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TRAVEL

Travel: The Judean Wilderness

Travel: The Judean Wilderness

The desert is clean physically & spiritually because the sun shines in every place and bakes it sinless. Nothing can hide from its righteouRead More...

FAITH

The High To Keep You Satisfied

The High To Keep You Satisfied

This is an archived Sky Blue post originally published in May 2014. Not every difficulty is a storm: sometimes life is a drought. We do not aRead More...

INSPIRATION

Home Sounds: Chris Stapleton

Home Sounds: Chris Stapleton

I first became a fan of Chris Stapleton's voice during my bluegrass kick. He was the front man for The SteelDrivers at that time, and that voRead More...

WORLD

Ears to Hear: How Does the Gospel Speak to Racism?

Ears to Hear: How Does the Gospel Speak to Racism?

Will Rogers once said: “Never miss a good chance to shut up.” We all have drums we like to beat. But never doubt the capacity of the human hearRead More...

Entries Tagged as 'The World We Live In'

Ears to Hear: How Does the Gospel Speak to Racism?

Posted on: Thursday, April 27, 2017

Racism and the gospel

Will Rogers once said: “Never miss a good chance to shut up.”

We all have drums we like to beat. But never doubt the capacity of the human heart to be self-centered even in its pursuit of justice. As passionate as we may feel about certain causes, and as eloquent as we may wax, we tend to be most passionate about our own reputations. We come by it naturally: When Adam and Eve were confronted with sin, they tried to deflect. “It’s not me, it’s them!” Our knee jerk reaction is self-defense; listening with humility feels less important in the moment than asserting our own innocence.

That’s why talking about racism makes us uncomfortable. We prioritize self-justification over self-examination. We can’t listen when, like Pontius Pilate, we are more eager to wash our hands than to stop an atrocity happening on our watch.

Does the Gospel Say Anything About Racism?

If you believe the gospel, you must hate racism. The question is, why would you otherwise? Racism, sexism, classism, nationalism, tribalism—every ism—make sense in a godless world. If it is true that we owe our existence to victory in a long struggle against other life forms, there could be nothing more natural and right than taking pride in power, fighting for superiority, and clinging to those similar to us. If the law of the universe is survival of the fittest, then love is an indulgence, tolerance is a weakness, unity is frivolous, and kindness is illogical.

But followers of Jesus know that humans are not cavemen fighting for survival, the byproduct of millions of years of violence. We are God’s children. But we chose to walk away and disobey Him. Every type of hate, including racism, is a symptom of the sickness infecting our broken world. Even stereotyping is completely selfish and wrong, carried out in the interest of feeling superior or protecting ourselves.

The world knows racism is wrong. We can see that inner war between humanity’s status as beings created in God’s image and the choice we have made to take up arms in rebellion against Him in the fact that even nonbelievers who deny Christ and accept a dog-eat-dog model of existence intrinsically realize that racism is evil. As believers, we know why racism is wrong. We have the language to explain it. Apart from that truth, there can never be reconciliation and there can never be peace.

Unity in a broken world can only be accomplished through Christ. Jesus died to save men and women from every tribe and tongue and people and nation so that in Him “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:28) The Bible teaches that we are all created equally. We stand before God, made in His image, precious in His sight, but sinners and rebels by our own choice. Jesus died to save everyone. The Book of Revelation predicts a day when His throne room will be filled with redeemed representatives from every people group on the planet (Revelation 5:9-10).

So if you think the gospel has nothing to say about racism, you don’t know the gospel. And if you are a follower of Christ and you are not taking action against racism, you are withholding grace from a world that has no other way of achieving it.

Love Doesn’t Look Away. We Must Learn to Listen.

When a brother or sister tells us about their experience of racism or sexism or discrimination or prejudice, that is a good chance to shut up and listen. Christians understand sin; we know that our world is full of pride and hate. So why would we deny racism? We should expect a fallen world to use any and every opportunity to oppress. Oppression is present in every place. Wherever you live in the world, don’t be fooled: Sin and hate are present in the fabric of your culture. If you don’t see it or experience it, that simply means you are among the members in your society with power.

We have to get better at listening to people in our congregations and our communities who feel disenfranchised. We have to suppress the urge to justify ourselves. We cannot be content to relax in the status quo, more interested in preserving our view of ourselves than rocking the boat. We must follow the command to bear one another’s burdens (Gal 6:2). We must ask ourselves tough questions about our own complicity or culpability. We must pray Psalm 129:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart…see if there is any hurtful way in me.”

We are Fellow Heirs of the Gospel of Peace.

This matters, because it matters to Jesus. We are His family, and some of us are hurting. We’re not supposed to wash our hands, proclaiming our innocence, walking away while people suffer, enjoying the benefits of a sinful culture. We’re supposed to get down and wash each other’s feet. Jesus blessed the meek (Matthew 5:5). So may the well-being of our brothers and sisters matter more to us than our pride. Instead of an opportunity for blind comfort, may we desire to turn any power or privilege we have been granted into an opportunity to be a platform for the voiceless. Let’s pray for eyes to see, ears to hear, and grace to change. May the world witness our unity, our compassion, our humility, and our love for one another, and turn to the Prince of Peace.

Why Does the Devil Get the Art?

Posted on: Tuesday, February 21, 2017

This is an archived Sky Blue post originally published in 2013.

For a long time, I’ve had a lot of unanswered questions about art–such as, why is it that Christians, who understand beauty and are intimate with its Source, are typically unable to manufacture it well? Very few Christian artists today are creating work that will stand the test of time.

Americans are a pragmatic people, and as a result we are uncomfortable with the subject of art. When school budgets are tight, we cut music and theater programs long before we touch athletics. We don’t see art as serving a practical purpose, and as a practical people, we don’t really know what to do with it. Believers who are Americans seem even more confused. We tend to think that unless the film or painting or book or song or dance or play is meeting some express objective such as evangelizing someone, it is a waste of time.

“Beauty is unbearable, drives us to despair, offering us for a minute the glimpse of an eternity that we should like to stretch out over the whole of time.”

-Albert Camus

Albert Camus was born over one hundred years ago in 1913, but his philosophies continue to shape our culture. In order to communicate his ideas, Mr. Camus wrote novels that are still widely read. “Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth,” he explained.

To the believer, beauty–true beauty, that indefinable but universally recognized entity–is the promise of a better reality. As a follower of Christ, I believe that beauty will stretch out for eternity. Beauty is not a tease, but a promise.

But Mr. Camus felt that beauty was nothing more than a taste of something he could never really consume. Like a shipwrecked man on the sea dying of thirst and surrounded by sparkling, unpalatable saltwater, to him beauty was only cruel.

“The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”

-C.S. Lewis

Albert Camus created enduring art. He was able to communicate his ideas elegantly through the vehicle of fiction, but his philosophy was broken. Christians should be able to create the most beautiful art of all. Yet too often our work is off-putting and heavy-handed.

“A Christian should use these arts to the glory of God, not just as tracts, mind you, but as things of beauty to the praise of God. An art work can be a doxology in itself.”

-Francis Schaeffer

Does our art reflect the beauty we know in Christ? Does it generate a longing in people for the place where the truth and beauty came from? I don’t think lazy films that preach, or kitschy pictures of cute cottages with Bible verses slapped on the matting, accomplish this goal. This is lazy art…actually, it is just bad art. We tend to sterilize our art because we wish to avoid mention of sin, or we take the other extreme and make our art a filthy bloodbath in order to prove our grit. The Bible is realistic and raw, yet redemptive. It is not gratuitous. It is full of grace.

I do not have the answers, but I think this is something we should be talking about more. Art and beauty matter–they enrich our lives and feed our souls. If everything can be done to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31) we should be individually diligent in praying about how our unique gifts and interests can be used. Americans love Christian athletes because they have a “platform” for their faith. But truly, artists have even more of an opportunity to honor the Lord with their abilities. Filmmakers, painters, singers, writers, dancers, poets: we should be thinking about these things, talking about these things, praying about these things, remembering always that it is not about our work itself, but it is about whether or not the truth and beauty we know in Christ is coming through it.

C.S. Lewis, John Milton, and Flannery O’Connor are three examples of writers of faith I admire. Who are some believers in the arts you look up to?

How to Read the News: Tips from a Journalist

Posted on: Thursday, July 16, 2015

I studied journalism in college and have worked for a couple of newspapers (you can read some of my clips for The Washington Times here if you’re interested). Because of this, something I’m asked a lot is: How do I read the news?

So, here’s my advice! Hopefully it helps you in your quest to stay informed without going crazy (hashtag relatable).

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Imago Dei: Who are the “Least of These” in 2015?

Posted on: Monday, January 26, 2015

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IMAGO DEI IN THE EARLY CHURCH

At the time of the Early Church, society viewed the value of a human life as based on the capacity of that life.

This meant that in the Greco-Roman world, children, the elderly, slaves, the poor, and the mentally and physically handicapped were considered less valuable. Infanticide, especially of baby girls, was common. Eldercide was common. Abortion was a primitive and dangerous procedure, but it was accepted. Widows were devalued. They had no choice but to get remarried. Aristotle promoted race-based slavery because he wrote that some races were too emotional and had no capacity for higher reason.

Into this world, the Christian Church said, “All of human life is valuable because we are all made in the image of God.”

This, the concept of the Imago Dei, this was radical.

It meant that — Christian or not, rich or poor, male or female, slave or free, young or old, healthy or sick — everyone had value. Everyone was worth saving, loving, and sacrificing for. This is what Jesus Christ taught and exhibited. And this is what the early Church exemplified.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:28

So, baby girls left on the steps of temples to die of exposure or to be adopted by priests to become Temple prostitutes were rescued by Christians. Widows in the church were not forced to get remarried if they didn’t want to; churches committed to financially supporting these women. Rich Christians sold off property to help the poor. Slaves and masters went to church side by side. Men and women were treated equally. People from all kinds of backgrounds found common ground in Christ (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Even as believers were being slaughtered by Nero, they lived lives of radical respect, love, and generosity in a dark culture.

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IMAGO DEI THROUGH THE AGES

The world eventually adopted Christianity’s view of life. Most of the men who founded America were not Christians, but their minds and worldviews were shaped by Christian values when they wrote, “All men are created equal…they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.”

Thousands of human rights victories have been led by believers, based on the idea of the Imago Dei. This is the view that allowed William Wilberforce to effectively fight for the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. This is the view that prompted Charles Dickens to speak out for children’s rights and education in England. This is the view that inspired Martin Luther King, Jr. to campaign peacefully for civil rights in the 1960’s.

History is filled with thousands of examples — most of them quiet, behind the scenes; individual believers laying down their lives for their society’s “least of these.” Men like George Mueller who devoted his life to caring for and educating thousands of orphans, even as he was despised in his society for raising the poor above their natural stations in life. Women like Amy Carmichael who left her comfortable life in England to rescue female orphans from forced temple prostitution in India. All based on the teachings and the life of Jesus Christ.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Matthew 25:34-40

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THE IMAGO DEI TODAY

True believers are not to be confused with those who use the name of Christ to their own ends — people Jesus warned us of in the rest of that passage in Matthew 25:41-46, and in Matthew 7:21-23. The true Church has always stood up for the poor and the downtrodden; the false church has always been power-hungry and cruel. True followers of Christ are marked by love (John 13:35). We believe that all human life is sacred and valuable. This is a belief that we have lived and died for time and again since A.D. 30.

Fighting for the unborn is just one example of being pro-life. Jesus is the way, the truth, the life; the resurrection and the life; the man who came to give us life and life abundant. Because life matters to Him, it matters to us.

Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC, preached on this:

[W]hat would [this church] look like as a community? Here’s what it would look like: what if we took the image of God seriously? First of all, regardless of what the law of the land says, we would know abortion, except to save the life of a mother, is a violation of the image of God. Number one.

Number two, the women who have had abortions, and the men who have helped them have abortions, would not feel like scum, because James 3:9 says you don’t disdain, you don’t demonize, you don’t curse, you offer grace to everybody. You see, if we believed in the image of God and say abortion is wrong, we wouldn’t make women who have had abortions feel terrible, like scum or something. And we wouldn’t be single issue people, we would be for all of the poor and all of the weak and all of the marginal.

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THE IMAGO DEI & ABORTION: A POSTSCRIPT

A few words as we think about Sanctity of Life Sunday (yesterday) and moving forward:

  • It’s not enough to vote. We have to give our money and our lives for the cause of life. Remember, every single mom in your church and your community made a choice: She chose life. Are you supporting her in that choice, or are you only pro-life until the baby is born and then you don’t care? Do single moms feel welcome in your church? Are they being cared for spiritually, physically, and emotionally? Also, if abortion is outlawed, we are going to need to step up even more in serving and loving the poor and the disadvantaged of society. Women who choose to raise their babies alone will need support. More babies will need homes. Are you ready to support the cause of life by opening your wallet and giving your time?
  • We must understand the nuances of this issue. We must never demonize women (every baby has a father, he just doesn’t have to deal with the consequences of an unplanned pregnancy unless he chooses to). We must protect women’s rights and dignity at every step. For example, there need to be laws in place assuring a woman who is raped and becomes pregnant that she has legal protection from the father claiming any stake in that child’s life. Believe it or not, some states don’t have these laws. This might cause a woman to choose abortion over having to deal with her rapist or exposing her child to his influence.
  • Men must be sensitive and humble in talking about abortion. I wrote a few months ago to pro-life guys. They need to understand the historical sins of absent fathers — sins that make abortion a painful and explosive topic for women today. We need to teach our sons and brothers to be responsible. Are there men in your church who are absentee fathers? This is not OK; call them out (1 Timothy 5:8). Stop teaching men that they are helpless in the face of lust. Stop telling women that they are responsible for male sin. The Bible does not teach this at all.

Christians have always fought for the most devalued members of society. We have always been pro-life , because we believe in the Imago Dei. And we have always been mocked by the cultural elite, which has argued at various times in history that the poor, the black, the brown, the woman, the girl, the widow, the slave, the prostitute, the prisoner, the sick, the disabled, and now the unborn, are not worthy of saving. Christians have always been despised and looked at with suspicion because we choose to align ourselves with society’s most marginalized. This is nothing new. Life is worth it.

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