Search results for

a long road

Christian Life, Life, Spiritual Growth

A Long Road

May 26, 2011

God often seems to take his people on circuitous routes rather than the straight and simple way in order to reach their destination. Israel is led through the desert for an entire generation before reaching their promised land. David is anointed king and flees from

Saul for years before finally receiving his rightful place upon the throne. Even Jesus spent nearly 30 years on earth before even beginning his ministry. Why this slow, painstaking process rather than a miraculous moment?  From the grand picture of scripture, it appears that God cares more about who a person is than he does about their accomplishing a certain goal. Character comes before achievement in the kingdom of heaven, and the Lord desires to see Christ’s glory formed in his people more than he desires to see his people achieve things that are glorious by earthly standards.

The sovereign Lord uses even our sin and mistakes to conform our character to that of Christ. When Romans 8 declares,

all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

the apostle truly means all things. Israel’s desert years taught them the foolishness and danger of doubting an all-powerful God and allowed them to see their own sinfulness and God’s power to preserve. David’s years of waiting, hiding, and being pursued by his enemies taught him the patience needed to be king and grew his character into a man who would lead Israel well. Jesus’ life on earth prepared for us a righteous life not our own so that we might truly called “sons of God” (Galatians 3:26) and “the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Do not despair, my friends. Though you see ten thousand easier roads all about you, our gracious God is guiding every circumstance and step to cultivate you as one of his children. He is the perfect husbandman, guarding and feeding his flock, pruning and watering his plants, and in all things showing his good and perfect love. Your faith is more precious than gold or many jewels, and he will use any and all means in his infinite wisdom to refine that faith and character so that, though you may suffer and struggle for a moment here on this earth, you will rejoice with unspeakable joy as you receive the promised glorious salvation (1 Peter 1). Do not fear a long and treacherous road, for the Lord will be with you and will do good to you every step of the way.

 

Christian Life, Fallout Revisited, Life, Spiritual Growth

Fallout Revisited: The Long Road

November 16, 2015

Fallout Revisited is a series that takes posts from The Everlasting Fallout’s five years of history and brings back to the light of day. This post was originally written May 26, 2011. The original post can be found here.

 

—-

 

God often seems to take his people on circuitous routes rather than the straight and simple way in order to reach their destination. Israel is led through the desert for an entire generation before reaching their promised land. David is anointed king and flees from Saul for years before finally receiving his rightful place upon the throne. Even Jesus spent nearly 30 years on earth before even beginning his ministry.

Why this slow, painstaking process rather than a single miraculous moment? From the grand picture of scripture it appears that God cares more about who a person is than he does about their accomplishing a certain goal. Character comes before achievement in the kingdom of heaven, and the Lord desires to see Christ’s glory formed in his people more than he desires to see his people achieve things that are glorious by earthly standards.

The sovereign Lord uses even our sin and mistakes to conform our character to that of Christ. When Romans 8 declares,

all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

The apostle truly means all things. Israel’s desert years taught them the foolishness and danger of doubting an all-powerful God and allowed them to see their own sinfulness and God’s power to preserve. David’s years of waiting, hiding, and being pursued by his enemies taught him the patience needed to be king and grew his character into a man who would lead Israel well. Jesus’ life on earth prepared for us a righteous life not our own so that we might truly called “sons of God” (Galatians 3:26) and “the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Do not despair, my friends. Though you see ten thousand easier roads all about you, our gracious God is guiding every circumstance and step to cultivate you as one of his children. He is the perfect husbandman, guarding and feeding his flock, pruning and watering his plants, and in all things showing his good and perfect love. Your faith is more precious than gold or many jewels, and he will use any and all means in his infinite wisdom to refine that faith and character so that, though you may suffer and struggle for a moment here on this earth, you will rejoice with unspeakable joy as you receive the promised glorious salvation (1 Peter 1). Do not fear a long and treacherous road, for the Lord will be with you and will do good to you every step of the way.

 

 

Christian Life, Commentary, Faith

How to receive God’s direction

August 12, 2016

 

 

 

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I entrust my life.
– Psalm 143:8

 

 

Today you’re at a crossroads. You’ve got decisions (link to fear vs. faith decision blog post) to make that will shift the course of your future in significant ways. You want God’s direction but haven’t been seeing/hearing it clearly. Maybe you’re just in a difficult place, surrounded by opposition and struggling to just make it through another day, desperate to know what to do next in order to survive. Psalm 143:8 contains an important truth for you today.

We serve a God who values relationship over task completion and intimacy over productivity (link to Evil of Good work blog post). Want God’s direction? First you need to be present with him and learn to receive his love.

Receive the Love

In Psalm 143 David is in the midst of a desperate situation with people literally attempting to kill him. In the midst of that he cries out to God, seeking help and hope. The center of this Psalm, the record of that cry for help, is found in the phrase, “let the morning bring my word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.”

Here’s the thing, God wants us to trust in him and know his love before he gives the solution to your problem, lest we be tricked into thinking that it’s the solutions that are God’s love. Note that it is unfailing love that David is longing for an experience of. This love exists regardless of the circumstances you’re in the midst of. God’s love hadn’t been withdrawn from David, David simply had stopped hearing word of it.

Want to hear God’s direction for the next step in your life? First open your heart to receive his love.

Place Your Trust

Trust is the channel through which our experience of God’s love flows. David requests word of the Father’s unfailing love on the basis of the fact that “I have put my trust in you.”

My friends, if your trust or your security rests in something other than God you’re going to have a hard time experiencing his love, no matter how much you cry out for it. If you’ve been desperately seeking an encounter with God and can’t seem to reach it, examine your life to see where your trust is truly resting. Choose today to place your trust in the only worthy object. “The cross before me, the world behind me…no turning back.” Let that be your resolve.

As you entrust yourself to the Father you he will begin to show you the way you should go. Dependence precedes direction.

See the Way

Out of our relationship with God comes the direction of God. It is, “I entrust to you my life,” therefore, “Show me the way I should go”. What beautiful freedom there is in an entrusted life! The light of God’s word and the leading of His Spirit become the path upon which we step by step move forward in faith. We, like David, can trust that our God’s unfailing love will silence our enemies and support us through every trial. He will indeed teach us to do his will. Our part is simply to place our trust and receive his love. The rest will flow naturally from that.

 

 

 

Christian Life, Commentary, Spiritual Warfare

He will surely do it

June 23, 2016

 

 

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
– 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

“He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”

What beautiful words in the chaos of a world that is anything but sure! My friends, let us ground ourselves in this truth today; our God is faithful, and what he has said he will do he will surely do. When tomorrow is uncertain, when waking up and entering the day is simply a burden, comfort your spirit with the truth that “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”

What He Will Do

The Scriptures abound with declarations about what God has promised to do. From eternal salvation to indescribable joy, He who has called you has given his word, and faith calls you to take him at that word. I want to briefly touch on a few key things from this passage in 1 Thessalonians that we can build our lives upon today. What exactly is it that the faithful one has said He will do?

He will give you peace.

He’s the God of Peace, so he gives peace. Your anxiety and worry evaporate when you come near Him. Sin is the seed that grows anxiety, fear, worry, and ultimately death (James 1:15). When sin enters into our lives it separates us from the God of Peace, growing walls that trap us in the darkness of our own minds, which inevitably leads to the downward spiral of depression, fear, anxiety, and the like.

This God, however, has uprooted sin and nullified its power by the blood of Christ. He has shed abroad the light of the knowledge of the Glory of God in the face of Jesus. Look to him, and you will find peace as he frees you from sin.

He will sanctify you completely.

This progressive freedom from sin is known as sanctification. Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines sanctification this way:

  • 1 : to set apart to a sacred purpose or to religious use
  • 2 : to free from sin
  • 3a : to impart or impute sacredness, inviolability, or respect to

The work of Christ has set you free. The work of Christ has set you apart completely. You’re in a whole new category. You’re no longer defined by your sin; you’re now defined by the imputed righteousness of Christ.

Note the surety of this sanctification. He who has called you will do it. It’s not a weight on your shoulders. What joy and freedom is found in knowing and experiencing this!

He will keep you blameless

Being in the process of sanctification doesn’t mean that you never sin. We have a sin nature until the day when Jesus comes again. However, according to these verses (and plenty of others) God keeps us blameless. Can you grasp that? You’re blameless! In Romans 8 Paul states it another way, declaring that there isn’t any condemnation that can stick to those who are in Jesus.

When someone tries to blame you for something or condemn you for a past deed, it can’t stick to you. You’re blameless. When your mind fills with accusations of your incompetence and failure and lack of worth, toss those lies aside. The God who is faithful has called you and promised to keep you blameless. He will surely do it.

He will come again

This life is a struggle. Our broken world isn’t any easy place to live. The good news is that the struggle doesn’t last forever. This groaning creation will soon be re-created in glory, because Jesus is coming again and will restore all things. The day of the coming of the Lord will be both beautiful and terrible, and though it may seem slow in coming it will surely come.

He will love you

He will give you peace. He has sanctified you. He will keep you blameless. You don’t do this kind of stuff for someone you don’t love. Jesus came and purchased our peace, sanctification, and blamelessness because he loves us. From the delight in his Spirit the Father and the Son acted according to love and purchased for us salvation.

Unlike the loves of this world, this one isn’t going away. It’s here till the end. It’s not the love of the boyfriend who is there to get what he wants from you and then ditch. It’s not the love of the girl looking for comfort and validation. No. This is the settled, immortal love of the creator of all the earth.

He is faithful. He’s given his word and He will surely do it. Rest in that. Learn to let peace be your path this week!

 

 

 

Christian Life, Culture, Life

Facebooking while the world burns

March 28, 2016

 

 

The internet has both distanced us and brought us closer to what’s taking place around the world. We have almost invasive awareness of news that even fifty years ago would have barely touched at the edges of our attention. At the same time we have exponentially increasing demands on our attention from thousands of trivial things from Vine compilations of the cutest kittens meeting puppies for the first time (who has time to compile these things anyways?) to a myriad of mobile games (Hearthstone, anyone?) to twenty articles that say the exact same thing about Starbucks cups and Donald Trump.

The constant barrage of world news isn’t a bad thing. The question is, what do we do with it? When the news of dozens killed or wounded in Brussels flows through our feed, accompanied by strident reminders that Brussels isn’t the only event of its kind in the last week, how should we respond? When heart-tugging photos of Syrian refugees fill the screen, along with opinions about whether they should be allowed here or there or anywhere else, what should we do?

With the massive amount of information at our fingertips our default has become calloused minimal interest. Glance, absorb, and move on. Read, comment, forget. Such cool evaluation and response is dangerous for the soul and raises the ire of the God who created the human beings that we so quickly pass over.

Listen to God’s words to the elite of Israel in their comfort and ease, casually absorbing the news of tragedy around them and moving on:

Woe to you who are complacent in Zion,
and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria,
you notable men of the foremost nation,
to whom the people of Israel come!
Go to Kalneh and look at it;
go from there to great Hamath,
and then go down to Gath in Philistia.
Are they better off than your two kingdoms?
Is their land larger than yours?
You put off the day of disaster
and bring near a reign of terror.
You lie on beds adorned with ivory
and lounge on your couches.
You dine on choice lambs
and fattened calves.
You strum away on your harps like David
and improvise on musical instruments.
You drink wine by the bowlful
and use the finest lotions,
but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph.
Therefore you will be among the first to go into exile;
your feasting and lounging will end.
– Amos 6

“Woe to you who are complacent…to you who feel secure.”

If I’m honest with myself, that’s me. If I look around at the people I spend most of my time with here in Fargo, that’s us. We’re safe and secure. Terrorists wouldn’t target little ol’ Fargo, right? Tsunami’s won’t happen here. Earthquakes are incredibly unlikely. Our worries are generally something along the lines of whether it will be really cold this winter (it will) and if our car will start if it does get really cold (it might not). In our security we embrace complacency and slowly, silently our souls are crushed.

“You lie on beds adorned with ivory…You strum away on your harps”

Here we are, sitting on our plush couches watching Netflix, simultaneously flipping through our favorite social media outlet’s feed. Here we are, enjoying song after song via Spotify and eating at any of the dozens of restaurants within a ten minute drive from our home. Lounging, eating, and singing while the world around us explodes, is shot, sleeps on the roadside, and begs for food.

“Go to Kalneh and look at it”

God’s words for those who sit in comfort, blissfully and intentionally ignorant of the pain around them are no easy words. “Therefore you will be among the first to go into exile; your feasting and lounging will end.” Now, clearly we are not Israel. These words of the Lord shouldn’t be taken as a promise that if we don’t act God’s going to put America in a situation similar to Syria. They do, however, give us significant insight into God’s desire for his people, reinforced by the example of Jesus and the way he refused to shy back from the pain of the world.

My friends, we need to refuse to turn our faces aside; to refuse to scroll past too quickly. Solomon, in his God-given wisdom, wrote in Ecclesiastes 7,

It is better to go to a house of mourning
than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of everyone;
the living should take this to heart.
Frustration is better than laughter,
because a sad face is good for the heart.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.

Don’t block out the pains of this earth. In a world where thousands of means of entertainment combine with a deluge of information to callous our hearts, we must intentionally engage our emotions when we are exposed to the hardships around us. Rather than moving on so quickly we must slow down and leverage the tools God has given us to empathize with those who are hurting.

Here’s a couple quick, easy ways that we can do this;

  • Use your imagination and put yourself in the refugee’s shoes before you post an opinion on what should be done with them.
  • “Go to Kalneh” by reading background information on the countries and people you hear about so you know at least some of the story.
  • Skip the latest Walking Dead episode or the newest superhero movie and instead read a novel that tells the story of someone who’s gone through hardship.
  • Get off your couch, shut off your music, and go meet some real people who are in need. Volunteer at a homeless shelter for an hour or two. Befriend some refugees.

If we are to be full followers of Christ then, like him, we must refuse to avoid the hard things of this world. We can’t avoid the pain. We need to learn to engage our emotions fully and respond with compassion. Most of us aren’t able to physically go to Belgium or Syia or Pakistan, and most of us don’t have the connections to make on-the-ground changes in those places of pain, but we can all refuse to lounge, eat, and Facebook while the world burns, instead turning our prayers and passions more in line with the heart of our great God who calls his people to be ambassadors of his kingdom to everywhere that there is brokenness and hurt.

 

 

 

Book Highlights, Christian Life, Culture, Evangelism

Book Quotes: Total Truth

September 14, 2015

Periodically I share some highlights from the books I’ve been reading. Below are some of my favorite quotes from the book Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey. It’s easily one of the best worldview books that I’ve ever read, and I would highly recommend it to all!

 

 

—-

It’s crucial for us to realize that nonbelievers are constantly filtering what we say through a mental fact/value grid. For example, when we state a position on an issue like abortion or bioethics or homo-sexuality, we intend to assert an objective moral truth important to the health of society—but they think we’re merely expressing our subjective bias. When we say there’s scientific evidence for design in the universe, we intend to stake out a testable truth claim—but they say, “Uh oh, the Religious Right is making a political power grab.” The fact/value grid instantly dissolves away the objective content of anything we say, and we will not be successful in introducing the content of our belief into the public discussion unless we first find ways to get past this gatekeeper.

—-

Developing a Christian worldview means submitting our entire self to God, in an act of devotion and service to Him.

—-

Every philosophy or ideology has to answer the same fundamental questions: 1. CREATION: How did it all begin? Where did we come from? 2. FALL: What went wrong? What is the source of evil and suffering? 3. REDEMPTION: What can we do about it? How can the world be set right again? By applying this simple grid, we can identify nonbiblical worldviews, and then analyze where they go wrong.

—-

The Christian message does not begin with “accept Christ as your Savior”; it begins with “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

—-

The Bible treats sin primarily as a matter of turning away from God and serving other gods, and only secondarily in terms of lists of specific immoral behaviors. The first commandment is, after all, the first commandment—the rest follows only after we are straight about whom or what it is that we are worshiping.

—-

Artists are often the barometers of society, and by analyzing the world-views embedded in their works we can learn a great deal about how to address the modern mind more effectively.

—-

The best way to drive out a bad worldview is by offering a good one, and Christians need to move beyond criticizing culture to creating culture.

—-

“Contrary to the expectations of the Enlightenment,” Lewy concludes, “freeing individuals from the shackles of traditional religion does not result in their moral uplift.” To the contrary, the evidence now shows clearly that “no society has yet been successful in teaching morality without religion.”

—-

Most Christian students simply don’t know how to express their faith perspective in language suitable for the public square. Like immigrants who have not yet mastered the grammar of their new country, they are self-conscious. In private, they speak to one another in the mother tongue of their religion, but in class they are uncertain how to express their religious perspective in the accents of the academic world.

—-

If we start with a message of sin, without giving the context of Creation, then we will come across to nonbelievers as merely negative and judgmental…We need to begin our message where the Bible begins—with the dignity and high calling of all human beings because they are created in the image of God.

—-

The postmodern dilemma can be summed up by saying that ethics depends on the reality of something that materialistic science has declared to be unreal.

—-

We should avoid the misleading dichotomy that says evolution is scientific, while design is religious. Darwinism and design theory are not about different subjects—science versus religion. Instead they are competing answers to the same question: How did life arise in the universe? Both theories appeal to scientific data, while at the same time both have broader philosophical and religious implications.

—-

Christianity is the key that fits the lock of the universe.

—-

From 1960 to 1980 there was a striking 43 per-cent reduction in the amount of time men spend in a family environment where young children are present.

—-

Christians must not fall into the trap of assuming that paid employment is the only thing that will give women a sense of dignity. That’s a mistake secular feminists often make. Instead Christians need to challenge the prevailing ideology of success by insisting that individuals are most fulfilled when they enjoy a sense of calling or vocation—whether in paid or unpaid work. We all long for a sense that we are contributing to something larger than ourselves, to a greater good, to God’s purposes in the world.

—-

The only way the church can establish genuine credibility with nonbelievers is by showing them something they cannot explain or duplicate through their own natural, pragmatic methods — something they can explain only by invoking the supernatural.

Culture, Relationships

The Starving Generation

April 21, 2015

 

One who is full loathes honey, but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet.

– Proverbs 27:7 ESV

 

The simplest way to lower your grocery bill? Never go shopping when hungry. Inevitably, no matter how disciplined you are, you’ll be drawn to buy things you don’t need if you try to buy groceries on a grumbling stomach.

Our bodies know when they need something to fill them, and the most rational of minds can be driven to terrible action by the cries of a starving stomach. The writer of Proverbs taps into a principle that is amazingly applicable in our day when he writes, “One who is full loathes honey, but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet.” The point is clear – if someone is hungry enough even things that would normally be disgusting will seem appealing.

When we see our culture turning towards homosexuality, promiscuity, gluttony, and blatant sin, our first thought shouldn’t be “What wicked people! God’s going to judge them.” Instead, we need to use the wisdom that Proverbs talks so frequently about to discern the motive is behind such sins. More often than not it’s a hunger that has gone so long unfulfilled that the bitter has begun to taste sweet. The lesbian woman has a history of sexual abuse by her father as a child and a string of abusive relationships with men that have left her so starving for love and affection that the bitter, skewed love of homosexuality tastes sweet. The transgender man becomes a woman in search of an affirmation of his own identity because of his grandmother’s distortion of love, his own fear, and an uncle’s teasing and abuse. True story. The Christian man turns to alcohol because he feels he never lives up to God’s or his own standards and doesn’t have anyone else to support him.

To the starving person even what is bitter and poisonous will taste sweet. But, beauty of beauties, the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ offers in itself and in it’s people the sweet fulfillment of God and his people’s love, if only we will receive it. If only we will give it. Jesus himself does this with the samaritan woman at the well. Rather than beginning with rebukes for the woman and her long line of husbands, he offers her a well that will never run dry and a drink that will keep her from thirsting for the comfort of yet another husband. We may need to take a cue from Jesus here and change what we lead with in our Gospel presentations.

The Apostle Paul makes the amazing statement that “The God of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers.” How can Christians get angry at blind people for stumbling around and breaking things? How can we who have an abundance of food stand by and curse those who are starving and destroying themselves and those around them? Rather than spending time railing on social media about political parties or government policies, God’s people should be on the front lines distributing the only food that will satisfy those starving souls. Instead of standing by and telling the starving man to stop eating rotten meat we ought to be in the streets preparing a meal whose fragrance will fill cities and draw men and women to the meal that Jesus offers in himself.

Christian, come to Christ and receive him as your satisfaction. Learn the way of drawing and drinking from the wells of his delights. Then, as you have received so give. Go abroad and offer the gospel news that God himself will fill every void in the human soul; that the Holy Spirit will bring peace where there was anxiety and love where there was loneliness; that the Father invites them into a family that is whole and free from abuse and need to perform.

We live in a starving generation. They’re eating anything that is sold to them by the world, by Satan, or by the lusts of their flesh. We’ve got something that is so much better! Let’s offer it.

 

Journal, Travel

Day 25: Returning to Delhi

February 16, 2015

For someone who loves writing, I’ve had a surprisingly hard time writing consistently during our trip. For our time in Sri Lanka I can make use of Dengue as an excuse, but even that meant mostly that I had a ton of time to sit and write if I had so chosen. For India I could make the excuse that we’ve been on the move so much, that we haven’t had time or wi-fi, or that our schedule has been to full for me to write, but in reality there were plenty of gaps in time where I could have sketched out a quick outline of our day-to-day activities and the like.

As I think about it now, typing on our Ipad while we drive through the rich green of small farms, punctuated with huddles of grass huts and the occasional brick factory  on the road from Agra back to Delhi, I believe the bigger issue is that I’m not exactly sure what to write. Perhaps the best word for India is overwhelming. The word carries with it negative connotations, but I don’t mean it in exactly a negative way.

There’s just so much to take in when you travel through India. Even the smallest of villages is a world wildly different from the structured, glittering cleanness of the west. Drive though any city and there’s a thousand things that pile up to coat your senses. The crush of anything-goes traffic,  the smell of hundreds of spices being used by equally as many street food vendors, the sight of poverty expressed in fields of tents under overpasses and children clothed in only layers of dirt, the grandeur and beauty of mughal ruins and ancient temples; all of it and more piles up to overwhelm.

In the midst of it all Kelly and I have been driving (riding, to be more precise – we hired a driver who knows the area), walking, and attempting to take in all that we can and capture at least some of it for ourselves and for sharing in photographs and video. Somewhere along the way a day or two ago I realized I was thinking more about capturing the moment than the people in the moments I was capturing. To avoid the overwhelmingness I started to think of India and it’s sights and people in terms of photographs rather than in terms of people created in the image of God and in need of the love of Christ.

We’ve got two and a half days left here in this country. In a couple hours we’ll arrive back in Delhi, completing our tour of the classic “golden triangle” of northern India and seeing amazing historical places like the Taj Mahal, Fatehpur Sikri, and the others. So far I feel like we’ve been driving from one tourist attraction to the next. My hope for the next couple days in Delhi is to get my feet on the ground and walk the city streets to ineract with people, taste a tiny bit of what life is like for a normal Indian in the city, and embrace the overwhelmingness of a culture that’s so drastically different than ours.  I know that I’ll have much more to write as we return to normal life in the States and I have time to process and put together the pieces that have been given to me by this country.

Commentary, Culture, Fallout Revisited

Fallout Revisited: Politic, 1650

January 7, 2014

Fallout Revisited is an occasional series of posts that dig back through the five plus years of posts here on The Everlasting Fallout and bring to the surface things that I believe are still timely and important. This post was originally published February of 2009 here.

———————————————-

 

It might be imagined that men who sacrificed their friends, their family, and their native lands to a religious conviction, were absorbed in the pursuit of intellectual advantages which they purchased at so dear a rate. The energy, however, with which they strove for the acquirement of wealth, moral enjoyment, and the comforts as well as the liberties of the world is scarcely inferior to that which they devoted themselves to Heaven.

Political principles, and all human laws and institutions were molded and altered at their pleasure; the barriers of the society in which they were born were broken down before them; the old principles which had governet the world for ages were no more; a pat without a term, and a field without a horizon were opened to the exploring and ardent curiosity of man : but at the limits of the political world he checks his researches, he discreetly lays aside the use of his most formidable faculties, he no longer consents to doubt or to innovate, but carefully abstaining from rainsing the curtain of the sanctuary, he yields with the submissive respect to truths he will not debate.

Thus in the moral world everything is classed, adapted, decided, and forseen ; in the political world everything is agitated , disputed, and uncertain. In one is a passive, though voluntary, obedience : in the other an independence scornful of experience and jealous of authority.

These two tendencies, apparently so discrepant, are far from conflicting. They advance together and mutually support each other.

Religion perceives that civil liberty affords a noble exercise to the faculty of man, and that the political world is a field prepared by the Creator for the efforts of the intelligence. Contented with the freedom and the power which it enjoys in its own sphere, and with the place it occupies, the empire of religion is never more surely established than when it reigns in the hearts of men unsupported by aught beside its native strength.

Religion is no less the companion of liberty in all its battles and its triumphs; the cradle of its infancy and the divine source of its claims. The safe-gaurd of morality is religion, and morality is the best security of law as well as the surest pledge of freedom.

That quote, from Alexis de Tocquevile’s Democracy in America, which I just finished reading, brought to my mind a rather interesting train of thought. First off, I must highly recommend the book…I’m only 30-something pages into it and am amazed at some of the astute observations that de Tocquevile makes about America and its birth which are greatly relevant to our country today.

De Tocquevile makes the point that one of the unique things about America’s early years was the unprecedented freedom of political thought; “in the political world everything is agitated , disputed, and uncertain,” yet at the same time in the moral (religious) world there was almost no movement. He presents here, though subtly, a fair picture of the much touted and much mis-used idea of separation of church and state, declaring that far from the state being beyond religion’s reach, it is religion which sees the political field as the place in which religious men may exercise their mental capacity to the full. His statement that, “the empire of religion is never more surely established than when it reigns in the hearts of men unsupported by aught beside its native strength” delighted me. It is absolutely true that religion thrives greatest when it is free from forced supports (ie. a “state religion” that is sanctioned and supported by a governing body).  The places where the Christian religion grows the most deeply and widely and bears the most fruit is the places where the state, far from supporting it, even goes so far as to condemn and persecute those who follow the Way.  That, I believe, is the essential true meaning of the seperation of church and state. The state simply is not meant to support any religion.

What struck me was the fact, as I stated, that the early citizens of the New World held their religious beliefs in almost complete stasis, not changing or even debating change of them. In contrast, their political discussion was as broad and varying as the land in which they had settled. De Tocquevile seems to point to this as a reason for their success and ability to have such liberty without abuse of that freedom. ” The safe-gaurd of morality is religion, and morality is the best security of law as well as the surest pledge of freedom.” If religion gaurds morality and morality is the best security of law and freedom, then religion is most certainly necessary for a country that desires to have a free people.

It seems to me that we in America today have gotten things rather backward. Where the early settlers were free in their politics and held no parties or boundary lines therein we have a country that is sectioned into democrats and republicans with almost no possibility of someone without the backing of one of the two parties holding any significant office. Where America’s birth came from religion being solid, definite, and unmoveable, the culture now is one where religion is the thing that is bantered about in discussions and used as the playing field for the excersize of the human mind.

I can’t help but wonder if that isn’t part of the cause of so much of our struggle today. Are we all discussing the wrong thing? Maybe we should be debating and breaking down the “barriers of the society” and politics rather than focusing so much on whether God exists or whether Catholicism and Christianity are the same. Those of you who read my blog know full well my position on religion, but that is beside the point at the moment. If the things that we are debating are in completely the wrong field, how will we ever find the answer? A man struggling with all his mental power write a novel will never succeed in solving a mathematical equation.

That’s my thought for the moment. Leave your comments if you have any of your own, and, once again, I would highly recommend de Tocquevile’s Democracy in America. It’s a great read!

Journal, Life

25th Birthday: 25 Things I’m Thankful For

November 21, 2013

Today is my 25th birthday, and over the last few years I’ve tried to make a habit of taking time every birthday to look back over the previous years and give thanks to God for all that he’s provided and done. So, here on my 25th, a week before Thanksgiving, here’s my list. It’s in no particular order and is by no means exhaustive. These are things, however, that I am immensely thankful for and praise Jesus for on a regular basis.

  1. Faithful parents. In a world where increasing numbers of people are growing up with only one parent, going through the pain of parents divorcing, or having parents who simply aren’t, I am hugely thankful for my mom and dad’s faithfulness to each other and to me. Parenting seven kids is no small feat, and they’ve done an amazing job of it (whether they think so or not!). They definitely deserve to be first on my list.
  2. My wife, who is a partner, friend, and lover. The last year or so that we’ve been married has been so much fun. We’re not just two people who are attracted to each other; we’re partners in ministry, friends who can be totally ridiculous and silly together, and people who find each other attractive. Kelly’s the best.
  3. Brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s pretty sweet to be able to say with confidence that all seven of my siblings fall into this category, and that, on top of that, I’m surrounded by brothers and sisters in Christ who I can go deep with and through whom I see God work on a daily basis. The Threshingfloor community is an important part of this, and I can’t wait to see them all tomorrow.
  4. Books. As anyone who knows me can attest to, I love my books. I’m awed by the fact that I can pick up a book and learn from someone who lived several hundred years ago or who is has a mass of knowledge I would otherwise never be able to access. Praise God for giving me the ability to read! And shame on any of you who can but don’t.
  5. Friends who believe and think differently than me. Being surrounded by people who are all alike is, honestly, boring. I’m thankful for friends who think differently than me and care enough about me to express it. Living with my friend Danu a couple years ago opened my eyes to things about God that I never would have seen if I’d only been with people who fit my mold.
  6. An identity in Christ, not myself. Oh what beautiful freedom there is in knowing that I no longer define myself! I’m thankful for how Jesus has taught me about the security of my identity in him over the past several years. I wouldn’t be able to accomplish even a third of what I do in my day-to-day life if I depended on how others treat me or how I felt about myself.
  7. The Holy Spirit’s power. This and the previous point are intimately connected. The Holy Spirit is the one who applies biblical truths like my identity in Christ and who empowers me to do what God has called me to do. Through friends like Danu, experiences in ministry, and books I’ve read over the last couple years the Spirit’s power and place in my life has been highlighted even more.
  8. Leaving home. As much as I love my family and parents, I’m so thankful that I moved from Brainerd to Fargo. God had things in store for me here that wouldn’t have happened anywhere else (such as meeting my wife!). Leaving home has grown me and shaped me more into the man who I believe Jesus wants me to be.
  9. Writing. Writing is a tool for organizing and processing my thoughts. How wild is it that lines and dots on a page are interpreted into language? To be able to write or type out what is in my brain is a beautiful release and a means of communicating things that would otherwise be very difficult.
  10. 2 Corinthians has become increasingly more valuable to me over the last three years of ministry. Read it.
  11. People who called me to more. Throughout my life there have been people like Kevin Dean and Andy Abramson who have called me to step out in faith, align myself with God’s purposes, and be more than I was. In all seriousness, without men like them I would probably be in some serious trouble.
  12. Life-long friends. Danny and LT are two people who have, like Kevin and Andy, called me to more. However, unlike Kevin and Andy they were my peers, which in some ways lent them even more influence. I’m blessed that even though we live hours apart, are all married, and don’t talk as often as any of us would like I can still be confident that I could call them up at any time and count on them to be the friends they’ve always been.
  13. People’s generosity. When I graduated highschool my grandparents gave me the car that I’m still using today. A couple years ago when my car went into the ditch and was towed before I could return to get it, Kellie Strong from my church in Brainerd sent me over $200 to help cover the cost of the tow. I could list so much more, but suffice it to say that I’ve been regularly blown away by the generosity of the people of God in my times of need.
  14. Being home-schooled. Growing up learning things from a biblical perspective was a blessing that I don’t think I fully appreciate yet. Because of it my understanding of scripture and God’s character was miles ahead of many people my age when I graduated highschool. Not only that, homeschooling taught me how to learn, something that has been even more valuable than any other education.
  15. Music. From bands like Project 86 who inspired me to pursue writing poetry to Future of Forestry who continuously amazes me with their creativity to Breakbot and the music that just makes me want to dance, I am thankful for the fact that God created us so that the vibrations in the air that we call music affect my spirit and mind the way they do.
  16. The internet. Without it much of my knowledge of how to study the scriptures, leadership principles, and various other things that I’m glad I know wouldn’t be. Sermons podcasted from across the country and world, blogs read, and countless things researched make me thankful for the internet.
  17. God’s sovereignty. If the God we served wasn’t totally sovereign over all things I would have no real hope. How could I hope to defeat the sin that so often seems about to overwhelm me? How would I have any ground for believing that the people I minister to can be changed? How, if not because our God’s sovereign power over all the universe?
  18. Different cultures. I love being able to see, hear, and taste the fruits of the wide array of cultures that are present here in the FM area. To not love cultural diversity is to disdain the creativity of God. I’m thankful for the fact that I get to be friends with people from all over the world.
  19. Traveling. A little over a year ago Kelly and I took a two week road trip for our honeymoon. Five years ago now Danny and I took our summer road trip down the west coast. Growing up my family took numerous trips around the US, following the Louis and Clark Trail, visiting where the pilgrims landed on the east coast, vacationing with my grandparents in Florida, and all manner of other trips. Getting to travel and experience new places is something I am grateful has been a part of my life.
  20. Legos. What would I have done as a kid if I didn’t have them?
  21. Good food. Growing up we always ate well, and my mom passed her cooking skills on to each of us kids. Good food is a tool not only for filling the stomach but for bringing people together and expressing hospitality and generosity. From the experience of cooking to the sitting down to eat together, good food is well worth praising the Lord for.
  22. Freedom in Christ. As a follower of Christ I’m not a slave to others, to my passions, or to the world anymore. No chains.
  23. Nature. I’m thankful for having grown up surrounded by woods, getting to build forts and explore. I’m thankful for my family’s annual Boundary Water’s trips and North Shore camping trips. There’s peace and hope that’s found in the wilderness that isn’t found in any city.
  24. Prayer. Not only is our God loving, full of grace, and sovereign, he also hears us when we pray to him. Being able to begin my day laying myself, my worries, my hopes and dreams out in the presence of the Lord is the main thing that moves me from frustration to peace and from worry to hope.
  25. A body that works. So easy to take for granted, but so precious. The fact that I am able to walk, to breath, to talk without trouble, to see without glasses, is something I am very thankful for.

So, that’s my 25. As I said it’s not an exhaustive list, but they are all things I am definitely thankful for. Take a moment and think through what you have that’s worth thanking the Lord for. I’ve found that thanksgiving releases us from disappointment and discontentment. Give thanks to God for what he’s provided you with through the years! He is abundantly worthy of it!