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Atrophied Awe

Muscles and skills continually unused begin to atrophy and weaken. While I know this personally from experience as someone who used to run rigorously and now walks leisurely, I also see it happening on a cultural level with our capacity for awe.

Awe, officially defined, is a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear and wonder.

I saw aspects of awe when my boys and I got to help raise a little baby Mockingbird who tumbled tragically from his nest. Their senses delighted in the bird’s tiny beak, powerful wings and downy feathers.

I saw other aspects of awe when I took my boys who have read the entire Harry Potter series multiple times to Universal this summer. They literally had chins that were dropped and nearly drooling as they ran through the stores and cities of the books. While I did not appreciate the cost of Butter Beer, their sweet, shocked smiles were well worth the exorbitant price. IMG_2881

However, true awe is increasingly hard to come by. Our awe muscles are atrophying, partly because we live in a comfortable, highly indulgent and gadget-glad society, and partly because we have lost the foundation of the fear of God.

Moving at the speed of sound, we don’t have time to notice the wonders of creation all around us, from the ant brigade on our driveway to the soaring hawks circling above us as we sit in traffic, rushing to the next thing. While awe at creation is incomplete, it is an initial and often necessary step towards the apex of awe which is awe at the Creator behind His creation.

With withering abilities wonder and atrophied awe,  we experience aching emptiness. This emptiness, meant to alert us to the void and point us to the void filler, often simply leads us deeper into the frantic cycle of consumption. The gnawing emptinessP we experience is meant to painstakingly point us to contemplation and our Creator; however, more often than not, the realization of emptiness and boredom tends to propel us to work harder, eat more, buy more trinkets and travel farther.

In his book The Shattered Lantern, Ronald Rolheiser powerfully ties the modern lack of awe and wonder to our lack of contemplation.

“People no longer expect to discover dimensions of reality beyond the empirically evident… we no longer see spirit lurking  within matter, nor the natural world camouflaging the supernatural.”

How are we to stretch our sedentary awe muscles? How can we begin to recover a child-like wonder at the world around us? How are we to relearn how to stalk the hidden spiritual world that hides behind our natural reality?

We have to slow down enough to see.  We have to pull on the thin threads of visible wonder and follow them back to the invisible, only wise God who left us treasure trails everywhere to lead us back to Himself.

To stretch and strengthen muscles for wonder at special revelation (what God reveals through Scripture and His Son), we can begin with general revelation (what. God reveals through His creation),  following David’s pattern in Psalm 19.

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.  Day to day pours out speech,  and night to night reveals knowledge…Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bride-groom leaving his chamber,  and like a strong man,  runs its course with joy.  Psalm 19:1-2 & 4-5. 

Having warmed up his wonder muscles with physical realities, David proceeds to practice wonder at spiritual realities.

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure,  making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. Psalm 19: 7-9. 

Today,  engage your awe muscles at the visible world.  Then, follow the sunbeam back up  to the sun, the character of the God who created such wonders.

For with Him, wonders never cease and awe is ever-increasing. We would do well to strengthen our awe muscles during our short stay on earth, for we will need them in eternity!

 

 

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Gospel Resiliency

PACE. Plays after critical errors.

Owing to the fact that I am the only female in my entire household, I have learned far more about sports than I ever imagined I would. Most of the time, the sports facts I hear go in one ear and come right out the other; however, every once in a while, a sports fact gets laced into the way I think.

One of the determining factors for the strength and maturity of a team is a study of their response to critical errors such as turnovers, interceptions or own goals. As such, the play following critical errors is often more significant than the play in which the error occurred.

If, after a perceived failure, the team is able to regroup and move forward, they are considered mature and resilient.

I have a strong propensity to perfectionism that the Lord has been chipping away since He grabbed me up and drew me from the domain of darkness and into the light of the kingdom of His Son.  I see it being played out in my oldest son who is a chip off the old perfectionist block. One small mistake, a missed math problem or a grade less than a sliver less than superlative for him, an erroneous email or a sub-par Bible study for me, and we begin to crumble. Our shoulders droop, our hearts sag, and we are tempted to paint the rest of the day in dark colors. I know it sounds dramatic, but this is the reality of a recovering perfectionist.

Then the Lord reminds me that He is growing my gospel resiliency, little failure by little failure, miscommunication by miscommunication, miss by miss.

I am slowly learning to measure my spiritual maturity not on perfection and performance but on my response to failure.

Am I quicker to remember that I am loved no matter the scoreboard? Is my heart drawn closer to the Father who loves me even in my mistakes? Am I more able to bounce back and continue through the rest of day under His unalterable approval?

King David grew in his gospel resiliency after his epic failure with Bathsheba. Although it took him many months and a clever conversation with a concerned Nathan to own his sin, when he did, he repented into the arms of a redeeming God. Even though he had no grounds for such bold confidence that a just God would be merciful through the Cross, he failed forward into a gracious God.

Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51: 7-10. 

By God’s grace operating in my life, I am often quick to know my sin and to name it; however, I am much slower at being confidently restored to my Redeemer. I tend to make my mishaps, my missteps and mistakes large in my own my mind and heart. My slowness to receive forgiveness is rooted in an underestimating of the size of the Cross and the sure-footing it gives us in our failures. I think my failures larger than the Cross, which goes to show how little I understand the enormity of the Cross.

In those moments, God slows me down and reminds me that He is growing my gospel resiliency, my ability to see myself and the Cross in more healthy proportions.

May we become people who fail forward and keep PACE with the Spirit within us.

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Echoes

Our love for God and others is but an echo of God’s resounding love for us. When our love seems to be waning, there is a good chance that we have not positioned ourselves in place to hear the sound waves of His love well.

I attended a small, private liberal arts college in the Southeast. Our campus was quaint, boasting a tiny puddle of a pond by the theater building. Supposedly the architect who made the building also created this one spot in the theater courtyard where if you stood at just the right place you could create an echo. I tried time after time with friends, usually as a procrastination method or a way to assuage early evening boredom.  I never did find the sweet spot, leading me to the conclusion that either the whole thing was a myth or I was spatially challenged.

While studying Paul’s first letter written to a young church in Thessalonica this week, a phrase by MacLaren, one of my favorite commentators, reminded me of my sad attempts to find the right spot to hear the echo.

“My love is the reverberation of the primeval voice, the echo of God’s…So my love answers God’s love, and it will never answer it unless faith has brought me within the auditorium, the circle wherein the voice that proclaims ‘I love thee, my child,’ can be heard.” 

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The Cross of Christ is the best place, the sweetest spot, to hear most clearly God’s resounding, reverberating love for us. When we earnestly at the foot of the Cross, whether in brokenness, in neediness or in guiltiness, the sound waves of His costly love spill all around us.

I wish that I could say that my soul is daily filled with the sounds waves of His love; however, practically speaking, I do not often find my soul eagerly listening at the Cross. As hard as it is to admit, I more readily find myself at the hills of performance, listening for the spotty sound waves of human love, than positioned permanently at the hill of Golgotha.

I cannot echo what I do not first hear and receive. As such, over time, my love for God and others weakens until it is becomes nearly inaudible.  Rather than being a loud trumpet of the good news, I become an empty vessel, desperate for words of love and life.

Recognizing my emptiness, I find myself back at the place of the Cross where His love screams most loudly.

The sounds waves of His love penetrate far more deeply than the even the deepest frequencies of human love. I have a desperate need to visit my echo spot more often, to linger there longer.

May we hear His love so loudly that our echoes of that love might more fill an empty world.

 

 

 

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To A Pensive Pencil

Mother Theresa fascinates me. As such, I have read just about everything she has written or that has been written about her.

“I am a little pencil in God’s hands. He does the thinking. He does the writing. He does everything and sometimes it is really hard because it is a broken pencil and He has to sharpen it a little more.”

I love her love and simplicity. I love her trust in God and her desire to rest in His strong, sure hands.

If my soul is a pencil, it is often a frantic, worried one attempting to draw my own picture or sharpen myself. This week I have found my soul wrestling to be a resting and ready pencil.

To a Pensive Pencil

Oh, pensive little pencil,
Stay poised in my hand.
It is not for you to know
All that I have planned.

Your primary job is to stay
Enfolded in my clasp.
I will not give you the
Control for which you grasp.

For I alone know full well
The beautiful works ahead.
’Tis mine to do the leading,
’Tis yours to be gently led. 

My strong and sturdy hands
Will expertly draw each line.
Your weak and wavering will
Must be enfolded into mine. 

So, rest now, pensive pencil.
You must learn to be still.
For only when you trust me,
Can we fully do my will. 

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Consummate Creators

There are two new highlights to my weekday routine: my kindergartner’s proud smile when I drop him off at carline and his relieved and his even more proud smile when I pick him up at his classroom door.

He bounds out of there with the pride akin to that of the first men who walked on the moon. When I ask him about his day, he alludes to the beautiful treasures in his red pocket folder, but he absolutely will not let me peruse them until we are at home.

Then, like a jeweler bringing forth a twenty karat diamond, he presents his red folder to me, fully expecting the same pomp on my end.

He opens the folder and lays out each worksheet or well-thought out drawing or craft from his centers. The smile I thought could not grow any larger swells yet again as I enjoy his creations.

I am not allowed to throw anything away. He has a special place he is keeping any and every piece of paper from school. They are all treasures to him.

Children are consummate creators. Left alone on a Saturday morning, all three of my boys end up creating something or an entire species of somethings. Just yesterday, my middle child spent 2 hours creating a Lego set for a Stop Motion video he plans to create today. While he was gathering pieces for his homemade Hollywood, our oldest son was creating a semi-scary, semi-hysterical Lego skeleton scene in which skeletons where emerging from the ground wielding weapons like ketchup bottles and hotdogs.

While the work station required for such creativity (read: a bedroom floor laden with legos for hours on end) hurts both my feet and my feeling of my control, there is something so right about the intricate and intentional hours they spend creating.

In a culture marked and measured by consumption, children are quietly but consistently inviting us back to the wonder of creating. It really is not the end product that they adore, though they take great pride in their work; rather, it is the process of imaging God by joining Him in His joy in creating that produces lasting joy.

In a week, the Stop Motion video will be replaced by a different scene and the tree scribbling will be forgotten, but the process of creating will leave an indelible mark on them.

Their ability to spend hours working toward the desired end they have in mind and their great delight in explaining every minuscule detail and design have given me a window into the heart of God regarding the creative process.

They deeply desire for me to take time to see, to really see and savor, the efforts they have put into their creation. They want me to comment and complement and commend them, as they rightly should.

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When I look at them delighting in my excited examination, I see my own deep desires to have God see and notice and know the things that I take great delight in creating. Even if my efforts will never make it into a book or an exhibit or magazine, even if they are mediocre at best, God delights in my delight at doing what I was made to do as His image-bearer.

I find myself imagining God having a colossal city closets full of half-hatched ideas, silly sketches, cobbled creations made by His most beloved creations…us.  I imagine He remembers each of our novice attempts at joining Him in creating with the same nostalgic joy I feel when going through the boy’s old artwork.

Perhaps when He said we ought to become like little children, Jesus, at least partly, invited us to mimic children’s joy in being consummate creators.

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A Curious Kurios

Curious: strange, odd, unexpected, incongruous.
Kurios: Greek word for Lord, master, a person exercising absolute ownership rights.

Throughout his days on our strange sphere, those who encountered Him and His manner of life often innately gave Jesus the title of “kurios.” They seemed to recognize that He was a man of authority in every arena of life. Yet, Jesus was a curious kurios, as He was quite unlike like his contemporaries under the same title. They often used their title as an easy chair and a reason to be served; yet, Christ’s title compelled Him not to be served, but to serve, not to receive bribes but to give His very life as a ransom for many.

A Curious Kurios

He is a curious kurios who
Treasures mite over might.
The Heir of the throne
Leaving Heaven’s height.

He is a curious kurios who
Borrows bread from a child.
The Creator of the cosmos
Receiving in manner mild.

He is a curious kurios who
Trades crown for ignoble death.
The Mouth who animated life
Gasping a final, filial breath.

He is a curious kurios who
Lies in a borrowed tomb.
The unlimited, unbound One
Contained in a rocky room.

He is curious kurios who
Gently folds His grave clothes.
The most significant Sire
Gracing women when he rose.

He is a curious kurios who
Entrusts His cause to humans.
The radiant Light of the World
In us the darkness illumines.

May we never grow tired, bored or ho hum about our Curious Kurios. There is majesty enough in our strangely beautiful and other Messiah to keep us marveling for millennia and more.

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Splinter Team Six

In our home, splinter is a swear word. I know, I know. It sounds dramatic, but nonetheless, ’tis true.

The first time our youngest got a splinter, I made the mistake of assuming he was precocious enough to understand sarcasm, saying, “I guess we will have to cut your hand off.”

While the toddler brain is not developed enough to understand such nuanced humor, the toddler brain is spongy enough to absorb such information as absolute reality. The result of such facts is that every time he gets a splinter, he honestly cries and screams in fear that the doctors might have to cut off his hand.

Despite my attempts to repair my mistake, the deep-seated emotions of fear and terror continue to mark any and every splinter occasion in our household.

Did I mention that my husband is an amazing woodworker? Do you see the perfect storm forming?

Splinters are a semi-regular occasion in our house. Splinters are a semi-traumatic occasion in our house.

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Over the past two weekends, we have had three splinter incidents, which means that we have been operating as splinter team six.

All joking and hyperbole aside, splinter removal is a team affair in our home. At least 3 out of five, if not all five members of our household, are usually involved in removing the tiniest slivers of wood.

I wish you could see us all huddled around the splintered one, coaxing and comforting. We take turns being the skin pincher, the tweezer wielder, the cheerleader or the distractor.  Splinter Team Six. Ready for removal.

In the midst of a small, though life-threateningly serious splinter (there is that sarcasm again) removal from our middle son’s foot yesterday morning, the Lord showed up in my own soul.

Splinters are so small and seemingly insignificant, yet they inflict a disproportionate amount of pain. They wedge themselves into us so smoothly, yet they are so difficult to remove.  It usually takes two people to remove a splinter, at least in our house. And both parties must be on the same team with the same goal: getting the darned thing out at all cost. The process is strange, as the teammates must contort themselves in strange ways to get to the splintered area. As such, there is a strange intimacy that comes about in splinter removal.

As we huddled around working on splinter removal yesterday, the Lord reminded me that sin removal is similar.

Even seemingly small sins have a way of causing disproportionate pain and discomfort. In Christ and with our trusted communities, we have a Splinter Team Six poised and ready for removal action; however, we must be ready for the process and the pain involved in even the removal of the smallest sin patterns. There will be discomfort and pinching and pealing back of tiny layers of soul, laden with sensitive nerves. Thus, we must invite the team to join us in our endeavor to be less sin-splintered souls.

When we refuse the pain of the process, we invite ourselves not only to a lingering nuisance, but also to the risk of infection and more systemic pain.

As I gently tweezed my little man’s foot, all the while consoling him and calling him to courage, I saw the Lord’s role similarly in regards to helping remove sin from my life. He doesn’t stand at a distance, shaming or chiding me for having a splinter. He doesn’t simply demand that the splinter be removed at all costs.

Rather, He bends down, pulls up his proverbial sleeves and gets to work, gentling working with me with a shared goal: to remove the small but serious invader.

He dries our tears and calls us to courage; He patiently reminds us that the pain is worth it as much as the risk of infection is not. He cheers and celebrates when the splinter has been removed. He bandages up the tender skin around the small surgery and sends us on our way back to the joys of our normal routines.

Do you have a Splinter Team Six? Are you a part of a Splinter Team Six?

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 2 Timothy 2:22

 

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Pain as Preservative

What formaldehyde is to organs in a jar, pain can be to the human heart.

I spent entirely too many hours semi-willingly quarantined in labs in college. Even the faintest whiff of formaldehyde conjures memories of organs and invertebrate bodies floating in large jars.

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Although it is not used as much now due to its carcinogenic properties, formaldehyde was once used commonly to preserve the tissues of the specimens, allowing them to be further studied. By being soaked and stored in formaldehyde, the organs or organisms remained soft and supple when they otherwise would have become hardened.

Suffering as Preservative

Pain, while terribly uncomfortable, can also have such a preservative effect on the human heart.

Recently, my grandmother passed away, and for the days surrounding her passing on either side, my heart was as soft as it has been in months. While out running errands and doing school pick up or cooking dinner and talking to a friend, I found my eyes leaking frequently at both the beauty and brokenness around me.

The world and the monotony of life can have a slowly hardening effect on our souls. And, in some ways, it is more comfortable to be comfortably numb than to have quivering, sentient souls that feel acutely.

Pain jolts us awake to the reality of life in the already/not yet of the kingdom of God. It protects our hearts from the hardening effects of life and keeps us supple and tender to the suffering of others.

Suffering as Silencer 

As a mother of three boys, I know that life can get noisy. As such, I have grown shockingly accustomed to an unnatural level of volume in my home. Sadly, I have also grown overly accustomed to an unnatural level of static in my soul. Static and background noise, a running list of to-do’s and ought-to-have-dones, a looping reel of lies and fears, the demands of the urgent. These are the sounds of my soul’s static.

Pain and suffering silence the static and sharpen the substantial. When a family member is diagnosed with cancer or a child struggles at school, when a friend betrays or a job is lost, the secondary static noise is quickly quieted, allowing us to hear the things that matter most.

Suddenly, the to-do list is eclipsed by a to-enjoy list and eternal conversations begin to trump surface subjects. Suffering teaches us to number our days rather than be numbed by them.

Suffering as Study 

As hard as it is to suffer ourselves or to watch those we love most suffer, suffering sets the gospel on display, inviting the watching world into a study of the gospel. When a friend who has lost her hair, but has not lost her hope in the Lord, the world wonders and takes a second glance at the gospel she adorns in her pain. When a mother loses her child, but continues to entrust her pain to a suffering Savior, those outside the fold are likely to do a double-take.  When an adoptive or foster family goes to great lengths to love a child who has no ability to love them back or to repay them long term, they see a glimpse at our suffering  savior who authored agape love.

It is not easy to live with a supple hard in a sharp world, but God calls His children to do just that. He bids us to be alive and alert to the pain all around us and to step towards it with the Good News of a lasting hope. There is a day coming when suffering will be no more, but, until that day, we are called to have supple hearts, preserved and softened by pain that we may point others to Him!

 

 

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An Airborne Antinomianism

I do not consider myself a germophobe until I step into the airport. After passing through security, the transformation from my typical non-chalant form into the hypochondriac, hyper-germ-aware version of myself is complete.  I swear I can see the cold and flu germs traveling in the recycled air from the vents into my body.

On a normal basis, I take very little to no thought of the air I breathe; I simply let my diaphragm do its thing. However, in airports and on planes, I suddenly become deeply inquisitive at all the unseen particles that are passing into my body.

I wish that all heresies had a clear odor alerting us to their dangers. While some clearly signal their entry into the theological air we breathe, others sneak in undetected and unnoticed.  While there are no new heresies, the old ones tend to shed their names and sneak incognito back into our Churches and cultures dressed in more fashionable and timely clothing.

I fear that there is an airborne antinomianism spreading through our churches and the greater Christian culture in America. Even more so, I fear that few even know or care what antinomianism even means. Because it has been sneaking in under the guise of grace and the gospel, we have become so accustomed to it, we don’t even sense the strangeness of the air around us and within us.

Antinomianism Described

The word antinomianism, beside being a great spelling bee candidate, gives us clues as to the content of the heresy.  It literally means “against the law,” and it describes a wrong view of the gospel in which the law does not matter since Jesus has come and fulfilled it. While the term itself came into use in the sixteenth century, the antinomian heresy long predated the term. This view takes the right principle of justification by grace alone through faith alone and uses it as a wedge between belief and the Law. The two are thus set against one another and torn apart in a way they were never intended to be.

The law is an extension of God’s character. It emanates out of His values and His views, His preferences and the things which are distasteful and discordant with His perfection. As such, it is not be thrown out as something of the Old Covenant.

In fact, Christ Himself addresses the topic directly with His disciples in the Sermon on the Mount.

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have come not to abolish them, but to fulfill them. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called the least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:17-19. ESV.

Notice that the conversation regards those within the household of God, within the kingdom.

Christ is the only human who has ever or will ever fully and faithfully follow the entirety of the Law; therein lies the Christian’s hope. He has fully done what we can never do. He has secured a way to right relationship with the Father for those who could not and would not follow His law.

However, Christ’s fulfillment of the law, while being our hope, has not kicked the Law out of our scope. Rather, He champions the Law and gives us His Holy Spirit to help us even move beyond the Decalogue and into an internalized more intimate relationship with the stuff of the Law, as seen in the Beatitudes and the rest of the Sermon on the Mount.

Christ loves the law and died that we might become the kind of people who long to keep the law, albeit failingly and in fits and starts.

Antinomianism Disguised

While I have yet to hear someone introduce themselves as an avowed antinomian, I hear notes and hints of it all over in conversations with Christians.

In his classic, The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer calls antinomianism by a different name: cheap grace. Throughout the book, Bonhoeffer contends for costly grace over and against cheap grace, a version of grace without transformation, a form of easy-believism that had become widespread in Germany. In cheap grace, the Christian begins to presume upon the grace of God, using it as a cart blanche to do whatever pleases him or her, knowing it will be forgiven because of an intellectual assent to the gospel.

A few decades later and a continent over, A.W. Tozer spoke up against the dangers of this insidious heresy (among others)  in his book The Pursuit of Man. Using his own language, Tozer talks about divorcing gift from shift. In antinomianism, whatever its clothing or era, the entire focus becomes the gift of free of grace in the gospel.  Of this truncated gospel, Tozer writes the following.

“Faith is thus conceived as a kind of religious magic, bringing to the Lord a great delight and possessing mysterious power to open the kingdom of heaven.”

While proponents of the true gospel would entirely agree to the free gift of God, they would also say that the gospel of God received in power will inevitably lead to a shift of life through the ongoing process of sanctification.  Christ saves us, but He also cares deeply that we become conformed to His likeness, and the Law does indeed show off parts of His character. The Law is not our means of salvation, but it is a roadmap for our sanctification.

Widespread throughout the current Christian milieu is a heavy-focus on the grace of God; however, largely missing from conversation is the ongoing process of being comforted to His will, of deeply internalizing the Law because it shows us more of the One whom we are to love supremely.

Antinomianism Diffused

I am growing to love Origami, Legos and football. While I have never been naturally inclined to any of these, I am deeply inclined to my husband and children who love them.  To love my husband means that I seek to spend time doing things that he likes to do. As such, I am slowly warming up to football (or, at least the second half). To raise my children means that I am enter their worlds and meet them where their hearts like to hang out. In their current phases of life, that means that I know where to buy the best Origami paper for ninja stars and strange animals and that I can identify all the best Lego mini figures by feeling around the sealed mystery pack bags.

We diffuse this airborne antinomianism by spending time with Christ and in His Word. The more time we spend with Him, studying His manner life by reading the Scriptures inspired by God, the more we will begin to sniff out the odorless antinomian spirit that seems to be pervading the times.

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On Reading Labels

I live in Southern California, which is to say that I live in a land flowing with avocado toast, local pollen-laced acaia bowls and label-reading consumers. I am a slow adapter, but the label-reading, health-savvy spirit is slowly trickling into my life. I can proudly say that I have not purchased a can of cream of anything soup since leaving the Southeast and nary a casserole has come out of my oven.

I have even learned to distrust labels and broad-sweeping statements like organic and all-natural. If California has taught me anything in the health department, it is too look more carefully and critically at what I consume.

I find myself longing the the same attention to consumption would percolate into what we read and how we read it.

Unfortunately, books don’t come labeled with clear categories. It is not that one can look at the back of a book and quickly determine if it is laced with pluralism, antinomianism, humanism, secularism or any of the other -isms.

Just as we cannot blindly trust that the organic line of food at the local grocery store is actually healthy, we cannot trust that a book that declares itself it be broadly Christian actually falls in line with an orthodox view of the Scriptures.

The word orthodox has fallen on hard times and brings with it a broad spectrum of connotations. To some, it brings a smile of security and comfort. To others, it brings shudders of frustration. Taken at face value, the word literally comes from the Greek words ortho which means straight and doxa which means opinion or thinking.

Even the word orthodox implies and presumes a standard by which to measure our opinion and thinking. For the Christian, to be orthodox means to keep to the long-held though often poorly-received idea that the Scriptures are the rule of life, the inerrant, infallible Word of God.

Everything we read, whether within the camp of Christendom or without, must be passed through the sieve of the Scriptures.

With the sieve of Scriptures in place, we are able to clearly identify that which is not to be imbibed or received, as there are many tasty morsels that go down well but don’t actually square up with Scripture.  We are freed to enjoy the good, but identify the dangerous, whether it is overt or covert.

As an avid book lover and an advocate of reading broadly, I am not implying that we are to only read books from those who square up with our particular camp (or sub-camp or sub-sub-camp); however, I do have a deep concern that even within Christian circles, the sieve of Scripture has been replaced with the sieve of personal preference, experience or popularity.

When we begin to trust our experience or our feelings or how something makes us feel or lines up with popular culture, we are entering a dangerous space.

We would never allow our children to live on Twinkies and Starbursts, tasty though they are.  As parents and even as a society, we are more alert than ever before about healthy eating. We want to know what is in our food, where it comes from and its long and short-term effects.

We must begin to do the hard work of reading between the lines. We must dig underneath blanket statements to find the worldview from which they flow.  As the Church, we must do a better job equipping our people with knowledge of how to exegete both the Word of God and the culture in which we find ourselves living, playing and working.

Oh, may God give us eyes to examine what we eat both physically and spiritually!

 

 

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