, from which all other meanings flow, is God’s definition. Jesus Christ embodies this definition—He is the living and holy reality of generosity. At the center of all reality, Jesus stands as the Truth. When we behold Jesus, we see God’s Christ, God’s Word, God’s world, and God’s spirit, all given as glorious gifts to man. You and I have nothing we didn’t receive.

I encourage you to work out the implications of this in your own life (which is a gift). Generosity flows from a fuller theological understanding of God and His glorious riches.

“Whoever is of God hears the word of God.” – John 8:47

Therefore, through our generosity, we can join the likes of the Apostle Paul and, “proclaim the kingdom of God and teach about the lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hinderance.” – Acts 28:31

God’s Generous Gift

God has given us everything we need by granting us His divine power, His great promises, and His divine nature to enable our efforts to act on the knowledge of Him (theology). We benefit, partake, and develop the gift of God’s abundant power through Christ our Lord and Savior. Our knowledge of God’s divine power and promises is a gift. So is the ability and opportunity to utilize that power. When we receive the gift of faith, God supplies His power to enable us to supplement it with virtue and knowledge.

In conclusion, one important aspect of the Christian tradition is the spiritual discipline of generosity that contributes to the believer’s sanctification. In other words, when we exercise generosity, we are being conformed to the likeness of Christ’s character.

Notice, I didn’t mention money once in this post. Now, go and workout the implications of a theology of generosity in your life, watch God work and watch the world change.

“Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!

Praise God the Father who’s the source;
Praise God the Son who is the course;
Praise God the Spirit who’s the flow;
Praise God, our portion here below!”
– Thomas Ken (1637-1711)

Please share your insights by commenting below this post.

I launched the Forge Room Foundation in order to equip Christians to understand our cultural moment and respond with a biblical worldview perspective. We have a end-of-year fundraising goal of $50,000. There is a $7,500 matching challenge in play! This will allow us to quip and mobilize people for Kingdom action. Please consider us in your year end generosity plans. Learn more and give here…

The Imagination Explained

IMAGINATION EXPLAINED

3 ways imagination is corrupted and what to do about it.

A synthesis and summary of article by Vigen Guroian in Touchstone Magazine.

Most people don’t think very deeply about the most powerful endowment God has given to his image-bearers, the Imagination!

Our imaginations can take us to some very good and joyful places, they can take us into very dark places as well. Our imaginations are more culturally relevant that we realize.

Below is a synthesis of a portion of an article by Vigen Guroian in Touchstone Magazine entitled, “Of Weed & Fairy Tales – The Idylls, Idols & Devils That Corrupt the Moral Imagination” (2020). I quote the article at length.

I hope it helps you understand the gift of the imagination, how to guard it from corruption, and how to cultivate it as God intends. I highly recommend reading Guroian’s article in its entirety.

The Purpose of Imagination

“The human imagination “reaches out and seizes likenesses and analogies” that establish relation and unity in a world of meaning. In other words, imagination is the self’s process of finding direction and purpose in life by making metaphors from remembered experiences to understand present experience. It is not an instinct but an attribute and an expression of our freedom, passion, and reason…

Wherever there are human beings, imagination exists and is exercised, much as wherever there are spiders, webs are spun. The important question is what kinds of imagination our contemporary culture encourages.” (Guroian)

Moral Imagination

The Human Power to “conceive of men and women as moral beings, i.e., as persons, not things or animals whose value is their utility. It is the process by which the self makes metaphors out of images stored in memory, which then are employed to find and suppose moral correspondences in experience.” (Guroian)

Left unprotected or uncultivated, the moral imagination decays into corruption and perversity.

Idyllic Imagination

It is escapist and utopian. “The self gripped by the idyllic imagination is escapist, not in the sense that it flees its physical surroundings so much as it shirks its civic, social, and moral responsibilities…

This is accompanied and reinforced by rejection and rebellion against old dogmas, manners, and mores. The idyllic imagination is in search of emancipation from conventional constraints. In our democratic and individualistic environment, persons justify this “liberation” in the name of self-fulfillment and self-realization, which they believe existing norms and structures inhibit or obstruct…

Quite often there is a turning to hedonistic imaginings, flagrant sensuality, and explorations of the “flesh.” These are paths that promise happiness but more often than not lead instead to boredom and ennui or, worse, physical and spiritual dissipation.” (Guroian)

The Idyllic Imagination rejects morality in pursuit of self-fulfillment. It is marked by hedonism, preoccupation with self, and sensuality. It seeks liberation from morals and results in boredom, dissatisfaction, or worse, physical and spiritual corruption and a wasted life.

Idolatrous Imagination

The Idolatrous Imagination cultivates the “absolutization of the relative” (Will Herberg)…
“Idolatry, in biblical terms, is the giving of one’s highest loyalties and devotions to objects and things other than God… What idolatry does is to convert its object into an absolute, thereby destroying the partial good within it and transforming it into a total evil…

Corrupted imaginations may be tracked everywhere in our culture. The media fixes on false gods whose stories replace the lives of saints and real heroes. One need only look at the popular magazines, MTV, television talk shows, and celebrity channels, to understand how pervasive is the idolatrous imagination… Even our schools and public libraries are heavily under its influence…

“What is more, the people, when they grow dissatisfied with their idols, often mercilessly turn on them and consume them with an ungodly wrath.” (Guroian)

The Idolatrous Imagination absolutizes the relative, lacking consciousness of sin, good things are given priority and devotion over God (Idolatry). A good object is converted into an absolute, making it totally evil. When the absolutized idol fails to satisfy its worshipers, they turn on it and destroy it.

Diabolical Imagination

“The coordinates that track the fall of the Western self into the diabolic imagination are the loss of the concept of sin and the rise of popular therapeutic justifications and excuses for things that were once thought perverse. Moral norms are redescribed as values relative to self or culture. Human nature is viewed as infinitely malleable and changing. Some go so far as to say it is merely a social construct or fiction. Good and evil are considered matters of perspective (opinion / sentiments)…

The Diabolic Imagination is latent within each of us, the image of the demonic imprinted by Original Sin on the human soul.” (Guroian)

The Diabolical Imagination transforms morals into relative values geared toward self. Objective good and evil do not exist outside one’s personal perspective or orientation. Sex and Violence are central. Greed and selfishness rule – revealing the sin nature within every human heart.

The Enriched Imagination

“After a child has read Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen or Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, her moral imagination is sure to have been stimulated and sharpened. The powerful images of good and evil in these stories show a child how to love through the examples of the characters she herself has come to love and admire. Such memories become the analogues that the moral imagination uses to make real-life decisions, and these memories become constitutive elements of her self-identity and character…

A well-fortified and story-enriched moral imagination helps children and adults move about in the world with moral intent and ultimately with faith, hope, and charity. As Flannery O’Connor once said, “Our response to life is different if we have been taught only a definition of faith than if we have trembled with Abraham as he held a knife over Isaac.” (Guroian)

Like a neglected vegetable garden is susceptible to weeds and pests, the human imagination left unattended, unguarded, and uncultivated will incrementally decay and succumb to evil. Therefore, we must steward and shape our imaginations well.

Recovering the Enriched Imagination

There is a reason C.S. Lewis stories of Narnia and Tolkien’s tales of hobbits and rings have captured and shaped the imaginations and lives of generations. They are not simply far-fetched fantasies. Those tales are in fact, true. Not that the characters or worlds existed in human history but their underlying frameworks are constructed on objective moral truths. These beautiful and good true stories point beyond themselves to the ultimate source of goodness, truth, and beauty – God.

“Stories not only reflect life, they shape it. It is of no small account what stories we tell and what stories we live by…”(Guroian)

Keep in mind biblical Christianity has the ultimate story on which all other stories rest – creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. It is The Story that we should tell and allow to shape our lives.

I leave you with one of my favorite G.K. Chesterton Quotes:

“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”

Source of quotes above: “Of Weed & Fairy Tales – The Idylls, Idols & Devils That Corrupt the Moral Imagination” by Vigen Guroian (2020) www.touchstonemag.com

Please share your insights by commenting below this post.

I launched the Forge Room Foundation in order to equip Christians to understand our cultural moment and respond with a biblical worldview perspective. We have a end-of-year fundraising goal of $50,000. There is a $7,500 matching challenge in play! This will allow us to quip and mobilize people for Kingdom action. Please consider us in your year end generosity plans. Learn more and give here…

LEARN ABOUT THE FORGE ROOM FOUNDATION.
TRAINING EVERYDAY CHRISTIANS TO FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT OF FAITH.

Rethinking the Public Square and Marching Back Through the Institutions

The existence of the public square bears witness to God’s common grace. Recovering the public square will provide Christians an opportunity to contend for the faith and witness to the world the powerful coherence of the Christian worldview and its correspondence to reality.

1960’s radical Marxist activist Rudi Dutschke coined the phrase, “the long march through the institutions.”

He along with other Frankfurt School types believed in the infiltration and subversion of western institutions. Entertainment, government, education, media, the church and the family make up the cultural fabric of the West, particularly, America. The ‘long march’ was intended to destroy western culture from within and replace it with a Marxian vision and social program. We are living in a Marxist America with a fascist twist.

Don’t believe me? Ask yourself these questions:
Who are you not allowed publicly to criticize?
What are you afraid to say that might cost you your job or get you ‘cancelled’?
What so-called “facts” reported by the media three years ago turned out blatantly false?
Why do some issues receive a lot of attention while other important issues seem to be overlooked?

Some estimate 90% of U.S. media is controlled by just six companies (1). If the past three years has taught us anything, it is the power of propaganda. I do not believe they are secretly colluding to push an agenda. However, there is a clear convergence of shared interests, philosophies, and political ideologies. Many CEOs and elites emerged from similar academic institutions and generations. They share similar worldviews. Therefore, interests will converge without deliberate collusion. Therefore, while there appears to be a variety of media choices, only a handful of conglomerates control the information we receive.

What began in the academies of higher education in the 1960s was popularized through entertainment and promoted by the media. It didn’t take long for government to succumb to Marxist ideas and put them into practice. Sixty years later, the United States of America is exporting a distinctly American form of Cultural Marxism to other nations through the US Government and Corporations. In many cases, US aid to other countries is tied to promotion of an ideology. Media and entertainment further promote the ideology.

Think about how effective the “long march through the institutions” has been in America?
Most claim, “This could never happen in America!”

Most Americans are not Marxists… Yet.

At the rate of indoctrination in our education systems from university down to elementary, we are at the threshold of a generational break away from historical American culture. The old guard is dying off and the new guard is taking its position of cultural influence and power. The younger generations are coming of age in an era where an expert class of elites exert tremendous control over society. Furthermore, there is a mood of unending crisis, uncertainty, and weakening of longstanding institutions.

Gone are the days where American society was shaped by biblical mores, moral formation, civic virtue and shared history. The worldview of the emerging generation is shaped by Critical Social Theories like Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality, Third and Fourth Wave Feminism, Gender Theory, Queer Theory and Transhumanism. DEI, ESG, and SEL are the modes of indoctrination through corporations, the education system, and government institutions. The emerging generations’ allegiances are alien to the established American ethos. That ethos has been rejected and hated. They see the world divided into two groups – oppressors and the oppressed. As such, material resources, and cultural and political power are controlled by the privileged at the expense of the powerless in a zero sum game. Thus, creating a permanent victim class along intersectional lines.

Does this new dominant worldview correspond to the contours of reality? Is it coherent? The answer is ‘no’ because the Marxian worldview is built on falsehood and self-refuting presuppositions. It implodes… the human casualties number in the hundreds of millions dead.

Marxists of all eras always lie… “They lie like dead flies on a window sill.” (Douglas Wilson). As David Horowitz pointed out quoting a SDS radical student, “The issue is never the issue. The issue is always the revolution.” In other words, the cause of a political action – whether civil rights or women’s rights – is never the real cause; women, blacks and other ‘victims’ are only instruments in the larger cause, which is power.”

Marxists always use minority groups as cannon fodder to attain power. They don’t really care about people of color, or gays, or transgenders, or women, or the poor… All those groups are manipulated, agitated, and weaponized. Once a group has depleted its usefulness, it is tossed aside or destroyed. Look how this mode has divided all sectors of society.

A quick survey of modern history has demonstrated from the French Revolution forward, that those at the top of the Marxist food chain get fat while everyone else starves to death. They are not really interested in equity, equality, diversity, peace, climate, or justice, in their original forms. Those are simply tried and true bait n’ switch tactics where words have been redefined to push the ideology (revolution). Instead, they cause division to obtain more economic, political, and cultural power. Like locusts, Marxists devour and destroy everything in their path. Name one institution in America that has not been infiltrated by ‘woke’ ideology. ‘Woke’ is American Marxism.

Is there such a thing as a ‘Woke Church?’ Perhaps in the imagination of some relevance-seeking authors. Selling books and speaking honorariums pay well.

No sir. There is only One Church and it ain’t woke. It was founded before the foundations of the world and purchased by the blood of Christ. No amount of bad theology, heretical hermeneutics, or shoddy sociology will ever be able to transform Christ and His Word into an American social program draped in Christian garb.

Christians and the Church need to re-think our approach to culture and theology. The clown show and chaos we’re experiencing is a result of Christians not taking culture seriously. The Church hasn’t been pushed out of the public square, we have abandoned it. Marxists didn’t win the ‘Culture War’. To win a war, you must defeat an opponent. There wasn’t a war. Christians simply decided to go home and abandon the institutions to the secular cult masquerading as enlightened. Midwits don’t have the moral fortitude of a blade of grass (no offense to St. Augustin or Bermuda). The problem is pulpits have been preaching pablum, promoting pragmatism, pushing entertainment programs, and over-zealous personal piety instead of robust public theology for nearly 100 years – all undergirded by an eschatology of Christian escapism.

The Church is an institution that Marxist woke-topians are relishing. They have been quite effective so far. A good compass points north, a good church points Christ-ward and truth-ward. Not all “churches” are Christ-centered and biblical. Don’t let a name like, “North Point Church” fool you. 

Rethinking the Public Square

The public square of the free exchange of ideas is a distinctly Christian social contribution. Even stupid and destructive ideas like Cultural Marxism can be allowed. But, they must be allowed to be critiqued, refuted, and buried on the trash heap of bad ideas. When Christians witness poor stewardship, disorder, or injustice within any sector of society, we have the duty to take dominion over it and work to cultivate goodness and human flourishing. The public square is not owned by anyone. Although many are attempting to own it (social media censorship). On the contrary, the public square is to be stewarded well for the good of all… even those with stupid ideas. Why? Because Christians love God and people created in His image, even people with dumb ideas. I mean, who among us has never had a dumb idea?

Christians must rethink the value and dignity of the Public Square. Because the public square is inhabited by people who may not understand God created them in His image with intrinsic value and worth. The existence of the public square bears witness to God’s common grace. Allow discourse of all types. Yes, there will be folks who share disdainful and even dangerous ideas. There is nothing new under the sun. However, recovering the open public square will provide Christians an opportunity to contend for the faith and witness to the world the powerful coherence of the Christian worldview and its correspondence to reality.

Engagement in the public square requires a public theology which includes proper institutional stewardship.

The Long March Back Through the Institutions

Entertainment, government, education, media, the church, and the family make up the cultural fabric of America. Except for small enclaves, those institutions have been decimated by Cultural Marxism. Christians rightly view the family as the center of culture creation. A mother and father will raise children who will create culture and shape society. Therefore, worldview training begins in the home. As the younger generations move into areas of cultural influence, they bring their worldviews with them. As the parents move into elder years, their children will take the cultural reigns and shape the world for their own children. Therefore, Christians must think generationally. Our enterprise is much bigger than a single lifetime, after all, we operate from an eternal perspective with an ever-present expression.

We must recover our public theology and follow Christ’s calling into all cultural domains. Cultural abandonment has proven deadly and unbiblical. Does this mean we take over cultural domains by force? Of course not. We have a ministry of faith in action. God is responsible for results. William Wilberforce didn’t end the African slave trade in England. God ended it by using Wilberforce and others willing to be obedient.

Over the next few decades, Christians must begin a long march back through the ruins of our institutions of higher education, arts, entertainment, media, and the church under the banner of Christ (who is Lord over all). We unleash the power of the Christian worldview and a deep love for those who inhabit those domains. Why? Because God loves people (John 3:16).

When biblically informed and spirit filled Christ-followers follow Christ into every sphere and corner of human existence, we are demonstrating that Colossians 1:15-20 and the words of Abraham Kuyper are true:

There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!

Every Christian contributes a little leaven from Heaven into human culture. We are ordinary people serving an extraordinary God.

The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.” – Matthew 13:33

The parable sets forth the working of the Church of Christ on the world, but not in the same way as that of the Mustard Seed… Here the working is from within. It (leaven) can turn the flour into human food–this symbolism is traceable in the leavened loaves that were offered on the day of Pentecost (Leviticus 23:17)–can permeate the manners, feelings, and opinions of non-Christian societies until they become blessings and not curses to mankind. In the new feelings, gradually diffused, of Christendom as to slavery, prostitution, gladiatorial games–in the new reverence for childhood and womanhood, for poverty and sickness–we may trace the working of the leaven.” (2)

Based on your proximity – Where can you use your influence for the Kingdom?

1. Where can you speak truth into the public square? (Do you need to create a public square?)
– What will you contribute to the discourse?
– When will you accomplish this?

2. Beginning with your family, what institution do you have an affinity towards or a burden for?
Education, arts and entertainment, media, government, etc. are legitimate domains for Christian influence and stewardship.
– Where will you contribute your influence and care?
– When will you begin?

Pray for God’s power will be unleashed in the places and spaces where you live. Ask Him to use your gifts, talents, resources, and influence to expand His Kingdom until the knowledge of Him reaches the ends of the earth.

Reflection and Encouragement:

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:7-12)

1. https://www.fool.com/investing/stock-market/market-sectors/communication/media-stocks/big-6/

2. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/ellicott/matthew/13.htm

I launched the Forge Room Foundation in order to equip Christians to understand our cultural moment and respond with a biblical worldview perspective. We have a end-of-year fundraising goal of $50,000. This will allow us to host more forums and seminars that quip and mobilize people for Kingdom action. Please consider us in your year end generosity plans. Learn more and give here…

Please share your insights by commenting below this post.

LEARN ABOUT THE FORGE ROOM FOUNDATION.
TRAINING EVERYDAY CHRISTIANS TO FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT OF FAITH.

What is Love?

“Biblically speaking, love is seeking your neighbor’s highest good.”
– Dr. Glenn Sunshine – 

“Love is an affair of the will.”
– C.S. Lewis – 

We live in a cultural moment where words are torn from their original meaning and metaphysical grounding.

I believe western society and civilization would benefit greatly if we recovered the original definitions of words. Why? Because words matter. Humans use language to communicate and describe reality.

The term ‘love’ is one of the most commonly used words in the English language. Love can mean a lot of things…

I love ice cream.
I love hunting.
I love my wife.
I love my mom.
I love my friends.
I love reading.
I love a warm fire.
I love God.
I love good music.

What do you love?
Who do you love?

What is Love, really?
Why does it matter?

Have you ever thought about how the definitions of words change over time?

Take the word ‘nice‘ for instance. Until the 14th Century, ‘nice’ was used as a pejorative. Nice was defined as; “foolish, ignorant, frivolous, senseless,” from Old French nice “careless, clumsy; weak; poor, needy; simple, stupid, silly, foolish,” from Latin nescius “ignorant, unaware,” literally “not-knowing,” (source)

In the 19th Century, ‘nice‘ meant; “soft, tender, delicate; fine; accurate; exact; distinguishing.” (source)

In the 21st Century, the meaning of ‘nice‘ has morphed to mean; “kind, polite; pleasing, agreeable; appropriate, fitting; virtuous, respectable” (source)

You’ll think twice before saying someone is ‘nice’.

What about Love?

Love is important, right? Take a few moments to understand the similarities and subtle differences in the definitions of ‘love.’

The modern online Merriam-Webster dictionary defines love as follows:

Strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties;
attraction based on sexual desire;
affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests;
an assurance of affection;
warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion;
the object of attachment, devotion, or admiration;
(source)

The Noah Webster Dictionary of the English Language (1828) defines ‘love’ as follows:
1. In a general sense to be pleased with; to regard with affection, on account of some qualities which excite pleasing sensations or desire of gratification. We love a friend, on account of some qualities which give us pleasure in his society. We love a man who has done us a favor; in which case, gratitude enters into the composition of our affection. We love our parents and our children, on account of their connection with us, and on account of many qualities which please us. We love to retire to a cool shade in summer. We love a warm room in winter. we love to hear an eloquent advocate. The christian loves his Bible. In short, we love whatever gives us pleasure and delight, whether animal or intellectual; and if our hearts are right, we love God above all things, as the sum of all excellence and all the attributes which can communicate happiness to intelligent beings. In other words, the christian loves God with the love of complacency in his attributes, the love of benevolence towards the interest of his kingdom, and the love of gratitude for favors received.
: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind,
: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Matthew 22:37.

2. To have benevolence or good will for. John 3:16.

1. An affection of the mind excited by beauty and worth of any kind, or by the qualities of an object which communicate pleasure, sensual or intellectual. It is opposed to hatred. love between the sexes, is a compound affection, consisting of esteem, benevolence, and animal desire. love is excited by pleasing qualities of any kind, as by kindness, benevolence, charity, and by the qualities which render social intercourse agreeable. In the latter case, love is ardent friendship, or a strong attachment springing from good will and esteem, and the pleasure derived from the company, civilities and kindness of others.

Between certain natural relatives, love seems to be in some cases instinctive. Such is the love of a mother for her child, which manifests itself toward an infant, before any particular qualities in the child are unfolded. This affection is apparently as strong in irrational animals as in human beings.

We speak of the love of amusements, the love of books, the love of money, and the love of whatever contributes to our pleasure or supposed profit.

The love of God is the first duty of man, and this springs from just views of his attributes or excellencies of character, which afford the highest delight to the sanctified heart. Esteem and reverence constitute ingredients in this affection, and a fear of offending him is its inseparable effect.

2. Courtship; chiefly in the phrase, to make love that is, to court; to woo; to solicit union in marriage.

3. Patriotism; the attachment one has to his native land; as the love of country.

4. Benevolence; good will.

: God is love 1 John 4:7.” (source)

Finally, the Greek as used in the New Testament possesses the richest definitions of ‘love’. Notice how similar it is to Noah Webster’s 1828 definition…

Sexual or Romantic Love: Greek – Eros
Brotherly Love (friendship): Greek – phileo
Familial Love: Greek – storge
Self-Sacrificial Love: Greek – agape

Agape’ is God’s deep and abiding love for people. It is also the kind of love that people should have toward our creator God and one another. It is a self-sacrificing love that sets aside self for the honor and benefit of the other. Agape is far too deep and rich to fully comprehend much less explain in this blog post. So, I’ll leave you with passages of Scripture for your reflection and meditation at the end.

Agape love is counter-cultural and controversial today…
Love carries with it an intolerance. In its ‘yes’, love also says ‘no!’ Agape love says yes to God an others, while at the same time denying self… Saying ‘no’! Love just can’t accept and tolerate anything, otherwise love would give license for unimaginable devilry and evil. One cannot love truth and falsehood at the same time.

The slogan, “Love is Love” is a simplistic rhetorical device that devolves into a quagmire of easily manipulated emotional sentiments. The truth is, “God is Love” because love has its source outside the fallen domain of the human heart. God is ‘Agape’ from which all other forms of ‘love’ and affections flow. One cannot separate the Love of God from Truth of God.

Words and their meanings matter.

What is Love (really)?

Reflect on these passages:

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things… So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7,13)

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:1-8)

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. (John 13:34)

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)

I launched the Forge Room Foundation in order to equip Christians to understand our cultural moment and respond with a biblical worldview perspective. We have a end-of-year fundraising goal of $50,000. This will allow us to host more forums and seminars that quip and mobilize people for Kingdom action. Please consider us in your year end generosity plans. Learn more and give here…

Please share your insights by commenting below this post.

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Rise up and Rebuild

“I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat… What is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be… Come then, let us go forward together with our united strength.”

 

Sir Winston Churchill (May 13, 1940)

The lobby is full. The gourmet coffee is hot. The music is good. The rooms are big and luxurious. The furniture is comfortable. The captain’s voice puts me at ease. Everyone is smiling and feeling good. The pleasurable experience is worth the price of the morning hassle. A young bride looks at her husband, and warmly remarks, “I’m so glad we came to church today. Hurry, let’s drop off the kids at childcare. I hear the band starting to play and I don’t want to miss the first song!”

Church, do you see the trouble we’re in?

Christian escapism is not biblical Christianity. We’re so comfortable and familiar with our Sunday ‘worship experiences’ that cater to our personal preferences and whims, we don’t realize we’re living in a spiritual wasteland. If the Apostle Paul walked into our church buildings this Sunday to check the fruit of his church-planting ministry, would he recognize the church as the Church he planted? In other words, would the Apostle, who was martyred for the Church, recognize the gathering of a distinct people living in the world but are not of the world? Would Paul see a gathered people demonstrating to the unbelieving world what life looks like living under the rule and reign of the Lord Jesus Christ?

What I am about to say may sound like a harsh critique. It is nonetheless honest, accurate, and intended as a wake up call.

Generally speaking, the church in America is in ruins. And, we’ve grown accustomed to living among the ruins. In fact, we disguise the broken-down spiritual walls with physical veneers and accoutrements to portray stability and strength. Personal preference, privatization, and corporatization have replaced the supernatural dynamism and distinctive functions of the Church. As such, we have redefined the meaning of “church.” Prophetic preaching has been replaced with profit preaching. The congregant is viewed as a customer. The mission of the church is keeping the customer comfortable and coming back. This is the modality of most churches – especially seeker-sensitive churches.

Most evangelical preachers are not preaching outright heresy. We’re so biblically illiterate, I’m not convinced we’d recognize heresy or have the moral courage to call it out if they were. It is the inconvenient truths of the Bible that many pastors omit. All scripture is God-breathed and useful for every matter of salvation, life and godliness. In other words, scripture has implications for all of life, family, and society. Sidestepping certain issues is another way for some pastors to do what seems right in their own eyes. After all, we have to be nice to win people to Christ. Prior to the 1300s ‘nice‘ meant foolish or stupid. The church embodies a mood of amicability, cultural conformity, and consumerism. Lest we agitate or scare away the customer base and their money. It is a sad state we’re in.

Proclamations from church leadership on high to congregants below goes something like this…

“Stand up for Israel! She must protect her borders!”

“But, don’t you dare stand up for righteousness in a school board meeting to protect children! That’s political and divisive!”

“Speaking into cultural issues gets in the way of sharing the Gospel!”

“Submit to Government authority. Wear a mask. Stay at home and church watch online. Romans 13!”

“How dare you question church leadership even as we intentionally avoid transparency and lack theological clarity and moral courage? That’s unloving, disloyal, and divisive!”

“Let the professionals handle how we do church, your job is to submit to our authority, sit down, keep your mouth shut and your wallet open!”

“You are getting in the way of God’s work. Perhaps, you should find another church if you don’t like it here?”

Pragmatism and marketing gimmicks shape modern ministry philosophy. Pastors are rendered to nothing more than managers. Seminaries produce highly specialized class of degreed professionals in order to compete with secular university degrees. Work at a church is just another career path instead of a calling. As such, the people are viewed as problems to be solve instead of sheep to be shepherded. The question I have for most pastors, is; “Would you do what you do for free?”

If Jesus Christ walked into an elder meeting, would he be pleased with the humility, faithfulness, intercessory prayer, theological clarity, moral courage, and pastoral care being provided? Or would Jesus fashion a whip of HDMI cords, tear down the growth charts and building plans, dump the gourmet coffee on the expensive carpet and chase peddlers of religious goods and programs off the property? “My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you make it a den of marketers.”

Do you see the trouble we’re in?

WE’ve got a problem. The church is in ruins and that leads to families, communities and a nation in ruins. Most churches are simply rearranging the furniture on the deck of the Titanic instead of calling for all hands on deck! I’m convinced, we are entering a time of civilizational crisis that no generation has witnessed since the Civil War or the Great Depression. In the words of William Strauss and Neil Howe, we are moving from societal unraveling into an era of crisis and upheaval. (1)

How are you going to think about a time such as this?
What are you going to do about it?
You have a choice that will shape the contours of history.
Will you stick with the status quo or “offer blood, toil, tears and sweat?”

Remember, we are The Church (a people, not a place)

Societal unraveling, crisis, and upheaval are nothing new to the church. Neither are awakenings and revivals new to the church! The church thrives in adverse and austere environments. We are the ekklesia! (2) We are redeemed and called out by Christ. We are a gathered people. Yet, we are distinct. At the same time, we are united from every nation, tribe, and tongue throughout human history. Distinct and united for what? To bear witness to the world to the glory of the King. And show the world what it looks like to live in His Kingdom that is in this world but not of this world. We carry our King’s message – a proclamation of good news and peace to rebels… “Lay down your sinful arms and run into His arms of grace!” Christ says, “Why spill the blood of others when I have spilled my blood for you and many for the forgiveness of sins?”

Why do I take the time to write this?

Because, God put it on my heart. This morning, I happened to listen to a sermon by Alistair Begg from 1994 entitled “Planting a Vision” from Nehemiah 2:11-20. It was a reminder for me of which I am so thankful!

Dark times demand a strong church…
We are a battleship not a cruiseliner.
We must humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God. Like the ruined walls of Jerusalem in Nehemiah’s day, the church walls are ruined in our day – even as they are covered with modern veneers. The words of Nehemiah echo down the hallways of history, “Let us rise up and build!” (Nehemiah 2:18)

If Jesus returns today or a thousand years from today I don’t know. However, whether he returns or calls me home, I want to be found going about my King’s business. My business is equipping and mobilizing the Church. Alistair Begg asked the question,”Are you in this world to do something or just looking for something to do?” What is the King’s business you need to be about?

I reorder Churchill’s words for this moment.

“Come then, let us go forward together with our united strength… What is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be…”

In God’s providence, you are here and so am I. Let us pray for God’s vision, provision, protection, and power as we hold to His promises of victory. Let’s rebuild and fortify the church and her witness in this time for God’s glory.

If Christ tarries through this present crisis, then we are sowing and cultivating the fields of the mighty awakening to come!

Nehemiah caused a holy ruckus in his day… We should cause a holy ruckus in our day too?

Author’s Note: I started Forge Room Foundation because God arranged my circumstances (without my permission) and reinforced my calling to equip and mobilize His Church for this time and place. So, that’s what I do come hell or high water. We could use your support as we close out our first year. Consider us in your giving plan and give here…

“Let us not glide through this world and then slip quietly into heaven, without having blown the trumpet loud and long for our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Let us see to it that the devil will hold a thanksgiving service in hell, when he gets the news of our departure from the field of battle.” – C.T. Studd

Footnotes:

(1) https://www.amazon.com/Fourth-Turning-American-Prophecy-Rendezvous/dp/0767900464

(2) https://www.gotquestions.org/definition-ekklesia.html

Join us on Sunday, Nov. 12, for a Forge Room Forum in Fort Worth, Texas. “Critical Social Theory vs. Biblical Unity” Register free here…

Please share your insights by commenting below this post.

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TRAINING EVERYDAY CHRISTIANS TO FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT OF FAITH.

Weeks Where Decades Happen

“There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.”

Vladimir Lenin

Vladimir Lenin said, “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.”

Friday, October 6th to today (October 13th) marks one of those weeks. It appears a major geopolitical tectonic shift occurred on Saturday, October 7th. We won’t know the full historical significance of the Hamas surprise attack on Israel for several years. This is a tragic and horrific situation sent shockwaves around the world. While I am deeply disturbed and saddened, I will try to provide some analysis.

In America, it exposed two significant issues. First, it further exposed just how divided we are as a nation. Second, it exposed just how vulnerable we are.

The second exposure (our vulnerabilities) is a result of the first. But, I don’t want to follow what I believe is a secondary symptom. I want to focus on the first exposure. In his book, “Faultlines” Dr. Voddie Bauchum uses the analogy shifting of the earth’s plates and the resulting earthquakes to describe American culture today. So, I’ll employ the analogy in a similar manner.

The first exposure (divided nation) demonstrates the various worldview, cultural, and ideological fault lines within our society. These fault lines run deep where common ground is difficult, if not impossible to locate. It feels like the very ground is shifting under our feet. At its core, these fissures are competing worldviews. And they are under tension.

Worldview is the lens through which we view, interpret and engage reality.

It is what we believe about ourselves and the world around us. Everyone has a worldview, regardless if they realize it or not. Worldview is seen in how we, believe, live, and behave.

At the center of the current clash are two fundamental questions, the answers to which lead to two different answers and destinations.

1. What is the problem with the world?
2. How do we fix it?

Christianity, Postmodernism, Secularism, Islam, Marxism, etc. will answer those two questions very differently. In a pluralistic society like America, worldviews will clash and create fissures. This doesn’t mean all worldviews are equally true. Some worldviews are shaped by the contours of reality while others attempt to reshape reality to impose their desired vision on reality.

Because analogies are helpful, let’s use another one.
Reality is like gravity. A man can claim to be able to break the law of gravity by dawning a superhero cape, climbing a three story building, and jumping off. However, he will not be able to break the law of gravity. Instead, he will fall to the ground and break himself. Thus proving the law of gravity.

Reality is the truth of how things actually are. The better we understand reality and live consistently within its contours, the more coherent our lives will be. From a biblical perspective, God created reality as a framework. He provided humans with logic and reason as both a map and language to understand, communicate, and live within the framework. When we intentionally or unintentionally get out of sync or reject reality, we break ourselves (like the man who tried to break the law of gravity).

Simply put, reality is experiential truth. It has laws and boundaries. As much as I would love to play basketball like Michael Jordan or swim as fast as Michael Phelps, no amount of effort, positive thinking, or physical manipulation will ever make me Jordan or Phelps… Not even close. God created me as Lance. He created you as who you are. We have our own distinct qualities, gifts, talents, limitations, and weaknesses. However, we all possess intrinsic value and worth as God’s image-bearers.

I’ve said it before, reality (truth) bats last, and reality is a slugger. Work with reality not against it and life will go much better. Therefore, if we want to solve the issues in our society, we need to properly diagnose the problems within our society. After all, if we misdiagnose the problem, the cures we create will end up harming the people we’re trying to help.

In his recount of life under Russian persecution, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote in The Gulag Archipelago:

“The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either – but right through every human heart – and through all human hearts.”

August of 1905, The Daily News newspaper editors posed a question to readers, “What is wrong with the world today?” G.K. Chesterton responded:

“Dear Sirs,
I am.
Yours Truly,
G.K. Chesterton.”

These men were answering the question, “What is the problem with the world?”

The Bible clearly states the problem with the world is sin.

And sin infects every human heart. Sin originates and is located in individual hearts. Then, it works its way through society. Either that is true or it’s not. If it’s true, then we’ve identified the Problem at the center of all other problems. The Gospel provides the cure.

If we’re going to attempt to wrap our heads around what is going on in our world like Israel or our own families, we need to have the proper worldview lens to accurately understand them. Then, we bring solutions that help instead of harming people. Those solutions will be grounded in the Gospel and Christ’s redemptive work through His redeemed people.

We are living in a civilizational moment in which there are “weeks where decades happen.” We must understand all of the cultural and geopolitical tectonic shifts are driven by worldviews. Earth’s tectonic plates build up pressure and eventually shift, causing earthquakes, so it is with worldviews. Tension builds and things move causing rapid shifts in a short timespan… Even as these worldview pressures and tensions are hundreds of years in the making.

In the final analysis, when faced with “weeks where decades happen” we must think biblically and ‘worldview-ishly”. Then we must pray faithfully and act with moral courage in the areas God has assigned us – leaving the results to Him.

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TRAINING EVERYDAY CHRISTIANS TO FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT OF FAITH.