Monday, April 24, 2006

No. 4: Understanding

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I have been thinking about how vital it is for us to understand and see things the way they actually are. To thrive in our post-modern age, we need to be continuously cultivating the ability to discern what is true, what is right, and what is lasting. Gaining a heart of wisdom should be a lifetime goal as we pursue our relationship with God. The writer of Proverbs instructs us to get understanding.

“My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God." Proverbs 2:1-5

We live in what many have called, “The Information Age,” an era that actually began in 1844 with the invention of the telegraph. The first instrument to transmit information over long distances, the telegraph made it possible to convert words (and thus ideas) into electronic form. Today, with the communication tools such as the Internet, email, cable television, satellite radio, CDs, DVDs, Ipods, cellular phones and other types of handheld digital devices, information comes at us 24/7 with lightning speed.

Bombarded night and day with ideas, we are constantly forced to make choices, to discern, to judge, to sift and to sort. What is true? What is false? What is right? What is wrong? What is good? What is evil? We cannot escape the necessity of having to choose almost constantly. And the possibility of getting it wrong is very, very real.

But there is hope. We can learn from a prayer of Moses, recorded in the Psalms, how important it is for us to possess Godly wisdom. He said,

"Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Psalm 90:12

We can also learn also from Ezra, the High Priest, a man who ...

"...set his heart to study the law of the LORD and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel." Ezra 7:10 NIV

Consider the threefold structure of this passage … Ezra set his heart to …

  • study the law
  • practice the law
  • teach others God’s statutes and ordinances

Ezra provides us a marvelous example. He set his heart to study, to practice, and to teach the Word. There is lesson for us here. We cannot effectively teach until will have put the Word into practice. And we cannot put the Word into practice unless we have studied it. Following Ezra’s pattern we can, over time, gain genuine, Biblical understanding and grow in godly wisdom.

Monday, April 17, 2006

No. 3: Gates and Doors

I have been thinking about immigration. I suspect many of you have, too. So, just how is the Christian to view our nation’s growing problem of illegal immigration? Well, I do not claim to have the definitive answer, but I do have some thoughts.

So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life. Genesis 3:24 NKJV

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. Revelation 3:20 NKJV

Here we have two fairly well-known passages of Scripture, one from Genesis, and the other from Revelation—a set of bookends one might say. In-between, we find a gross array of gates, doors, walls, boundaries, and borders. Scripture is full of them.

The first passage tells us how God placed a cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden to guard the way of the tree of life. In the second passage we read of Christ’s gentle knock on the door of our hearts.

Although the Genesis passage does not directly mention the word “gate,” the phrase “gates of Eden” is often employed to describe the entry and exit points into and out of Eden’s garden. The cherubim and flaming sword guarding Eden’s tree of life tell us that God thinks in terms of boundaries. The picture of Jesus’ knock tells us the same thing.

Throughout Scripture we see walled cities. Moses’ tabernacle and Solomon’s temple had doors. And Jesus proclaimed, "I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.” (John 10:7-9 NIV) Jesus Himself is the gate!

Abraham came out of Ur and entered into the promised land. The children of Israel went into Egypt, then came out four-hundred years later. Forty years after that, they entered the land of Canaan. Still later, Israel was taken captive into Babylon. Eventually, she came out. Paul traveled throughout the Mediterranean, entering and exiting cities and cultures.

I could go on. The point is, Scripture provides countless examples of exits and entrances. With each one, there is a threshold to cross, a recognized boundary that divides. The whole of the Bible is about going out and coming in. There is a right way to go about this. And there is a wrong way to go about this.

Consider Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron. Though not sanctioned to do so, they chose to enter the Holy of Holies to bring an offering to the Lord. But they were uninvited. God called their offering “strange fire,” and struck them dead.

I submit these stories and examples not as dogmatism, but as fodder for Biblical principle. Consider adding them to your internal Worldview filter.

Monday, April 10, 2006

No. 2: Chesterton's Shipwreck

I have been thinking about how our personal understanding and knowledge of God comes together. It seems that it mostly arrives in a haphazard fashion. Generally, we do not take a systematic approach to learning about Him. And oftentimes our understanding is incorrect. A friend of mine recently acknowledged that 20% of his theology is likely incorrect. He’s just not sure which 20%.

G.K. Chesterton was one of the greatest thinkers and writers of the 20th century, and one not trumpeted nearly enough. It is said that his work, The Everlasting Man, played a role in the conversion of a young C. S. Lewis. His work Orthodoxy is lauded as one of the great religious classics. And there are many other noteworthy works that flowed from his pen.

Chesterton once observed that our walk through life is much like stumbling upon a shipwreck. Strewn about in front of us, in chaos and disarray, are both worthless debris and precious treasures. Hidden somewhere in the mess is a story. Examining the pieces one by one, we can find a small amount of meaning. But when the pieces are re-assembled, reconstructing the essence of the original and revealing the whole, we begin to see the plan and the purpose that existed from the inception.

Our life in Christ is much like this, with understanding coming to us in tiny bits and pieces. It is up to us, with the aid of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit, to assemble the many seemingly disconnected parts, and begin to reconstruct them into a cohesive whole. When we do, we experience the proverbial “aha” each time a little more of God’s purpose and plan come more clearly into focus.

Who among us would attempt to build a house without a set of plans? Who among us would begin ordering materials for a construction project without a detailed list of the items needed? Only the most foolhardy. And yet many of us live out our Christian lives just this way.

"Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." Acts 17:11 NIV

In this passage, Luke lauds the Bereans. He associates their pursuit of Scriptural purity with noble character. They did not blindly accept the words of Paul, but rather poured over the Holy Scriptures to determine if Paul’s teachings were based in the truth. The Bereans set the standard for all Christians who have followed. They believed the Holy Scriptures to be the authoritative Word of God, the filter through which all ideas are to be sifted.

As God’s children, we need to become critical thinkers, learning to sift through ideas, comparing them to the truths of Scripture, and finalizing our own, firm set of convictions. If we are extremely fortunate, life in Christ becomes a series of revelations, epiphanies, and quickenings of understanding. But if we are inattentive, self-centered, and unenergetic in our pursuit of God, we may end up at the end of our days with the components of our lives like Chesterton’s proverbial shipwreck—still strewn about.
To learn more about G.K. Chesterton, visit The American Chesterton Society.
Or visit G.K. Chesterton's Works on the Web to read Chesterton's writings.

Monday, April 03, 2006

No. 1: Just Thinking

I have been thinking about thinking lately. Actually, I have been thinking about thinking for quite some time.

Something else I have been thinking about is how to more effectively communicate my burden for clear-headed, Biblically based thinking to a wider audience of people. And that is why I decided to create this one page, printable newsletter.

I am a thinker and a writer, and like all of us, a work still in progress. As such, I sometimes fail to make my communications concise. I know that many of my friends would like to be able to read my email newsletters, but because of their length, they elect to delete them, or move them to a folder in their email program for later reading. If they are like me, they probably never get to the reading part. So, I have created a one page, printable format for easier management. Now you can print me out, take me with you, and read me at your leisure.

Jesus commanded us to love God with all of our mind. Granted, He also commanded us to love Him with all of our heart, soul, and strength as well. But loving Him with our mind is something we 21st century American Christians are not doing very well. In fact, according to Christian researcher George Barna, only 8% of Protestant Christians and a mere 0.5% of Catholic Christians hold a Biblical Worldview (source:

A partial definition of Biblical Worldview according to Barna is as follows: believing that absolute moral truth exists and that the source of moral truth is the Bible; that salvation cannot be earned; that Jesus lived a sinless life on earth; and that God is the all-knowing, all-powerful maker of the universe who still rules that creation today.

I believe that one of the primary causes for such a low percentage of Christians actually possessing a Biblical Worldview, is that many of our churches do not teach the Scriptures from cover to cover. Or perhaps more precisely, we are not teaching that the Bible even imparts a comprehensive worldview.

I have titled my newsletter, “at home, thinking.” I found inspiration for the title from John Adams, second President of the United States. Known for his prolific correspondence with wife Abigail, and as a life-long diarist, one of Adams’ early journal entries included only the phrase, “At home, thinking.”

I probably think too much. But often, because of God’s great mercy and kindness, my thinking, coupled with prayer, study, and dialog with others, leads to a better understanding of God and His ways.

Why is thinking about the things of God so important? Consider these Scripture references:

  • The Psalmist declared that meditating upon God’s law night and day is a sign of God’s blessing (Psalm 1:2).
  • The writer of Proverbs admonished us to get understanding (Proverbs 4:5).
  • The Apostle Paul instructed us to think on things which are virtuous, praiseworthy, true, honest, pure, lovely, and of good report (Philippians 4:8).

I created “at home, thinking” to address these and other related issues. I am convinced that one of the reasons the Church in America of our day seems at times ineffective is because we, as a whole, still think much like the world. I will be writing again soon. I hope you will find this publication worth your while.

Index to All the Articles

  • No. 13 - Creeds: A creed is a confession of faith. It is the proclamation of a core set of beliefs that we are seeking to live by.
  • No. 12 - Theology: Did you know that, technically, theology is a science? Did you know that just like other scientists, theologians have divided Theology, or the study of God, into various categories and subcategories?
  • No. 11 - Doctrine: Have you ever heard anyone say, "We don't need doctrine, we just need Jesus."? Who is Jesus? And why do we need Him? Doctrine seeks to address these two questions.
  • No. 10 - Orthodoxy: Orthodoxy means "right thinking," or "correct teaching." It is imperative that we, God's people, continuously develop the art of thinking properly, thinking according to God's Word.
  • No. 9 - Revelation: Unlike all other false gods in the universe, only One God has chosen to reveal Himself to us.
  • No. 8 - Capital "T" Truth: Is there one truth for me and another truth for you? Is there such a thing as private truth and public truth? Or is Truth the same for everyone?
  • No. 7 - Worldview: We have seen the word ‘worldview” in books, newspapers, and magazines, and we hear it on the news and even from the pulpit. But what exactly does it mean?
  • No. 6 - Mindset: Continuing with the theme of clear-headed, Biblical thinking, I examine how easy it is to become locked into a certain way of thinking without even realizing it. We all have mindsets, some good and some not so good.
  • No. 5 - Matrix: Continuing with the theme of clear-headed, Biblical thinking, I introduce the idea of a Biblical Matrix. You may be surprised to discover what the word actually means.
  • No. 4 - Understanding: Proverbs tells us that understanding is highly valued to God. To thrive in our post-modern age, we need to be continuously cultivating the ability to discern what is true, what is right, and what is lasting.
  • No. 3 - Gates and Doors: With the issue of illegal immigration so much in the forefront of the news, I offer some thoughts about entering and leaving.
  • No. 2 - Chesterton's Shipwreck: Truth comes to us in a haphazard fashion. We listen to a teaching here, read a book there, and have an epiphany every now and then. GK Chesterton likens it to stumbling upon a shipwreck and trying to reassemble the story of what happened.
  • No. 1 - Just Thinking: Jesus commanded us to love God with all of our mind. But loving Him with our mind is something we 21st century American Christians are not doing very well.