2 Symptoms of the Same Pride

This came up tonight.  

I’ve seen it with eschatology, I’ve seen it with KJV Onlyism, I’ve seen it with the no vaccination movement.  I’ve seen it with beliefs or practices I share, such as the Doctrines of Grace (you might’ve heard of “Cage Calvinists,” so-called because you want to put them in a cage and let them mature) and with home education.  I’ve read and worked with and loved Christians who have a wedge issue, a hobby horse they (a) can’t stop bringing up and (b) must convert others to.  It excites them more than the Gospel.  They are more ready to talk and post and write about it than the Cross or the goodness of Christ or the character of God.  

Not everyone who reads the King James Bible exclusively is what I’m describing here.  Not everyone who is wary of vaccinations, either.  But many are, and here’s what I’ve noticed:  When you dig a little their lives are often on fire.  Marriages are often on the rocks, kids often don’t want to have anything to do with them, many times there’s a history of church hopping and/or inability to maintain long friendships or a history of being difficult to work a job with.  

I remember one co-worker who I really, seriously loved in Christ who would constantly come back to one single issue within his Christian faith.  We gave each other grace and were close and we honestly cared about each other, but that issue, though I would argue is incredibly tangential (not to mention misguided), was paramount to him.  And I’m fairly certain that I was pitiable in his eyes for not seeing the light.  I later found out that his marriage was unimaginably problematic, that he had broken relationships with multiple children, and that he was deeply (and vocally) unhappy and bitter about his church and her leadership.  And then he abruptly and angrily quit the job we worked together.  It’s a pattern I’ve seen, and my conviction is that the two things, the small pet project you absolutely must argue about and the personal life that is deeply fractured, are symptoms of the same virus.  The hobby horse issue that you will not let go and the regularity of broken, unhappy relationships in your life are manifestations of the same bug.  

I think the same virulent strain was in Gnosticism, the early heresy that attacked the Gospel by claiming (among other false things) that there were truer, inner Christians who had secret knowledge that the lesser ones didn’t.  It’s often (though not always, of course) in conspiracy theorists and died-in-the-wool political partyists who view their fellow humans in categories of the enlightened “in” and the foolish or sinister “other.”  It’s a kind of pride that wants to rest in its own perceptive abilities, its own intelligence, its own research and cognition and wisdom.  It enjoys the fact that it is in the minority, because it wants to be one of the few enlightened and superior or, if I can use 2018-speak, “woke” (I hope I used that right; overlook it if I didn’t) It wants to be right even more than it wants to be righteous.  It wants to be vindicated even more than it wants to be justified.  It wants to win even more than it wants to listen.  

I’ve wrestled with pride all my life.  I’m guessing I always will.  But the more I’ve read or listened on podcasts to or interacted with what I’m describing, the more I’ve wanted to protect myself (and the people I love) against this particular kind.  Paul wrote against divisiveness as a man of conviction.  It is good to have rock-ribbed convictions in Christ.  But to be more enthralled by an issue than by God Himself, to love theory more than God or people, to be willing to argue but not have the slightest interest in reconciliation (or even persuasion) but simply in being upheld and proven right and victorious, is a sign of a toxin, a poison down deep in the spiritual bloodstream.  

Something is very wrong with this one who thinks he is very right.  

Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.

1 Corinthians 1:20-29


Some Little Kid Definitions Of Big Concepts

I think, generally, if you actually understand something you’ll be able to to explain it to a young child.  And the flip side of that coin is that trying to explain something to a little kid can help you understand it better.  

Some Christian parents, myself included, struggle at times to answer their 5-year-old’s question about what a theologically and philosophically big word means.  

“Daddy, what’s love?”

“But Mommy, what is faith?”

So, after watching The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe with my kids and explaining what “bravery” was to my 3-year-old son, I had the idea to write this post. 

These are some little kid definitions that, while not the most precise exposition you could give of each idea, I think certainly get across what each thing really is.  These have been (or will be) my definitions for my little guys.  

Bravery:  When you love something good and fight for it.  

Evil:  Not like God. 

Faith: Believing someone can do what he says he can do.  

Family:  People connected by a love promise.  

Good:  Like God.   

Heaven:  Where God lives. 

Hell:  A place where God punishes, forever, people who won’t say sorry.  

Home:  Where you’ve been made to belong.  

Hope:  When you really want something to happen.  

Love:  When something is so special to you you’ll do hard things for it.  

Marriage:  A love promise a man and a woman make to each other and to God.

Peace:  When things are working the way God designed them to work.  

Salvation:  How people get to go to Heaven when they believe in Jesus.  

Wisdom:   Knowing what’s good and knowing how to do it.  

Happy Wednesday!

Some Personal Proverbs

The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:  To know wisdom and instruction,to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth — Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. 

Proverbs 1:1-6

I’ve been thinking about Proverbs lately.  About God’s book of general statements of wisdom.  I’m grateful for the book of Proverbs, because it’s helped me to think through some very practical matters.  What’s the right way to parent?  What’s the right way to work?  What’s the right way to speak? 

I’m not old, and there are many ways in which I’m still foolish (I still often prize people’s opinion of me more than God’s, for instance).  But I think the following observations I’m making are faithful to the witness of God’s Word.  They’re in no way inspired, in that they are not breathed out by God, as the real book of Proverbs is.  

But I offer them for what they’re worth.  
A few personal proverbs, if I may:

  • Young, married men and women: Have children. I’ve never met a Godly older man or woman who wishes they’d had less children, but I’ve known more than a few who wish they’d had more.  
  • If I have a really long list of people that I can’t stand, it’s worth asking whether the issue might be me.  
  • There is nothing I’ve personally encountered that better illustrates the folly of the human heart than the movement to support the right to abortion.  “It’s not a life.  No, we don’t want to look at ultrasounds, I said it’s not a life!  And even if it is a life, a woman should have the right to end it.  No, she shouldn’t have the right to end other lives, just this one.  I’m not crazy, man, come on.  She should just have a right to end this life.  I mean if it’s a life.  And we celebrate that in this country.  Even though we want these things to be safe and legal and rare.  We celebrate it!  But no, seriously, I don’t want to look at an ultrasound!”
  • Forgiveness will be as hard as your heart is. 
  • The fundamental problem with ISIS is theological, not economic or social.  At root, they have a wrong understanding of the character and values of God.  Everything else flows from those headwaters.  
  • Where the world is a system of people moving further and further apart because of annoyances and unforgiven wrongs and technological isolation, the church should model people moving ever and ever closer in intimacy because of a shared love as big as the Gospel.  
  • Bitterness requires entitlement as it’s fuel.  You have to believe you were owed something that you didn’t get.  Remove the fuel and the spark won’t catch.  Replace the lie that you were owed something good you didn’t get with the truth that the only thing we were each owed is Hell, and bitterness won’t have any gas to keep blazing on.  
  • If you want to know how much a Christian man believes the Gospel, one way to find out is to watch how he treats his children.   
  • Remember, “father” is both a noun and a verb.  And appropriately so.   

Happy Wednesday, all!

    On Boasting


    A simple contrast with no commentary, in the hopes of edifying the reader:

    “I’m the most successful person ever to run for the presidency, by far… Nobody’s ever been more successful than me. I’m the most successful person ever to run. Ross Perot isn’t successful like me. Romney – I have a Gucci store that’s worth more than Romney.”

    “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.'”



    A young man gets up from his face, his three friends joining him, and says this:

    “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him.”

    That’s Daniel, overjoyed and awestruck and in love. But not with a pretty girl, and not with a new career path. His mind wasn’t reeling over a massive natural beauty like the Grand Canyon or the humongous rainforests of the Amazon Basin.

    Daniel was impossibly exhilarated because the God who spoke photons and atoms into existence had just told him what the king had dreamed.

    Nebuchadnezzar had demanded his fake soothsayers tell him his dream and interpret it or die. Those were their options. And since they only had false gods to go to, their prospects were grim.

    But Daniel, knowing he and his small cohort of believers in the God of Abraham might get tragically caught in the wildfire of Nebuchadnezzar’s wrath, prayed for what the impostors couldn’t.

    Daniel went to a real God in the midst of a culture of idol-lovers.

    And God did what God does to those who see Him: He inspired speechless, kneeknocking awe.

    Wisdom. God’s knowledge is unlimited. He not only knows what Napoleon’s favorite color was and how many shrimp are in the Pacific Ocean right now and which would’ve been the best bus for Rosa Parks to keep her seat on. No, He also intimately fashions this world and its tragedies and its wickednesses and its beauties and its redemption. He has never sinned and never will, and yet Peter says in Acts that His breathtaking wisdom predestined the worst sin ever ravaged against Himself: the sacrificial murder of the Messiah.

    God knows why warm summer rain stirs my heart and makes me think of my childhood even if I don’t. And He knows and is in absolute control over each of my awful treacheries, though they are purely mine.

    But wondrously He also knows and is in control over the only cure for me, the only rescue I could ever have.

    Might. The world’s armies would scatter into the wind like spent ashes before the fire and power of the God of Jesus Christ. He is the definition and source of power.

    He charts and determines and ends the reigns of presidents and prime ministers and chief financial officers and PTA members (just as He told Jeremiah He did with Nebuchadnezzar).

    It was through Jesus Christ that the powerful core of our sun, hot enough to melt the diamond in my wife’s wedding ring, came into being. He spoke the light of the darkness into its powerful being.

    The sky that makes us tremble when it looses its hailstones or rains meteorites on our ground was created by His Word.

    He could pluck our solar system from its arm of the Milky Way, and He could stop our galaxy’s spin as though it were a child’s pinwheel.

    His power is unending.

    And it is unspeakably, incalculably good.

    Light. In Him there is no darkness. There is no shadow or deceit or shallow, ignorant anxiety.

    His holiness, His charity and honesty and commitment to what is valuable and truly worthwhile make our best deeds look petty and filthy.

    He is glory while we steal glory. He is truth while we despise truth, and run from it, terrified of its power to convict us. He is love, while we abuse and cheapen love in the name of self-gratification.

    The perfectness of God was hanging from the wooden Cross outside Jerusalem.

    At the same time Pilate’s hands dried from dirty water he vainly hoped would clean them.

    While the very ones in need of rescue and redemption spat and called down curses from a Heaven they thought they loved, the only One holy enough to make Satan shriek and tremble hung and bore the wrath of God and the hate of men.

    But our darknesses, and Satan’s, are never enough to destroy Jesus.

    And His holy body was raised to the right hand of the One whose goodness would blind and kill anyone who saw it full-on.

    This is the God of Father, Spirit, and Son who made Daniel sweat, who dried his mouth and made his head spin.

    Be breathless before God.

    See Him in Jesus Christ, and in His Word, and be breathless with wonder.