Why Lukewarm?

Francis Chan

I mean, not speaking of myself, of course; it’s all those people. You know, the less-spiritual “brethren:” The ones who don’t spend enough time in God’s Word. The ones who don’t help out. The ones whose lives are too hurried for much prayer. The ones who fill their minds with worldly entertainments. And the ones who follow pop-culture’s behavioral and fashion trends, rather than Godly principles.

Wait a sec! That’s me, except for the last one. No one would ever accuse me of being trendy. Those are the kinds of things that gradually cover our eyes with worldly-colored contacts, nudging our world view and priorities away from what Jesus taught, one teeny-tiny step at a time. Walk that path very long, and no one will recognized Christ’s presence within—that is, if He’s still there.

Bible Gateway sent me a link to the article, Biblical Literacy by the Numbers: Fixing the Problem, where Ed Stetzer suggests: 1) Viewing the Bible as a whole, as opposed to fracturing it into sound-bites to suit our purposes, or taking a, “spiritual fast-food,” approach to our “McBibles.” 2) Creating a reading and study plan, personally or congregationally, since becoming conversant with God’s word flows from the top down. 3) Teach the Bible, not predigested curricula that may, or may not, present Biblical principles faithfully. 4) Teach and preach from the best contemporary translations, while taking older, more established versions, into consideration.

Stetzer summarizes with, “Reading the Bible is actually part of the abundant life Christ has given us,” but I say it’s far more. Only when God’s Holy Spirit makes His Word alive within us, will we understand His life-giving principles, but each Christ-follower—that’s you and I—must commit to learning them. We cannot live the Christian life without them.

The resurrected and glorified Jesus told His disciple John to warn the Laodecian church about the consequences of their lukewarm commitment to Him (Revelation 3:14-22). If there are ages within the historical Christian church, we are now in the Laodecian age, where we take our ease, having, in our own minds, satisfied Christ’s minimum requirements for salvation. We are rich (by the world’s standards), we have become wealthy, and have need of nothing … nothing but repentance.

How to Plan a Story :: Quick and Dirty Tips ™

Here’s a small gift to my writer-friends, complements of Grammar Girl, Mignon Fogarty.

How to Plan a Story

In honor of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), we have an excerpt about how to plan a story from Jack Woodville London’s book, A Novel Approach (To Writing Your First Novel, or Your Best One).

By

Mignon Fogarty,

October 31, 2014

Things that make you say Hmmmm…

MTJames:

Some of these sayings I’ve seen before, but all of them are worth viewing.

Originally posted on Morning Story and Dilbert:

Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
October 28, 2014

“To the world you might be one person, but to one person you might be the world.”

Going to church does not make you a Christian anymore than going to McDonald’s makes you a hamburger.”

“Real friends are those who, when you feel you’ve made a fool of yourself, don’t feel you’ve done a permanent job.”

A coincidence is when God performs a miracle, and decides to remain anonymous.”

“Sometimes the majority only means that all the fools are on the same side.”

“I don’t have to attend every argument I’m invited to.”

“Lead your life so you won’t be ashamed to sell the family parrot to the town gossip.”

“People gather bundles of sticks to build bridges they never cross.”

“Life is 10% of what happens to you, and 90% of how you respond to it.”

“Did it ever occur to you that nothing…

View original 125 more words

One Year To Live

MTJames:

If you’re discouraged and need a kick in the rear…er, brain…cast your eyes on this post.

Originally posted on Morning Story and Dilbert:

Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
October 30, 2014

Anthony Burgess was 40 when he learned that he had only one year to live. He had a brain tumor that would kill him within a year. He know he had a battle on his hands. He was completely broke at the time, and he didn’t have anything to leave behind for his wife, Lynne, soon to be a window.

Burgess had never been a professional novelist in the past, but he always knew the potential was inside him to be a writer. So, for the sole purpose of leaving royalties behind for his wife, he put a piece of paper into a typewriter and began writing. He had no certainty that he would even be published, but he couldn’t think of anything else to do.

“It was January of 1960,” he said, “and according to the prognosis, I had a winter and spring and…

View original 158 more words

Be Christ to Your Family

If you’re interested in diligent, godly grandfathering, you won’t find much about the roles of grandfathers in the family support literature. More sensitive people call us, “grandparents,” even when they’re talking about grand dads, lest they be thought sexist. On the other hand, grandparenting is, in fact, often a two-person job. One of the topics we must address is nurturing a mutual understanding and cooperation with Grandma. It’s the old story that neither the husband nor the wife are islands unto themselves, and neither bear sole responsibility for failures. As Christian grandfathers, we must take up Christ’s cross unilaterally, accepting our responsibility to be Christ to both our wives and our greater families.

The problem we grand dads face is Grandma usually sets the tone of our relationship with our kids and their kids, and even their kids, if we live long enough. That issue begins with our younger selves, where Wifey holds the family reigns while Hubby does all the “manly” things like taking out the garbage, changing the oil, and occasionally even mowing the lawn. Too often, Hubby only joins in the family’s spiritual life at Wifey’s insistence, all the while thinking about the, “More Important,” manly duties, like keeping track of the latest scores and planning his next hunting trip.

Face it, guys, we’re preoccupied with trivial pursuits, self-centered and self-absorbed. Fortunately for us, our Heavenly Dad keeps His mind on the important stuff, like saving us, and keeping us in His Spirit. If we fail to follow His lead, it’s not because we aren’t good enough or otherwise qualified; we’re just too lazy to make time for obeying His expressed will.

I feel like standing tall, raising my sword, and yelling, “All who want Christ’s Way for the family, follow me!” Trouble is, I’m the last one you’d want to follow; I know His way as well as most, but fail in the following part. Maybe I should instead drop to my knees and cry out, “All who have failed our Lord and Savior, and failed your families by not loving them as Christ loves us, join me down here.” There’s no time like the present to bring revival to God’s called out ones, and it must begin with prayer. May we Christian grandfathers lead the way on our knees, ’cause that’s where the battle for the family begins and ends.

Faith’s Other Side

What’s bright is not always beneficial.

In today’s Our Daily Bread devotional, Mart DeHaan wrote about trusting God, and included a short poem by that famous Greek author, Anonymous.

Trust when your skies are darkening,
Trust when your light grows dim,
Trust when the shadows gather,
Trust and look up to Him.

Sometimes our faith gets turned on end when God seems to work against us, rather than for us. If in those difficult times we want to, as Apostle Paul wrote, “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus,” we have to check out the the faith-coin’s other side. If you haven’t guessed that hidden message, read Anononymous’ poem again. That’s right; it’s trust!

You’ll find trust easy to grasp when your world is progressing swimmingly, but you may find it more illusive when you feel like you’re up to your eyeballs in piranha. So, what’s the key to flipping that faith-coin? The psalmist knew the secret:

It is good for me that I have been afflicted,
That I may learn Your statutes.
(Psalm 119:71)

Find your “statutes” in the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments. I’m not talking about the Ten Commandments and other laws found in the Torah, but the godly principles that apply to us as directly as they did to God’s people Israel. That verse from Psalm 119 spells out God’s purpose in allowing affliction in your life; if you have founded it on the Rock, affliction drives you to His Word for faith-building. If faith were a building, trust would be the roof that keeps you dry and safe in the worst storms. As long as I’m pushing metaphors to the limit, 1 Corinthians 3:9-15 gives you a Bill of Materials for your house.

Oh, you may think the pounding rain, the gale-force winds, the torrential flood, and the thunder and lightening will get to you, but as faith brings trust, trust brings, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, (that) will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)

Utopia

Map of Sir Thomas More’s Utopia

Project Utopia; A Human Concept

Everyone hopes for a better place. Since 1516, when Sir Thomas More published his novel, Utopia, we’ve known what to call it. Many sociological and political movers and shakers in the six intervening centuries have tried to establish their own, “unique,” utopias, but every attempt went the way of all earthly paradises. One problem stands in the way of such ideal places: the dreaded “S” word, or the “D” word, and they aren’t the popular profanities that start with those letters. Sin, and the depravity that follows it, always intervene with even the best-laid human plans, programs and institutions, when we leave God out of the picture.

You may have noticed the bad reputation that religion is earning, even our beloved Christianity. That’s because even many religions or sects that claim to embrace Christ’s teachings and Spirit, don’t. Instead, they are the products of human pride and ambition, rather than of Christ’s Great Commission. and the love that He commands in His Word. Oh, they may have begun with the purest motives ever, but we … that’s you and I … too often let our carnality take over. A (literally) dead giveaway is when we set goals and targets for our ministries that aren’t strictly Scriptural. Those might include targeting a mean income for a church’s constituency, establishing “seeker-friendly” programs, and vetting perspective members by their appearance, style or occupation. But, of course your church doesn’t do that, does it?

A Religious Utopia (at least for those who pass the plate)

I said everyone hopes for a better place, because when we don’t have hope, despair takes over our lives. The New King James Version New Testament lists sixty-three instances of “hope,” fifty-three of which are in the epistles. God obviously considers hope an important idea. You’ll find the best known of those passages in Romans, chapter eight:

20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. 24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.

Christ-followers live in the only reliable hope of a “utopia,” and that is not a place, but a relationship with the only One who is able to deliver far more than we could ever hope for. Never stop seeking that “Utopia.”

C.S. Lewis on Aslan’s “Other Name”

aslan1Those who roundly criticize Uncle Jack for all the extra-Biblical fantasy in his, The Chronicles of Narnia, have missed his point entirely. Take, for example, the following quote from, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, when the Pevensie children were about to leave Narnia for England the last time:

“It isn’t Narnia, you know,” sobbed Lucy. “It’s you. We shan’t meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?”

“But you shall meet me, dear one,” said Aslan.

“Are—are you there too, Sir?” said Edmund.

“I am,” said Aslan. “But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”

It’s an allegory, folks. So what if it isn’t book, chapter, and verse from God’s Word. This excerpt from the last of his series is one of the sweetest gospel presentations I’ve seen. So lighten up, dear fundamentalist. Become Christ’s gospel in the flesh. You know what that means, don’t you? “

Matthew 22:36-40 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”

(37) Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ (38) This is the first and great commandment. (39) And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ (40) On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

That’s what loving God is all about, not opinions about doctrinal purity, or who are the “good guys” and who are the “bad guys.” So, suck it up, critics; you may not be as smart as you think.

Write Well to Feel the Love

This is me, sweating over just the right word.

One of my passions is, I care deeply about how writers use language. My Facebook avatar illustrates how I occasionally see myself as a writer.

Meet Goofy Writing, my Avatar.

Used correctly, language clearly conveys your most subtle meaning. Many readers who don’t feel compelled to nit-pick content are nevertheless sensitive to language improperly used. As I am a compulsive editor, however, I can’t help nit-picking at serious content. And if you hope to communicate your meaning accurately, you’d better become a nit-picker as well.

When someone calls upon me for writing advice, I give them the following advice: First, study the language. Read something other than twitter, Facebook, or text messages. Even comic books use better English than that. Know what a well-structured sentence looks like. Use capitol letters where needed; they were invented for a purpose. And use the spell-checker, but don’t depend entirely upon it. Functional illiterates can’t expect smart people to read their material. You do want smart people reading your blog, don’t you?

Are you confused yet?

Second, the English language uses an obscene number of words, from many different base languages. In view of that complexity, strive to use the correct words to most efficiently convey your intended meaning. For example, homonyms are the writer’s enemy (and the spell-checker’s friend). Are you up for a challenge? Try to sort out the diagram to the right. Also, a thesaurus is a double-edged sword; also use a dictionary. Never use a six-bit word simply to impress. Chances are you’ll use the wrong one anyway. Part of spelling is correctly using punctuation, like apostrophe’s (not like I just did). Wrong word use’s (did it again) advertize the writer’s ignorance. Comas aren’t those little marks that aren’t quite a period. Those are commas, and, too many, of them, are like, too many hurdles in a foot race.

Then, there is the passive voice; Where possible, have it purged from your writer’s voice. I am offended by such weak-kneed sentences. The passive voice often must be used by Technical and legal writers, but most bloggers don’t qualify. (By the way, I wrote those last three sentences in the dreaded, passive voice. Here they are in the active voice: “Where possible, purge it from your writer’s voice. Such weak-kneed sentences offend me. Technical and legal documents must often use the passive voice, but most blogs don’t qualify.” Compare both versions to catch the differences. Here’s a hint: Using the verb, “to be,” or any of its derivatives in a sentence is a dead giveaway.

You don’t have to sound stuffy to write well. Sure, you want to get creative, but learn how to use English correctly before trying to wow your audience with your creative writer’s voice. They’ll love you for it.”

Asimov on Creativity

“Those people who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.”

Isaac Asimov was one of my favorite authors, even though he was an atheist. Unlike modern, militant atheists, Asimov simply wrote from the naturalistic world view, and poked fun at believers. Yet, in the spirit of, “All truth is God’s truth,” I offer these excerpts from, Isaac Asimov Asks, “How Do People Get New Ideas?” 

My feeling is that as far as creativity is concerned, isolation is required. The creative person is, in any case, continually working at it. His mind is shuffling his information at all times, even when he is not conscious of it. (The famous example of Kekule working out the structure of benzene in his sleep is well-known.)

The presence of others can only inhibit this process, since creation is embarrassing. For every new good idea you have, there are a hundred, ten thousand foolish ones, which you naturally do not care to display.

He goes on to present ideas for forming, “cerebration sessions,” comprising congenial members who may bring some relevant expertise to the table. Writers, however, virtually always work best in solitude. Asimov’s following comment holds true for us all:

Probably more inhibiting than anything else is a feeling of responsibility. The great ideas of the ages have come from people who weren’t paid to have great ideas, but were paid to be teachers or patent clerks or petty officials, or were not paid at all. The great ideas came as side issues.

To feel guilty because one has not earned one’s salary because one has not had a great idea is the surest way, it seems to me, of making it certain that no great idea will come in the next time either.

At least one aspect of the capitalistic mindset mystifies me; managers of everything from universities to manufacturing facilities somehow believe that pressuring their subordinates creates a productive environment. They seem to view all of their workers as ne’er-do-wells, just waiting for the opportunity to rip them off, either through outright theft, or through goldbricking. So they strike their employees pre-emptively with stifling surveillance and security measures. Management can’t imagine that one of their production-line workers, dolts that they are, could ever originate a useful idea.

Manufacturing and commerce aren’t alone in their draconian policies, with publishers and literary agents constantly dogging those artists contracted to them. I suppose they never heard the saw, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”