Your Very Life

Living where Life is

Author: Jason McKnight (page 1 of 16)

Seven Questions if you Wrestle with your Thought Life

Everyone struggles with what goes on inside their head. Whether you’ve walked with Christ for 50 years or 50 minutes, we still struggle of thinking like Christ. “Set your minds on things above” (Col 3:2) will always tussle with “I do what I do not want to do” (Rom 7:20)

The journey of this life is one of pursuing Jesus, fleeing temptation, standing firm against the devil, and taking remaining sin seriously all at the same time.

Sin starts in the mind. James says that “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire, when it has conceived, gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (James 1:14-15)

Our thought-life is the start of sin—what we choose to dwell on is what will lead us. We can’t choose what thoughts come into our head, but we can choose which of them stay there. Bitterness. Lust. Selfish Ambition. Worry. Envy. Unforgiveness. Greed. Pride & Conceit. Anger. All of these sins start in the mind.

None of us wants to continue in worry, bitterness, lust, etc. But why are there days when lust wins? Why does worry sometimes take over? Why can’t I be done with these and think godly thoughts all the time?!?!

Let me offer seven questions if your thought-life is just not holy.

1) What’s your first thought of the day?

When the alarm goes off, what’s your first thought? Of God, his grace, his commitment to you and power to accomplish it? Or, is your first thought of the things you have to do, the stress you are under, the concerns you have, etc., etc. Those thoughts are not sin in and of themselves. But instead of letting them have primacy, grab a 3*5 card (as you turn off the alarm), with a promise from Scripture on it? For example, Eph 2:10 or Psalm 138:8. If thought-life is the start of sin, what’s the start of your daily thought-life? Start with praise and promises.

2) What’s your plan for disciplining your thought-life?

To train for a marathon, grab a 16-week plan that gradually increases your stamina and ability to run 26.2 miles straight. What’s your 4 month plan for changing your thought patterns? Lay it out. Work the plan. “Exercise and eat right” in your mind. What redemptive words and truths are you feeding your mind on to build mind-muscle? What Scripture passage are you dwelling in today? What verse are you memorizing this week? What bible study are you moving through? What Worship Music or Hymns are filling your mind? Do you have friends that you can talk about growing in Christ with? What’s your plan? Without a plan, the fat, flabby and disoriented thought-life will never change.

3) What “fighter verses” do you have?

Grab a few “daggers” to jab at the enemy when he comes in close with temptation. He can’t stand up to God’s word. Leverage that. Quote and repeat and speak verses that you’ve tucked away in your mind. My favorite are the “Five Assurances” from the Navigators’ ministry. Click here to get all five of them.

Additionally, these two verses are worth memorizing to give you confidence.

  • 2 Cor 10:5 – “…we take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ…” is a great promise that we CAN change our thought-life.
  • Eph 6:16 – “…take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish the flaming darts of the evil one…” shows that the evil one can’t stand up to the faith we have in Christ.

4) How wired are you?

It seems to me that 80% (or more?) of our social media is at best “not helpful,” and at worst corrosive, to a holy thought-life. Not that 80% of the content is Satanic, but after a while, seeing all your friends’ Instagram pictures of their Mediterranean vacation breeds envy or discontentment; or going from one article to the next to the next on Facebook just loses you in random thinking. Not to mention the harmful stuff that is out there… and accessible with a click or two. A holy thought-life might be more attainable with parameters on your time in the virtual world: Not before ___ AM, and power down at ___ PM; no tech at certain times with your friends, kids, spouse (e.g., family supper). Give your mind space to breathe.

5) What friends do you have on the journey?

My friend says, “what’s conceived in the dark, and kept in the dark has a hold on you until you bring it to light.” Bring a friend into your desire for a holy thought-life and your struggle in it. Don’t bear this burden alone. Let Christ minister to you through his body. Agree in prayer together (Mt 18:19) & set goals for holiness (see #2).

6) Do you know your low points?

When do you most often dwell on the unholy thoughts? When you are tired? Lonely? After work? Are you filled more with self-pity at certain points in the week or month? (like Friday night when “everybody else” has plans). Are you more likely to indulge lust if you are alone and awake after midnight? Know your low points, and then guard them: get a friend to call you, put a “fighter verse” near your TV, etc. Keep track of your patterns, and when you sense you are thinking least godly thoughts… and then address those specific moments.

7) Do you know that God is for you and His Spirit is in you?

  • Romans 8:31-32 – “Since God is for us, who can be against us?”
  • 1 John 4:4 – “Greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world.”

These verses give us the confidence on two levels: first of all, God WANTS us to have a holy thought-life; he’s rooting for us to grow. Second, he’s given us the power to do it by living inside of us. The more I ask the Spirit to lead my thoughts, the more he will.

 

Seven questions if your thought life is just not holy. You’re not alone, but you are also not doomed. Where do you need to start? Leave a comment or a tip that has helped you.

Weeping in Vegas with Hope

Another Murderous rampage. It boggles my mind. As one witness at the concert in Las Vegas said, “it was a kill box.” (Wall Street Journal, 10.3.17)

What to say in a blog post?

Well, to start with, the world is broken, and there is real evil. This is undeniable. A funny thing happened since 2001: Nobody argues against the existence of sin anymore. When hijackers self-consciously fly planes into buildings, the illusion that “environment or education” causes society’s troubles vanishes. There is sin in the world. There is evil, darkness and horror. It’s not everywhere, by any stretch. But it’s out there, lurking, creeping, overpowering at times.

The world is broken and evil is real.

People are broken too. There’s no other way to say it. Stephen Paddock was messed up. Was it for all of his life? Did he harbor a deep grievance? Was there a vengeful pathology? Were there wounds that cannot be named? Right now, let me say respectfully: who cares! It does not matter what caused Paddock to act like this. The fact that he did shouts to us that people are broken.

Not just brokenness, but evil lurks in our hearts and characters too. We don’t have to be a mass murderer to know it. In the quiet moments, we harbor a vengeful grudge, or let fly a rage-filled tirade.  As Alexander Solzhenitsyn said, “the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains … an unuprooted small corner of evil.”

The world is broken; so are people. The world is evil; so are people.

Are things hopeless?

Yes. If you hope for Utopia. A world without sorrow or death… that’s a hopeless cause. A world with no pain or suffering… we just won’t be able to marshall enough resources to bring this to pass.  I’m not saying there’s no good anywhere; there is. And I love it. Kindness of strangers. Goodness in folks’ actions. Genuine love and concern for the plight of others. But on a macro level, on a once-and-for-all level, on a “I guarantee that nothing bad will happen to you baby”, this world is hopeless.

We all know this in our hearts. And it’s disheartening.

Here’s my question, then. If the world is hopeless, why are we so filled with hope?

“Hope springs eternal in the human breast,” we read from someone who knows. Everyone still has children, counting on something in us that says the next generation will see some great advances. Orphan Annie’s song resonates: “The Sun’ll come out tomorrow, you can bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there’ll be sun.”

Why?

In this broken, evil world (filled with broken, evil people) we see where hope comes from: it’s the footsteps of the One who walked into it. In a corner of the world some 2,000 years ago, there was One who sat with broken people under an evil political system. There was One who loved evil people with broken hearts. We meet One who said “come to me with your weariness and burdens, and you’ll find rest with me… hope, peace, joy, love with me.”

Some 2,000 years ago, there was One who was brutally, thoroughly, utterly broken as they nailed him to a Roman Cross. It was hanging by those nails, scorned by all around, in agonizing pain that he became–for us and our sin–he became evil-incarnate.

“God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Cor 5:21). Martin Luther called this the “Happy Exchange” – Christ offers to us his righteousness if we will give to him our sin. We can carry our sin, guilt, shame, evil and brokenness… or we can give it to him. As long as we carry it, we are sinful, shameful, guilty and evil. But, if we give it to him–Lord, please forgive my sins!–then he gives to us his righteousness… his wholeness, beauty, right-ness before God, adoption in God’s family, and joyous future.

This is where hope comes from. In our broken, evil world, hope spring eternal from the Cross – that place of worst evil and greatest brokenness.

As we grieve for the people in las Vegas (and everywhere), let us grieve as those wiht hope – knowing Christ’s only answer to evil was to endure its worst! And, to come out on the other side, the Victor!

Does God Initiate or Respond?

Think of the first two books of the bible – Genesis and Exodus. How do we see God?

In a few words, Genesis is all about the God who initiates. Think about it: he starts the whole universe in chapter 1. He initiates all the astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, zoology in that one chapter of Scripture. Then, he initiates life in his image—by creating humanity. And thus he initiates family, relationships, society.

In the face of the Fall into sin, he initiates a rescue plan – promised in 3:15 and begun by choosing Abraham and his seed in ch12. Indeed, by sovereignly choosing Abraham, God proves again that he is the initiating God.

From there, he chooses Isaac (not Ishmael), Jacob (not Easu). He even initiates a rescue plan for Jacob’s family in the coming famine… by having Joseph down in Egypt as Prime Minister.

Genesis is the story of Initiating God.

What about Exodus? It’s the story of God delivering his people who are groaning under the weight of slavery. He redeems them with an outstretched arm, charters them in covenant (Ex 19-24), and dwells with them in the Tabernacle. It’s the story of him forgiving them at the Golden Calf.

Exodus is the story of the Responding God. He responds in compassion to the groaning of his people. “And God heard the groaning of his people, And God remembered his Covenant, and God saw the sons of Israel, and God knew.” (Ex 2:25)

We see the responsiveness of God to the plight of his people. But we also see his responsiveness in connection to his covenant promises: he will uphold them, fulfill them, be true to them. Exodus displays his utter commitment to his purposes.

So in Exodus we discover the Responding God on two levels: to the plight of those in bondage, and to his Word given beforehand.

Genesis and Exodus. The Initiating God and the Responding God. What hope does this give us? In both books, and in both angles of God’s character, we come face to face with one fact: everything rests on him. Creation. Election. Redemption. Deliverance. Covenant. It’s all his. As the old hymn says, “His grace has planned it all, ‘tis mine but to believe, and recognize his work of love, and Christ receive.”

If this is the pattern in the first two books of Scripture, have you seen this pattern in your life? Times when God initiates new things for you, with you, through you? Times when God responds to your groaning… and (though mysterious to you at first) brings deliverance and help (just like he promised he would)? Pause to give thanks to this initiating and responding God!

Thanks be to God!

Eclipse Day: Why I’m looking at the sun

No I don’t have the right glasses.  I don’t have protective gear. I haven’t even made that “pin-hole” box like we did in elementary school. But I’m going to be looking at something today that is unbelievable.

Eric Metaxas wrote yesterday on foxnews.com:

About fifteen years ago an odd idea popped into my head.  Google was just a gurgling infant. But I happened to have a sturdy Brittanica nearby and I pulled out a dusty volume and quickly discovered the diameter of the sun. It is precisely 864,576 miles. The diameter of the moon was listed at 2,159 miles. I then looked up the distance from Earth to the sun, which varies slightly, but is generally given as 93 million miles. And then I found the distance from Earth to the moon. That varies slightly too, so the average is given as 239,000 miles. 

Armed with these four figures, I did some simple math. I divided the sun’s diameter (864,576) by the moon’s (2,159) and got 400.452. If my strange hunch was correct, dividing the distance from the Earth to the sun (93,000,000) by the distance from the Earth to the moon (239,000) should give me something similar. It certainly did. My calculations yielded 389.121. And there it was. I stared at the numbers, amazed. Was the correlation in these ratios mere coincidence?

Of course what this all meant was simply that these immemorially ancient and vast objects, though as different in size as a single BB and a super gigantic beach ball — one that was over six feet in diameter — would from our perspective here on Earth seem almost precisely the same size.  So if they ever just happened to align in the sky, they would match up perfectly. Not almost perfectly. But perfectly, and bizarrely so. 

What might be the odds of this just happening randomly? Almost all the planets in our solar system have no moons or many moons (Jupiter has 60) of incredibly varying sizes. So this sort of thing doesn’t happen anywhere else in our solar system. But our planet has just one moon that happens to be just the right size and just the right distance from Earth. 

I found the precision necessary for all of this unbelievable. The more I thought about it, the more I knew that there was no way this could be a mere coincidence. It seemed almost planned. In fact, it seemed utterly planned, as all things of such precision must be.

[You can read his whole article on Fox News here. ]

Today, in the 92% Eclipse zone of ENC, I’m going to be looking at God’s calling card… His message to those who have “ears to hear and eyes to see” that He created this whole world.  For us. For His glory. For us to enjoy His glory. The heavens declare the glory of God, David writes in Psalm 8.

Paul goes further in Colossians 1. He looks at the natural world (including orbits in space that cause eclipses) and centers everything on Jesus: “For by him all things were created in heaven and on earth, whether visible or invisible… all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together… For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” (Col 1:16-20)

The “all things” of creation (and history) belong to Jesus, hold together in Jesus, bring glory and majesty to Jesus, and are reconciled (put back together) in Jesus alone.

Today–the Great Eclipse Day of 2017–I’m looking at the SON. Who loved me and gave himself for me, to reconcile me (and all things!) to God.

No glasses needed.  Just eyes that want to see him.

(And, obviously, I’m not going to be staring at the solar eclipse without glasses. Just sneakin’ a peek here and there.)

Charlottesville is Weeping; God is too.

Christians, in light of what’s happening in Charlottesville today, please take to heart why racism is demonic and evil: It stomps on every part of God’s good purposes for humanity.

Before we do anything else, let us remember why racism has absolutely no place in our worldview as followers of Christ. Simply this: Humans are of one essence. And this is demonstrated in Scripture in at least 4 different ways:

1. Every human is created in the image of God

  • Gen 1:26-27 – Let us make mankind in our image and after our likeness…
  • Acts 17:26 – and he made from one man every nation to live on the face of the earth.

2. Every Christian is justified by the blood of Christ on the cross

  • 1 Tim 2:5-6 – for there is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for us all.
  • Gal 3:28-29 – There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus
  • Eph 2:13ff – But now, in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. He himself is our peace who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.
  • John 3:16 – For God so loved the World that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

3. Every Christian is incorporated into one body by one Spirit

  • Acts 2:17 (Joel 2) – And in the last days it shall be, God declares that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh…
  • Eph 4:4f – There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is over all and through all and in all.
  • Eph 2:18 – For through him we both have access in one spirit to the Father (Jews & Gentiles)

4. Every Christian will worship together around the throne for eternity

  • Rev 7:9 – And I looked and saw a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages.

I forget exactly who first laid these 4 facts out so clearly. At our human core, we share the same essence.  The core of God’s purposes for humanity holds this truth: There is one race of creatures in His image: the Human Race.

Moreover, Christians—African-American, White, Hispanic, Asian, African, Native American, Arab, Slavic—are one in Christ.

In light of the unfolding events in Charlottesville, take to heart this truth. Hold it dearly, so that it changes your outlook: whether you look at the news or at the person across the street.

We weep with Charlottesville, we weep for the sins humans foist on others. And we pray for the Prince of Peace to bring forgiveness and reconciliation. He’s the only one who can.

He brings it by changed hearts, your heart and mine, as we face up to our own sinfulness and receive His great grace.

As John Newton, the former slave ship captain turned pastor, said two centuries ago: Although my memory is fading, two things I remember clearly: I am a great sinner, and He is a great Savior.

Oh how we need these truths to change lives today.

Change your Kid’s Life

When you think of your kids’ future, don’t you want them to be safe, happy, and feel fulfilled? Good schools, good spouse, good job, good life.

Parents are (mostly) right to think like this: it’s our instinct to want to provide for our children everything good. So, when/if we pray for them–that is, when we seek God’s power applied to their lives–the prayers we pray mirror our desires: we ask for safety, success and good choices.

A few years ago, it hit me that God might have better things for me to pray for my sons. Over time, he’s pointed me to the following requests. I use them one or two each day, rotating them depending on what’s going on. What do you think of them? Wanna join me in changing your kids’ lives?

1. Good Soil – I ask God to give them the soil that receives the seed and produces 30-60-100 fold. (Mark 4:8, 20). That God’s Word in their days wouldn’t fall on deaf ears, worried hearts, or shallow wills. “Lord, give them hearts, wills, ears like the good soil.”

2. That John 13 would be a way of life – in this chapter, Jesus shows us the full extent of his love by serving. He washed his disciples’ feet – it was the worst job. It was the night before he died – the worst time. The disciples included Judas his betrayer – the worst people. (I forget who first alerted me to those three “worsts”). I pray that my boys would always be willing to serve.

3. Zech 10:12 – “I will make them strong in the Lord, and they will walk in his Name.” I ask God to do this work in their lives. Strength in him, and conduct reflecting his character.

4. Deuteronomy 30:19 – After declaring God’s Word, Moses challenges the people, “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose Life…” I ask God to help them, guide them, make them choose FOR obeying his Word and living into it.

5. That they would bear fruit – Both the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23), and the fruit of righteousness (Phil 1:11). Also, John 15. Basically that their lives would matter for the Kingdom, and that they would leave a legacy that draws others to Christ. Good Fruit borne by a good tree.

6. That they would get caught in sin – There is nothing worse than when we get away with things! I pray that they would be caught in the act, or found out very quickly (while fresh), so that we can get them off of Sin’s stupid downward spiral, and back out into the open. One friend said, “what’s conceived in the dark, and kept in the dark has a hold on your until it is brought to light.” So true.

7. That they would be quick to repent – Back to the “good soil”… hearts willing to own their trash, confess it and reject it. Being caught is not enough, there has to be brokenness over sin. Godly sorrow leads to repentance. I ask the Lord continually to give them strong characters, but soft and tender hearts.

8. Proverbs 4:20-27 – “My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words… Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life…” and many other simple, proverbial instructions that will make or break a daily life.

 

Nothing magic about these 8 things. You can find 8 different ones in Scripture. But, what I’ve found in praying these is that I pray with great confidence because I know God is going to act according to his Word. Nothing hinders effectiveness in our prayers more than uncertainty in praying them: “should I really ask for this?” But, to abandon yourself to God on behalf of your children because you KNOW God will hold to his Word means that you will see answers.

One last thing. I don’t only pray these things for my sons. I pray them also for Susan and myself. And, yes, God graciously answers!

 

Robin’s Legacy

This week all I could do is think of this life and of the legacy of my dear friend Robin Wooten. [read about him here]

Robin said often this year that he had never encountered God so closely in all his life as he did with ALS. In all his great work and his love of family, friends and home, he said he had never really opened his life up to the fullness God has for each of us. Until ALS. Until he was forced to change course, change priorities, change outlook.

And now, all too soon, he is actually with the Lord. Seeing God’s glory face-to-face.

If only Robin could come back and talk to us, wouldn’t you listen? If he could tell you what it’s like with God, wouldn’t you hang on every word? If he could tell you what really matters out of all the things we do, wouldn’t we all take notes and change course?

Or would we?

Life-change is hard. Some would say impossible without help from the outside. The patterns, habits, desires we have are just so entrenched. It’s nigh on impossible to change them.

But surely if a friend came back, with a message from God’s presence… surely then we’d listen.

Let me ask you: how deeply do you listen to the One who did come from God’s presence, and who also went through death and came back again? The Bible calls Jesus the Word of God – that means God’s Message to us (John 1:1-18). It calls Jesus the First-Fruits of those who have died – meaning he’s risen from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20). It calls him the creator and sustainer of all things, and the center of all things on earth and in heaven, in time and eternity (Colossians 1 & Ephesians 1).

Jesus quite simply is THE fact of existence that every person has to wrestle with.

 

Have you? The way Jesus changed Robin’s life is this:

  • When we are born into this world, we are born separated from God. (Rom 3:23)
  • This great and generous God who would be our Father. (John 3:16, 1:12)
  • God sent his Son into the world to rescue us from that separation, and to adopt us into his family; the Son enables us to be sons & daughters of the King! (Gal 4:4)
  • Jesus rescued us by means of his blood: his death on the cross was the death we should have died. He received the punishment due to us for our sins, and we receive his life and right-standing with the Holy God. (2 Corinthians 5:21, Isaiah 53:4-6)
  • Jesus was also raised from the dead, and that’s how God proved to us that Christ’s death is sufficient: he broke death wide open. (Rom 1
  • He pours out the Holy Spirit into every person who surrenders to Christ–in humble willingness, who asks God to forgive our sins/wrongs. (Rom 5:1-5)
  • From that moment on, God makes us new – a new heart, new creation, new life, new future, new inheritance, new hope, new citizenship, new home. All because of Christ–his death and resurrection. But only if we humbly give ourselves to him… who gave himself for us. (2 Cor 5:17, et al.)

This is the outline of the story of Robin’s life. Is it the story of yours? This is the Good and Great News (the “gospel”) that Jesus came back from the dead to call you to. This is what the reality of ALS led Robin to live into like never before. This is the sum total of life.

Let Robin’s legacy in your life be that you finally and fully call out to Jesus to rescue you, adopt you, renovate you, and make you completely new.

You can pray like this: “Father in Heaven. I recognize that You alone are the center of all things. So long I’ve lived as if I were the center–my dreams, my hopes, my future, my family. But now I see that you are. Please forgive me for my self-centeredness. Please pardon the things I’ve done that dishonor you. You call them sins… but our culture doesn’t like that language… I’m sorry; please pardon me, from top to bottom. And, please give me the hope of Jesus, the life of Christ, the future–like Robin–to re-order everything under your leadership & Lordship. I see now that my life is yours, not mine. Thank you for wanting me, and for being gracious to forgive me. I’m yours. I ask this in the Name of Christ. Amen.”

If you prayed that, contact me here in the comments, or at gracekinston.org.  I’d love to help you walk this journey.

Robin’s Letter

Before he died, Robin Wooten took the time to write what he wanted to say to friends and family after he was gone. He asked if I would read them at his memorial service. It was my privilege to do so yesterday.

He was diagnosed with ALS last summer. As he says in his letter, at that moment he truly began to live. For this past year, Robin & Elizabeth lived, really lived. They laughed, loved, forgave and prayed. They spent time with family and friends. And they adopted Henry the Golden Retriever!!

And in this God met them, carried them, and has brought life and hope to thousands.

Many have asked for a copy of his words. One friend of his said, “I want to put that letter in my night stand, and read it often to remind me what life is really about.” True that. Click the following to download them. Robin Wooten Letter

On a personal level, it has been an absolute privilege to walk with Robin and Elizabeth. We live just about 10 houses away from each other, and I’d pop over a good deal. My sons did some yard work here and there. We’d see Rockin Robin go by on his scooter (Elizabeth hoofing it to keep up), and later in his wheelchair (I think that thing was stick-shift!). As elders from Grace, we spent a moving evening together just last month. Neighbors, friends, fellow pilgrims on this journey.

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” (Ps 116:15). These days are so precious to God – we are all so real about what’s important, so tender about life and loss, so willing to pitch in and help in any way we can, so quick to call out to him for help. No wonder these days are precious to our God and Father… it seems we are truly being the body of Christ!

Click here to see his service. Hit the “Archive tab” and play the service.  (I read the letter beginning at about 43:30.)

Eugene Peterson, Take 2

Eugene Peterson lectures at University Presbyterian Church in Seattle, Wash., in May 2009. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Today, Eugene Peterson retracted his support of gay marriage. This blog is not meant to be “all hot-button issues, all the time”. But, in light of the news, here’s what I put on my Facebook Status today:

“Thank the Lord for EP’s retraction. So sorry for the need for it. Reminds me of World Vision’s mis-step and change-back a few years ago. Caused damage to the witness of the church, left some people confused & others solidified in their suspicions (and engendered cynicism).
Couple of thoughts:
1. Those who wrote uncharitable things or in an uncharitable manner about this brother should also retract them. (don’t you think?)
2. Yet another reminder to think clearly before you speak so that you don’t need retractions.
3. You can’t put Humpty together again. This will affect how folks read EP. And it should.
4. The dynamics surrounding this one issue will continue to trip people up if they don’t think clearly. If you do think clearly and are out of step with culture, get ready for a pile-on.
5. We all need to go get some ice cream.”

[Of course, everything is better with Ice Cream]

Click here for Christianity Today’s article in which Peterson retracts yesterday.

Click here for my blog post yesterday helping Christians think through how to engage with Peterson.

Seriously, go get some ice cream.

Eugene Peterson and You

Eugene Peterson lectures at University Presbyterian Church in Seattle, Wash., in May 2009. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

By now you will likely have heard that Eugene Peterson has endorsed gay marriage.  And, if you are on Facebook, you will have seen the comments ranging from “it’s about time” to “we knew it was coming”; from “Can’t trust anything he writes” to “he’s the best thing ever.”

A few comments for thinking Christians.

1. In his comments to Jonathan Merritt of the Religious News Service, Peterson only references experiences he’s had and people he’s known, and not Scripture’s teaching. He does not say if he changed his mind, wrestled with the text, or sought the Church’s doctrine. He only says that he’s OK with it, and would perform a marriage ceremony for two same-sex people, and that the debate is pretty much over. This is not right. Scripture must be the starting point and finish line of our thinking & discipleship patterns. We have to begin where Scripture begins, and land where it takes us. Peterson–who translated & paraphrased all 66 books–should know better.

2. He is still a very good thinker, and has brought great pastoral help through his writings. They ought not all be set aside. Christians ought not cast him aside hastily or call his salvation into question. All of us are fallen, and the Fall affects every part of us (including our minds, and our changes in thinking over time). I read one FB comment, “I’ve been warning about Peterson for years.” Granted I don’t know what this person was warning, but the implication to me is “stay away from him.” I disagree. The fact that he’s wrong on this does not mean he’s wrong on everything. If it did, we should stop reading Martin Luther, whose anti-semitic comments make us blush! No one argues that we throw aside Luther, only that we read him judiciously.  We see this principle in play again with a contemporary pastor: read judiciously one who gets things right and wrong.

3. Read him judiciously I will. There’s no denying that it makes me read with a little less “Ahh, I’m at home with an old friend”, and a little more “this is good… hmmm, is this good?” I will likely recommend his writings more carefully, and will have to add a preface any recommendation.  I will still be blessed by the pastoral insights (Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work) and exegetical nuggets (Run with the Horses). But I will also grieve some as I read.

4. We can’t get through life only reading Christian authors who get everything right, or with whom we agree 100%. For two reasons: a) No author gets it 100% right. Each of them is wrong on one or more things they’ve written. Again, start and end in Scripture; and the Fall affects all of us.

b) It’s not about becoming “fans” of this author or that thinker, scholar or preacher. When you begin to think someone is totally trustworthy, you are putting more freight on them than they can bear. There are no perfect thinkers, preachers or writers outside of Scripture. (Plus, even the human authors of Scripture demonstrate that we cannot trust the person… only the Spirit’s sanctifying work of inspiration!).

Be ready in life to read people with whom you disagree. Indeed, expect that everyone you read will have gotten something wrong, and watch for it.

5. Do your homework and learn from those who are faithful to the Gospel. Ask your believing friends, your Church leaders or Pastor what they think about author X; listen to their counsel. Moreover, with any author, when you find you disagree, the Lord will tell you when you should “hold-your-nose and keep reading for the good insights” or when you should set them aside. I’ve done both with various authors. You have to seek the Lord and the wisdom of the Body of Christ as you read.

God may lead you to set aside your reading of Peterson. Don’t do it because of knee-jerk Facebook blow ups. Do it because of a grief over his departure from orthodoxy over marriage, and his leading of others to do the same. Or, God may lead you to the “hold your nose” side. But you’ll do so with a new level of guard in light of this article.

It’s sad and it’s messy. But that’s what being alive in the world means. Christ is changing lives for God’s glory. I’m disappointed (though not really surprised). I’ve been blessed by The Message and many of Peterson’s writings.  He’s walking away from God’s view of reality, and I’m grieved. But I also know that, ultimately, the Lord will bring all things to his greatest glory, and I can’t wait to reflect back on that in this case.

Keep thinking and never lose hope!

(You can click here to read what Peterson said to the RNS).

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