Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Humans and Chimps

Dr. Mohler concluded his daily podcast today with one of my favorite quotes I've heard from him. The entire show is certainly worth listening to.

He responds to an article in the New York Times which reports that chimpanzees status has now been changed from "threatened" to "endangered." The interesting part comes in how the article concludes.

The article states:
“Just 6 million years ago, a single female ape had two daughters,” Yuval Noah Harari mused in his book “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.” “One became the ancestor of all chimpanzees, the other is our own grandmother.”

Dr. Mohler responds on The Briefing: 

"Now, you can divide human beings in any number of ways. But right now, Im willing to divide Americans between those for whom that sentence makes sense and for for whom that sentence is manifest nonsense. We need to note that the worldview implications of that sentence are absolutely massive, infinitely more massive than seems to be recognized by those who are quoting it in this editorial in the NYT. If you really believe that just 6 million years ago, a single female ape had 2 daughters one became the ancestor of the chimpanzees and the other became your grandmother, then who, I simply have to ask, do you think you are? That’s a truly frightening question. And that just reminds us all over again that the only true, the only satisfying, the only consistent answer to that question, the only answer that underlines and affirms human dignity, is the answer found in the Bible and biblical Christianity. And it doesn’t begin with a chimp. It doesn’t begin 6 million years ago." 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Strategy is Faithfulness

Do you ever feel like your life is not "strategic" enough for gospel work? Have you ever stopped to wonder where we got our ideas about strategy in the first place? When I look at the Bible, I do not see strategy language — at least not in the way we use the term. In fact, I think an argument can be made for quite the opposite. In the Bible, we see faithful people making poor strategic moves, like Abraham giving away the best land, Gideon sending much of his army home, Elijah taking on vast numbers of false prophets, and even Jesus spending time in the countryside -- sometimes retreating to private. He only ministered for 3 years! How much more disease could have been healed, people reached, and disciples made if he had just hung in there another few years! He only lasted slightly longer than the average youth pastor. The least he could do would have been to establish a satellite campus.   

But here’s the thing: God is the ultimate strategist which relieves you from needing to be strategic. Just follow the plan, the one in the Bible. I hear folks, especially in ministry who take new positions because it’s “more strategic.” So is the rural pastor in Alabama, Montana, or Wyoming not using his gifts wisely and “strategically?” Who made strategic a metric for measuring ministerial worth? Amazingly, the Ultimate Strategist is using the guy faithfully preaching to 25 souls just like he’s using the mega church pastor. Interestingly, I think we see the strategy of God worked out in the OT, NT, and through church history, but it was not because of brilliant strategist. God worked through faithful souls doing what they do day after day, year after year. 

Of course, a little common sense is in order. Paul went to the Synagogue and taught on the Sabbath, because that’s when he would find an interested audience. That was “strategic” in some sense. Paul also saw his plans get rerouted by the Spirit many times, including stops in small towns, a continent opposite of his ministry strategy, multiple stops in jail, and eventually a trip to his dream city, Rome, but while in chains. There was certainly nothing wrong with Paul’s plans, but I do not see strategy language seeping its way into his writings. He had plans and simply moved along as the Lord gave the opportunity.   

The epistles are striking. Conventional wisdom does not speak this way. Peter says: 

[7] The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. [8] Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. [9] Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. [10] As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: [11] whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
(1 Peter 4:7-11 ESV)

Did you catch that? The end is near, so we need to create maps, charts, and graphs on how to finish the mission, right? No, the end is near, so “be self-controlled and sober-minded.” In short, be holy — a major theme of the book. Love one another well (above all) and be hospitable. If the Lord returns to find his children living holy lives, loving people, being hospitable, and using their gifts to serve the church, he will find us doing exactly as he instructed. We need to stop trying to be awesome and simply be faithful. 

This passage is not a NT anomaly. It’s everywhere. One reference from Paul will help solidify this point. Paul wrote to the Thessalonican church a letter that is largely one of commendation. He commends them for their love and exhorts them to “excel still more.” Just before he moves to a section explaining the return of Jesus, he reminds them of their current place in the world:   

[11]…aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, [12] so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.(1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 ESV)

Here’s the thing, as we seek to live quietly, we will actually gain attention  for the gospel since we live so differently from the world. Our obligation is not to cause a ruckus for the gospel, but seek to be truthful and good citizens in every possible way. Don’t be a freeloader or a high maintenance person. Pull your weight in the community as much as you are able. Keep your testimony clean and be ready to speak when afforded the opportunity (see also I Peter 3.15). 

God will move on some people to do extraordinary things — praise the Lord for that! I pray for the nations, I am part of a group equipping pastors for ministry in the Caribbean.  Some will sell it all and go overseas, some will work a 9-5 for 40 years then retire. Neither one is more valuable, just different roles. I just read CT Studd’s story. The Lord did amazing things through this man. Interestingly, he was supported by middle to upper class business folks. There’s no CT Studd, Hudson Taylor, or Adoniram Judson without someone making, buying, and/or selling widgets. For every CT Studd, there’s a small army pecking away at a keyboard in a cubicle everyday to fund the mission.   

Do you want your life to count? Martin Luther said it well to a young cobbler who had come to Christ. The young man expected to be instructed on how to be trained for ministry. He asked Luther what he needed to do now. Luther responded: “Make a good shoe and sell it at a fair price.” Do your work today well, honestly, and with God in view. Take care to live a life of holiness, showing love to others, and serving where you have giftedness and opportunity. Then we trust the Lord as he builds his church all around the world.