TOD 12.24.07

Peace. It’s quite some word. Even just saying it solemnly seems to bring a hint of the its substance to a moment of our lives. And at this particular time of the year, it’s something far too many of us feel we lack. We rush to buy gifts. We scurry to prepare a feast. And then it’s all over. January comes and it seems as though another season devoted to the birth of the Prince of Peace came and went with very little indication that He was Lord of it at all. Do I have a solution? Yes and no.

I can’t solve this in a paragraph, but I can make a suggestion. Peace is usually missing because we neglect to seek it. It is frail and easily displaced by the things we do seek. So ask a question of yourself every so often: does this bring me peace? And if it does not, why not ask the One Giver of Peace what to do about that?

I am just a man. I cannot give you true peace. But I do know Someone who can, if you’ll just ask Him to.

TOD 12.21.07

Though the Bible speaks of the joy of serving Christ, many Christians nonetheless struggle with feelings of self-condemnation. Does the Bible address this? I think so. “Who are you to judge another man’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls….”(Rom 14:4) When Paul writes this, he is chastising those who presume to play the role of master over others and judge their faith. As he explains, only the Lord’s opinion of that person matters.

But this same admonition applies to self-judging. Who are you to judge yourself? It’s useful to think of there being two people inside of us, the one that judges and the one that is judged. And just as the judgmental me must learn to shut up and honor the Lord’s evaluation of others, he must do the same when the Master says He cherishes me.

First, I realize God loves me. Second, and only then, am I free to love my neighbors as He tells me to love myself. Why? Because the judgmental me has taken off his robes and returned them to their rightful owner.

TOD 12.20.07

I recently heard another talk show host say that the goal of our society in the realm of sexuality should be to not care about it. Sex is private, and whatever flavor of preference it is, we should not ask, not know, and not care. This sort of nouveau-libertarianism sounds chic, but it’s really quite dangerous.

Unless this person is also willing to say that we shouldn’t care whether someone is married, he cannot be consistent. Marriage is a public sexual act whose purpose is to produce children. If there are no children, something has gone wrong. Perhaps it’s contraception, perhaps it’s infertility, or perhaps it’s aberrant sexuality. Society is designed around families and children. Therefore it must focus on marriage, which means that sexuality will always be, to some degree, a public issue.

The only way to become a truly sexuality-blind society is to become a society that refuses to notice children and honor spouses. Now I dare you to try to convince me that would be a good thing.

TOD 12.19.07

All of us who have ever received a paycheck have had to learn a simple principle: the more we spend on ourselves, the less we have for other purposes. What if we used that concept to think about God’s grace toward us? Imagine that every week God has allotted to us a certain number of grace units, call them graceos, which we then decide how to use.

Now, as with a paycheck, I must first pay my debts, which are the sins of my daily life. Jesus’s blood is clearly enough to pay off my debts, but if there’s nothing left over, I can’t be a blessing to others this week. I have so many graceos to use, and the more I mess up, the less there is left for uses beyond my own debts.

Of course, it may not work precisely like this, but it’s sobering to imagine that such an economy would mean that, every time I sin, I am not just harming my own character, but cheating someone else as well. When I retire to heaven, my portfolio will show how I spent my grace here on earth.

Andrew's Story

I just wanted to make you aware that my testimony is now available here along with instructions for how to write your own. This is something I really encourage you to do so you know how to tell your own story to other people. Enjoy.

TOD 12.18.07

“Trading Spouses” and “Wife Swap” are the ironically interchangeable television shows where two families temporarily exchange mothers for reasons that pass understanding. What makes these shows interesting is that the producers, of course, try to pick families which are as different from each other as possible. What happens next is always the same.

At first, things are awkward and uncomfortable because the situation is such a mismatch for her, but then she gets to change the rules. Obviously it would be inconceivable for her to not change anything. Because she is a different person, different results must come out. Likewise, when we are born again, we acquire Christ within us as an identity swap.

He and I are completely different. Therefore, if there is a trade, there must be changes. I cannot produce His results, and He cannot stand to reproduce mine. If Jesus is Lord and is in me, I simply cannot go on living as if He isn’t.

TOD 12.17.07

I recently discovered that my 3½ year old is pretty much capable of memorizing anything he hears a few times. He’s memorized the Lord’s Prayer, and I figured I would teach him the Ten Commandments next. Since the Biblical wording doesn’t make any sense to him, or to many adults I suppose, I reformulated them to his level. Here they are as I teach them to Spencer:

1. Always put God first.
2. Only worship God.
3. Honor God’s name.
4. Honor God’s day of rest.
5. Obey your father and mother.
6. Protect people.
7. Protect marriage.
8. Protect property.
9. Tell the truth.
10. Be content with what you have.

Since, in my experience, only a tiny minority of adults know all Ten Commandments and in order (though many claim to honor them as vital), perhaps this list will help you teach them to your own children…as well as to yourself.

TOD 12.14.07

I see God everywhere. Not in the sense that I see godliness everywhere, but in the sense that everywhere I look I see amazing things that proclaim God to me. Even just praying on my balcony, I see trees and grass and clouds and hummingbirds, and I always think the same thing. God is a great engineer. At best we are second rate critics who can understand how these things work, but no one ever yet built himself a tree or a bird from scratch.

But for whatever reason I hadn’t connected this observation with some concerns I had about the future of my life. See, I know what God has told me, but I hadn’t seen some of it come to pass, and I was worried about it. So He challenged me with a question. “Which matters more to Me, you or a bird? And if I would put so much planning into making birds, why do you think I’d suddenly become a bad designer when it comes to your life?”

That’s one of the things I love about God. He sort of has a way of reminding me that I’m being stupid in the most loving way imaginable. If I’m His and He Is Who He Is, what am I worried about?

TOD 12.13.07

We Americans have a love affair with the cowboy hero who takes matters into his own hands and depends upon no one to solve the problem on his terms. He tries to give the villain a chance to save himself, but in the end he invariably winds up destroying him with some form of violence. And we all cheer. We want to see evil punished…badly. We crave justice, and we honor goodness. In this we clearly stand with righteousness over evil. But there’s a problem.

The problem is that most of us have only come half way. Yes, it is a major success to move from endorsing evil to opposing evil (although it’s rarely the sin inside of us that elicits our most jubilant wrath), but there is still another Testament to be known. And the single greatest hindrance to living Christ’s way of grace and redemption is the mighty satisfaction to be had in vanquishing evil. So the next time you’re enjoying a good action movie, ask yourself a simple question: does this look more like God’s work at Sodom and Gomorrah or His work at the Cross?

Love him though I might, Batman is no disciple of Christ. His God is not Triune.

TOD 12.12.07

We recently discussed the problem of how to respond when you receive a bad Christmas gift. Of course, most people are inclined to say that the polite thing to do is to lie by smiling and saying, “Thank you.” But why? Obviously, one part is that we don’t want to hurt the feelings of the one who has given the bad gift.

Not so obviously, the other part is that we don’t want to look bad ourselves for complaining or being ungrateful. In other words, we worry that too much honesty will show us to be something less grand than we lead people to believe or will make others feel less grand about themselves than they’d like. So we cater heavily to pride and embrace the moral burden of dishonesty.

But what if the bad gift were from an enemy, someone whose feelings we didn’t mind hurting and whose opinions of us didn’t matter? Then we might tell the truth. Yet isn’t there something amiss when we feel free to tell the truth to our enemies, but must lie to those we love? Perhaps our notions about truth and love aren’t quite what they should be.

TOD 12.11.07

I chose to have an uncomfortable conversation on Sunday when I went to drop our toddler off at the nursery. When I arrived, there was only one teenager whom I barely know watching just one other child besides my own. I stayed for a few minutes and then decided to take him back to the service with me, which turned out fine. But because I didn’t want to give the girl the wrong impression, I felt I should explain why I wasn’t leaving him.

I told her that it was nothing particularly against her, but that we prefer to leave our children only with other parents we know well. Since I didn’t even know her name, surely I didn’t know her well enough to leave my son in her care. She took no offense and understood my decision. I was practicing a principle I advocate: tell people the truth, especially when you’d rather not. This truth was fairly easy to say, but it surely would have been easier to say nothing. Easier, but not more respectful.

The truth may make me look bad or it may make someone else feel bad, but there must be very significant reasons for me to not pay others the debt I owe them of honesty…particularly other Christians.

TOD 12.10.07

Imagine if you robbed your neighbor and then asked me to forgive your theft. Imagine if you were unfaithful to your wife and then asked me to forgive your adultery. Imagine if you assaulted a stranger and then asked me to forgive your violence. In each of these cases, you coming to ask me would be absurd, but it would be even more absurd of me to forgive you.

I can’t forgive you because you did not wrong me. And it would be supremely offensive for me to tell your neighbor or your wife or the stranger that everything was fine because I had forgiven you. Now it’s true at some level that violating any member of a community violates us all, but until the primary victim has been restored and they have forgiven the offender, the rest of us are in no position to presume to do so. Understanding this puts us in a position to grasp something very important about Jesus. The only way He could have been anything other than a complete fool for forgiving sins is if He was God.

And, in forgiving them, He was teaching us something else as well. All sins are offenses against the King, and the only reason offenses against other people are sins is because those people are stamped with the mark of the King.

TOD 12.07.07

A caller recently tried to persuade me that corporal punishment of children is wrong because you must always reconnect with the child after it is administered. The discipline causes a rupture in the relationship which must be healed. There are two mistakes here. The first is in thinking that the rupture was caused by the discipline when it was actually caused by the disobedience. Spanking is simply the other half of the equation the child has already imbalanced.

The second error is failing to see the wonderful theology symbolized here. Sin separates us from God, and though God very much wants to reconnect with us, making that relationship with Him right again requires a sacrifice. To declare that punishment does nothing to heal the relationship is to imply that Christ didn’t need to die to redeem us.

People think that corporal punishment is a kind of deterrence, and it may be. But it’s real value is that it prepares children to understand the nature of and need for their own salvation in Christ. Unspanked children are understandably baffled by the Cross.

TOD 12.06.07

“Andrew, I have a dilemma. I know the Bible says we’re supposed to wait until marriage, but my fiancĂ© says that since we’re going to get married eventually anyway we might as well go ahead.” Ah, yes. The very picture of a Christlike fiancĂ©, sacrificing his own needs and desires for the good of his beloved out of devotion to God.

But let’s get our terms straight. You have a temptation, not a dilemma. A temptation is when you know what’s right, but you want to do wrong. The conflict is between principle and desire. A dilemma occurs when the principles are in conflict with each other, and it’s unclear which one to follow. But why do people describe their temptations as dilemmas? Because to say, “I have a temptation,” is so insignificant. Of course you do, dear. If your desires were in line with morality, you wouldn’t need morality.

Calling it a dilemma makes it seem like both alternatives are legitimate. Thus, even phrasing it this way is a subtle declaration that you’ve already decided to put desire first, since you’re giving it more credit than it deserves.

TOD 12.05.07

Sometimes on my radio show I mention examples from the Middle East that help illustrate the perspective of radical Islam. I usually follow up such accounts by saying something like, “Us and them, us and them, you have to understand the difference between us and them.” To some, I suspect this sounds ridiculously unchristian and even warlike, but that’s not my purpose.

Of course I realize that all people are the enemies of God until He draws them to Him and that the ideal would be to redeem those poor lost souls who think that Mohammed-bears and irreverent cartoons deserve death. But what I really want people to know is that the Judeo-Christian worldview, which holds concepts like freedom, tolerance, and human rights in such high regard, is completely incompatible with radical Islam.

The differences between us and them are unbridgeable. We simply cannot coexist because everything they do is offensive to our core values just as everything we do is offensive to their core values. The only real question is who will triumph, us or them?

TOD 12.04.07

Have you ever heard someone complain that Christmas is all about money and materialism? Although this can be true of some people, the person saying this probably doesn’t properly understand why we give Christmas gifts. At the first Christmas, the Magi gave Jesus gifts of incomparable worth, but it’s easy to miss what they were really saying to God in the process. “These are the most valuable things the world has to offer, and we eagerly part with them to honor the one Gift from You the world cannot match.”

Rather than being materialists, the Magi were actually declaring the worthlessness of material goods compared with God. They were thanking God for what He had given us all. In much the same way, every year we thank the people who show us love by giving them valuables which are but cheap thank you trinkets compared with the real worth they contribute to our lives.

People matter more than things, and the best use of things is to bless such people. If that’s materialism, then I am very confused about what the term means.