The title of this post is actually not true. I do discuss politics. All the time in fact. I just don’t like to discuss politics. I think the main reason is that I’m a realist. Being a realist also makes me a political cynic. I have no confidence in the American political system (or any other political system of this world). I’ve come to believe that politicians of any party will promise whatever they can to get elected and then do very little to fulfill those promises unless those promises serve their own agendas and the agendas of those they serve.
And while I’m on that, I think all American politicians, regardless of what side of the aisle they sit on, serve a super wealthy elite . The two party system exists to convince us that we really have a choice. At the end of the day it’s the same folks calling the shots. My vote matters only in the sense that it makes me feel as if I’ve exercised a right. Well bully for me!
But here’s my real issue. When I discuss politics I see people who are optimistic and idealistic and who expect real and significant changes. I don’t think it’s wrong to be hopeful. I do think it’s naive to think that American politicians will bring them. At least if the changes we’re expecting are positive. It’s basically like this: the country is getting worse. It has been in decline for a long time. I don’t see things getting better in a real and significant way until the Messiah returns and ushers in God’s kingdom.
Does that mean we stop hoping for change? No! Does it mean we stop taking steps to affect change? No! To the contrary, we have to occupy until Jesus returns, but I’m not expecting the kinds of changes that I’d like to see until that day comes. If the present US presidential election teaches us anything it should be that bad leaders (and that’s what we’re going to be stuck with regardless of who wins!) are God’s judgment on an unfaithful nation.
I hate Pandora. In theory it’s a cool idea for a music app but in reality it sucks. We put it on at work and it doesn’t matter what Christian music station I create, I inevitably end up hearing the same 10 songs many times over throughout the day. It’s vexing.
I hate that warm weather makes people, especially men, want to expose their feet. Put some socks on and save us all the disgust.
I hate that I don’t write as much as I used to. I’d love to say that I’ll make the time to write more but I know that I won’t. I hate that too. I had dreams of writing books but it doesn’t seem like that’s gonna happen any time soon, if ever.
I hate that I don’t read as much as I’d like to. I could read more. I’m just lazy. I have down time at work where I could be reading more but instead I’m looking at pictures on Instagram or watching YouTube. I also hate that I’ve grown so lazy.
I hate the fact that I always go back to junk food after losing weight and then inevitably put the weight back on. It’s amazing how disciplined I can be in my diet and then just throw it all away out of convenience (= laziness).
I hate other stuff too but this is what came to mind. Carry on with your day. I hope it’s not filled with stuff you hate.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in all the years I’ve been involved in Christian ministry it’s that doers do. Plenty of people talk about what they’d like to do and never end up doing much of anything. Doers on the other hand do what it is they’d like to do and then talk about it afterwards.
I mentioned to my pastor and his wife the other night how a friend of a friend asked me how my life has changed since my ordination. I explained that it hadn’t. I’m doing all the same things that I was doing before I got ordained. Why? Because they need to get done.
I’m all for strategy and implementation but I’m the type who’d rather apologize than ask permission. In other words, when I see something needs doing, I do it. If I do it wrong then I’m quick to say I’m sorry and make the necessary corrections, but if I waited around for a green light then the thing might never get done.
I’ve come to know a lot of folks who wait for the proverbial green light and then make all kinds of excuses when the work is left unfinished. They’ll say that they were never told how to do the task. They’ll say that they were never given the go ahead to do the task after they’d been told how it should be done. They’ll say that someone or something got in the way of the task being done properly. Whatever the excuse, they’re not doers, which is why they don’t do.
I’m reminded of Paul’s exhortation to be doers of the word and not hearers only. Likewise, I think of James saying that faith is proved in actions. There’s no secret or mystery to ministry (well, there is, but I’m talking about the practical outworking of ministry). Just do it, to quote a Nike slogan.
I understand life application preaching. Really, I do. I believe that all preaching should be applicable to life in some way. It’s the preacher’s challenge to figure out how that’s so. But at the end of the day, as helpful as life application sermons are, I find that it’s theology that keeps me. Well, it’s God that keeps me, but it’s thinking theologically that keeps me rooted in God.
The type of preaching that gets believers from one day to the next is important. Really, it is. But we were making it from one day to the next before we knew Christ. There has to be something more. And there is! Now take Paul for example, and he’s a good example since his letters all have real life concerns and applications. Did he stop with the just the ethical exhortations or did he continue on to something else, something deeper?
Or perhaps he started with something else, something deeper, and then moved onto the ethical exhortations. I submit that both are true. His writings aren’t formulaic and he let the situations he was speaking to determine how he addressed them, but my point is really that Paul didn’t shy away from the deep theological truths in order to focus on getting believers through their week.
For instance, he spends quite a bit of space talking about eating food sacrificed to idols but he grounds this in relational categories. The believers relationship to one another is rooted in their relationship to Christ, which is rooted in his relationship to all other reality. This is weighty stuff! And it’s this type of stuff that I think about when the times get tough. I think about my relationship with Christ on a macro level. Big picture stuff. I’m not just trying to get from one day to the next but rather I’m thinking about the transition from this age to the next.
I think about covenant and what that means. I think about service and what that entails. When times get tough, as they often do, I don’t throw in the towel because I know that God is working through his people in order to establish his kingdom on earth and that means that there’s work that gotta get did! So it’s great to hear that God loves me! It’s great to hear that he’s provided me the means to make it to tomorrow. But for me, and I can only speak for me, this isn’t the stuff that keeps me going. The stuff that keeps me going is the stuff I’ve yet to see and that stuff is rooted and grounded in a God I’ve yet to see but have come to know intimately.
I was talking with a couple of coworkers yesterday and one of them mentioned how he doesn’t cry. He said he can take a lot of physical pain and not cry. He then said that he would cry if he saw his wife crying and finally admitted that he does cry sometimes. My other coworker said he used to be cold but once he warmed up he cries all the time.
For my part, I don’t cry. I’ve never been much of a cryer. Every now and again I’ll shed a single tear at the end of a movie or something, but never hysterics. They then tried to persuade me that I would cry in certain situations, as if my stating that I don’t cry was somehow an attack on them being crybabies. It wasn’t.
So here’s my stance on men crying: it’s okay sometimes. I find that there are certain times when it’s completely appropriate for men to cry. First, in times of extreme physical/emotional pain. Jesus cried in the Garden of Gethsemane and when Lazarus died. Are we better than him? Last, but not least, when one is enveloped in the presence of God. Sometimes being in the presence of God brings forth tears that can’t be controlled.
I used to separate physical and emotional pain. Now, not so much. Pain is pain, and extreme pain is extreme pain. I will say that I’m put off by overly emotional men who cry at the drop of a hat. For example, I once saw a man cry after reuniting with a friend that he hadn’t seen in roughly 3 months. That was a bit much for me. I’ve seen men cry for reasons far more absurd than that as well. I do not advocate such crying.
But that’s just me…
I’ve commented in the recent past about a coworker of mine who recently became enamored with Louis Farrakhan after having watched a number of his speeches and interviews on YouTube. He’s since become enamored with other folks who claim that Christianity is a completely false/made up religion stolen from ancient Egypt and used to oppress black people. My coworker’s problem is that whatever he watches on YouTube he receives uncritically. It’s too bad I can’t get him to watch any Christians speaking intelligently about Christianity!
But he keeps insisting that I watch these videos to learn why my religion is false and why Jesus is a myth and blah blah blah… I told him that I have no interest. I don’t have the time to waste on nonsense. But it struck me that the internet, great invention that it is, has really made it possible for any old crackpot to get a fair shake from an unassuming audience. I’m not so naive as to think that peer review guarantees quality work (trust me, I’ve read enough bunk that’s made it through peer review to know better), but it’s way better than nothing at all.
I get why scholars who teach in institutions have in the past been (and many in the present still are) leery about their students quoting online sources (particularly blogs) in research papers and dissertations. It’s just too easy to get something out there online without accountable to anyone else. And the real problem is that the internet is unstoppable; once the bunk is on there it’s near impossible to get off. And once it’s out there it’s easy to spread. All one has to do is link to it on Facebook or Twitter and all of a sudden dozens to thousands of people are reading it and consequently sharing it.
Bad scholarship being disseminated so easily is like a terrible rumor. By the time it’s proven wrong it’s already done it’s damage and left a stain that’s hard to get out. And the sad thing is that I don’t see a fix in sight. Good information is out there but it doesn’t spread nearly as fast, or so it seems. May God have mercy!
As someone who loves theology and biblical studies I’ve come to realize over time that it’s simply best to preach the word in a congregational context. What I mean is simply this: Preach the text and let all the theology flow from it. Don’t spend too much time speculating. Use the information gained from biblical studies to illuminate it but don’t make biblical studies the focus to the exclusion of what the text is saying.
I’ve learned that trying to turn Bible study (at least in the two churches I’ve been a member of) into miniature seminary lectures isn’t greatly effective. The glazed over eyes are usually the best indication that it’s not hitting home. And that’s okay. People who want seminary lectures should by all means attend seminary. The average believer that I’ve encountered just wants to know what the Bible says and find ways to apply it to life.
Your experience may very well be different. If it is I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment and let me know.