THE CROWD-SOURCING OF TRUTH

Religion_newIt was an unexpected phenomenon in our new world of computerized connectivity.  Many people can speak into the same issue at the same time and many people can be exposed to those proclamations in real-time.  A certain dynamic has been set in motion: No matter what it is; if enough people say it, then it’s true!

An offshoot of our Wikipedia generation is the proliferation of those little pictures with the quasi-clever sayings.

Are they really clever?  I’ll leave that to personal taste; the big question is, are they really true?  One of the trends of these little manifestos is that they tend to stand on broad generalities.  So in order not to fall to the same flaw, allow me to present a specific example.  –I chose this one for no other reason than that it seems quite popular.

In a world of militant Jihadists and religiously fueled sociopaths, it is understandable why such a quote would be popular.  But here are a few deep concerns:

 

  1. Using a general term like “religion” is so broad that it is meaningless.

Allow me to summarize a great definition: Religion, a set of beliefs …of a superhuman agency… usually involving ritual observances…

Social activism, political correctness, even science can be a religion.  Especially in the postmodern world, it is a mistake to think that religion has to involve the metaphysical.  It only requires the investment of belief and conviction.  This pithy little saying is based on implication and impression, but certainly nothing solid.

 

  1. Shaking a finger at, “Requires you to hate someone” feels good, but it’s not reality.

Hate is a human emotion.  The truth is; everyone hates.  It is a question of what, or who we hate, and how we react in that hatred.

 

In Biblical Christianity, we are told God hates.  Here is one of the most succinct passages on what God really hates:

Proverbs 6:16-19  These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren.

If you’d like to read a good article on this passage, look up “What are the seven things God hates?” on Got Questions.org.

 

The focus of God’s hatred is not at people, but at the darker (fallen) side of our nature.  He hates it because it ultimately destroys us, and always wounds us.  If God hates “someone”, it would be those given over to these features of our fallen nature.  God’s first response in His hatred isn’t to hurt or destroy, but to turn people from this nature.  Even when God does show His wrath, the motive is not hatred, but the rebalance of justice.

 

Biblical Christianity teaches we are to hate what God hates, and that would be these dark features in our nature, especially within oneself.  However, we are to bless those who curse; forgive those who persecute; and judge ourselves, not the world.  Wrath and justice are not ours, but ultimately God’s.

 

The most dangerous “religions” are those which are humanistic.  Various forms of social activism or political correctness have no God or spiritual element on which to focus.  That means, the only objects of hate (or love) is the human being.  A quick survey of the internet will certainly prove such groups are capable of hate and that hate is directed at people.

 

  1. “You need a new religion” implies a basic misunderstanding of religion.

On one level this is true.  For example, the world would definitely be better off if ISIS had a different religious view.  However, the statement fails to see the first intent of any religion, which is; to grasp the truth.  We might not agree with their destination, but certainly applaud their quest.  Even if your “religion” is postmodernism and you believe there is NO truth; you are convinced that is true!  The bottom line is; the embracing of any religion is not up to personal preference, only conviction.  And conviction is not the casual product of preference.  It is beyond naive to say “you need a new religion.”

 

It is great to live in a world of instant access to information.  We’re closer than we’ve ever been to giving everyone equal voice.  But we should be very careful in a culture of crowd-based truth.  Truth and reality are not products of the popular vote; and neither is God.  In this time of increased knowledge, there has never been a greater need for discernment.  In a day where even the most foolish get equal voice, there has never been greater need for wisdom.  And yet, such virtues are rarer than ever.  May we strive for more than simply “going with the crowd.”   –Anyway, it is certainly food for thought.

ARE YOU A BAG OR BOAT?

Bag in the wind2From the parking lot, I watched a bag swirl to impressive heights, and then dash to the ground, mired in a puddle or snagged on some object.  When the wind kicked up, it would be swept up again, muddied by the puddles, or torn by the last sharp edge.

If I had been on the lake, I could have watched this same wind drive sailing boats majestically on a course across the water.  But not this bag, for all its motion, it went nowhere.  It was slowly being destroyed for one reason: it was a victim of the wind, not sailing upon it.  The bag was drifting.

There is a Bible verse that encourages people to grow up in God so that they no longer are tossed around by every wind of doctrine. (Ephesians 4:14)

The point is, our lives can be like that bag, victims of the wind instead of sailing.  The winds upon which lives drift, are the currents of time and circumstances.  We drift when we simply react to the winds and don’t navigate them.

A “reformed drifter”, Fredric Lipia,  wrote an article entitled, “7 Signs You’re Drifting Through Life.”  Based on his own experience and the observance of others he lists these warning signs:

  1. You don’t know what you want.
  2. You don’t have a plan.
  3. You just wait for what comes next.
  4. You’re bored and unmotivated.
  5. You’ve lost touch with yourself.
  6. You rely too much on other people. (Get swept up in other’s purposes.)
  7. You take little meaningful action, or purposeful time.

Going back to the sailing boat analogy, just because a boat is designed to sail, it doesn’t mean that it’s safe in the wind.  Sailing itself is a skill, and that certainly takes “purposeful time” to learn.  But even with the skills, you still need the tools.  There are three tools that revolutionized sailing ships; the compass, the rudder, and the anchor.  Every life needs these tools as well.

The compass

Every life needs a “true north.”  Of course, with my convictions the one “true north” is God Himself.  Regardless, every life needs a worthy absolute by which to navigate.  Otherwise, by default, you will be drifting.

The rudder

Every life must have goals.  There are accomplishments we measure daily, that encourage us with tangible progress; and there are life-long goals that bring ultimate meaning to a life.  They are interconnected and we need both.

But even the best goals will have to tack into the wind at some point.  Our rudder is the purposeful discipline that keeps us on course, even when we don’t feel like it at the time.  Discipline and resolve keep our goals on course.

The anchor

Anchors are important, but it’s the sea anchor that will save you in a storm.  When the winds and waves hit, the sea anchor stabilizes the boat by acting as a brake to slow down drifting, prevent the wrong orientation to the storm, and generally, keep things right-side up.  We need to be anchored in wisdom.  We need to be anchored in what has proven itself true before we face the storms of confusion.

The Bible speaks of this: “having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck.” (1 Tim 1:19)

If you have lived life awhile, you have witnessed that the great tragedy of drifting, isn’t simply that NOTHING happens in the drifting life.  It is like the bag.  It may soar for a moment, but soon crashes into the puddles and snags.  Lives that drift wherever often mire in the mud of drug abuse, promiscuity, or brushes with the law.  The professional councilors will attest that drifting lives are slowly yet inexorably torn apart by helplessness, frustration, anger, resentment, guilt, and depression.

Of course, it is important to all of us to recognize the dangers of drifting.  But how much more so for the young who have so much of life’s course to experience!

That is why I’m impassioned by our theme for kid’s camp this year; “FOCUS FOR LIFE.”  Because if anything; the storms in life are building, not abating.  It’s no time for drifting; especially the young.  Anyway, it’s certainly food for thought.

BETWEEN FUNERALS & WEDDINGS

lifeOne feature I appreciate about being a pastor is that it often forces me to look at life in its totality.  I remember a few Saturdays where I had left a funeral, doing my best to help loved ones find closure; to celebrate a wedding where life as a family was just beginning.  Such experiences have stretched my view of life and I am grateful.

 

Even at this moment, I am involved with a number of individuals in their closing chapters of this life, while I take part in a children’s camp focused on the opening chapters of theirs.

 

For people in ministry, three questions of life are always before them:

What can be done with one’s life?

What is being done with one’s life?

What has been done with one’s life?

 

Schedules are hectic and it is human nature to live in the day-to-day; but even so, those three questions hang over all of us, whether we give them attention or not.

 

So what does it take for you and me to honestly claim:

I am preparing to do the most with my life.

I am doing the most with my life.

I have done the most with my life.

 

When I try to envision what that looks like, I see the Apostle Paul.  He is an old man ravaged by age and hardship.  He is writing to a young man named Timothy who is just beginning his life of ministry.  This old man does not confess regrets or “should have been’s”.  Instead he writes:

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness.” (2 Tim 4:7, 8)

 

Paul has done the most with his life and not only is he gratified rather than regretful, he is inspired by what is yet to come!  …Here’s the thing: Religion in itself, won’t make you into a “Paul.”  Being a “Christian” is no guarantee to fulfillment.  It goes deeper than that.  Jesus put it this way, “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matt 10:39)

 

God has designed us beyond animal instinct, beyond mere self-survival; we find our full humanity in how we GIVE, not in how we TAKE.  Christianity strives to align with the One who designed our humanity.  That is why giving is a core principle of the faith.

 

It’s a simple principle; the MOST in life cannot be experienced by taking.  It can only be experienced through giving.  That is how we are designed. That is where we find completeness.

 

Want the MOST in life?  Try giving it away; that’s how you just might find it.

Anyway, it is certainly food for thought.

IT’S A NEW YEAR… OR IS IT?

newyearIt’s a new year, time to hit the big “reset” button on life, right?  Out with the old, in with the new; so we have new resolutions and visions on how this year is going to be different.  We almost convince ourselves that time is in distinct chunks that can be separated from each other.  –As if moving from December 31 to January 1 is like resetting the video game.

 

That can be a good way to think as we try to jump-start new thinking or habits.  However, the truth is, time is not segmented, it is one continuum.  Even as we celebrate the New Year, we know that we are still in the same situations, still involved in the same battles, and thankfully, still enjoying the same successes.

 

Does that mean we simply dismiss the arrival of a new year as a mere illusion?  No, but I would propose revisiting a very old word that brings the mileposts of time into perspective.  It’s a word that has been abused and distorted over time and unfortunately has become the sole property of the religiously zealous in our time.  In fact, when you hear the word, you may simply roll your eyes and move on to the next article.  But please hang in there for a paragraph or two.

 

The word is “repent.”  …Hello… still here?  Good.  When you hear the word, the first picture that may come to mind might be a John the Baptist type character wearing a sandwich board that says, “Repent, the end is near.”  It might be a red-faced preacher pounding a pulpit and shouting, “Repent of your sins and be saved.”  In reality, both characters fail the true meaning of the word, which is unfortunate, because the real meaning of the word is exactly what we need to face the New Year.

 

The New Testament had its teachings conveyed in the intricate language of ancient Greek.  A staple tool of the Greeks was the use of compound words.  They were a recipe to communicate the exact idea one wished to share.  The word, “repent” was in fact, such a word.  The original word is “metanoeo”; combining “meta” (after), and “nous” (the “noeo” part; meaning mind).

 

There is really no direct English translation for this “aftermind”, but essentially, it means– a person was going in one direction in their thought process, or “inner man”, and has now changed direction.  That change may be motivated by emotion, such as regret or remorse, or pure reason; simply being convinced there is a better way.  Or it might be a combination of the two.  But whatever the cause, to “repent” is the act of shifting the direction of the mind.  The connotation is a shift for the better.

 

That is the reality of a new year.  It is not really a break with the past; it is a change in direction from where we presently are.  That kind of change always starts in our thinking.  No matter what your change in direction; better living physically, intellectually, or spiritually, it will start with the direction of your mind.

 

It’s not surprising that the New Testament is filled with encouragement to change direction from where you currently are.   In Acts 2, when the crowd was convinced they needed to make changes in where they stood with God, the first word out of Peter’s mouth was “repent.” Acts 2:38

 

As you pass the milepost of 2016/2017, may I encourage you to the true meaning of “repent”?   There really is no “reset button”, in reality we can only change direction from where we presently are.

 

That being said; may you succeed in the shedding of your pounds, that project you vowed to finish, or whatever your New Year objective might be.  But most of all, whatever direction your mind takes, may it bring you a clearer view of God.   May that first but crucial step bring blessing to your New Year, and beyond.

–It is certainly food for thought.