A Christian response to the deconstruction of the West.

I have been trying to wrap my mind around the increasing geopolitical tensions that stand before us. My goal is to step out of the specific issues and work to understand the driving forces that perpetuate them. I suspect the riots, racial tension, hatred of government and even distrust in industry and education are the fruit of something much greater at work. My objective is to bring clarity to this. What makes us postmodern? How should the church respond?

This is the idea framework I will be building future blogs, sermons and ministries out of. Again, it is a work in progress. I am making more public what I often do privately. I would love feedback and continual insight from those that enjoy this.

The objective of this paper is to bring definition to the social and civil realities that face the Christian church as she ministers to the American Midwest young adult. This is not exhaustive. It is an attempt to look at what I believe is the prime tension, postmodernism. In this work I will take a brief look at the history of ideas, social structures, embodied social evidence for my hypothesis, and the broader cultural forces that drive the Midwestern, postmodern young adult. I will end by examining the book of Acts as a plausible answer. I will propose how a look at our Christian history can bring clarity to our future ministry. 

Defining terms as I will use them:

Modernity: An era described in the humanities and social sciences that is the result of the renaissance or the age of reason. The prime idea by those that adhere to the “modern” way of thinking is that the sciences and the scientific method will solve humanity’s problems. They are known to reject religion as antiquated and irrelevant at best and detrimental to human progress at worst.

Postmodernity: An era that is still forming itself. It is a reaction to the frustrations and disappointments of modernity’s perceived failures.  It hinges much of its functional ethic on the residue of Christianity and the civil disruption strategies of Marx and Nietzsche. At this point in its development its more reactionary than evolutionary. See below. 

Religion: A set of believed and practiced values that is seen as supremely important by its adherents. Religious people will evangelize, give their wealth to, emotionally follow and even sacrifice themselves to the ethic and structures they believe to be supremely important. 

Defining Society:

In Bishop Robert Barron’s lecture, Philosophers Who Shaped 2020[1], he lays out the idea roadmap that fosters the civil disruptions we see today. In chronological order, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Michel Foucault subsequently build on each other’s ideas to create a new way to view society. Marx’s famous book the Das Capitao puts forth the idea that likely originated from Feuerbach.[2] He believes we as humans tend to create extremes of what we experience in the world around us. For example, if we can know things, humans naturally assume there must be an all-knowing. If there is power, there must be an all-powerful. From this train of human thought Marx believed that we invented a fantasy world to encapsulate these ultimate ideas we now call religion. Hence his famous phrase, “Religion is the opium of the people.”[3] Not so much the joy of the people but the sum of their way of thinking. He believed that this does something to us negatively. It creates a world that we can never be satisfied in and works to give us, from his perspective, a false hope. The trajectory of Marx, Nietzsche, Sartre and Foucault is an ever sharpening of the point which is meant to do away with this social structure that they believed poisoned humanity. This is the prime idea they play out in many ways throughout their works. Their goal, which is primarily explained by Marx and Nietzsche, is to disrupt society until it must restart. This is done is by fostering friction leading to a revolution. To these men the goal isn’t to continue the progression of this socioeconomic world but to devastate it. To recreate a new “perspectivism” where groups can build whatever they want with subjective right and wrong and no ultimate to hold them back or give false hope. They wanted to erase objective morality and force society to start over.[4] Nietzsche was incredibly effective at reaching the masses with these ideas because of his eloquent aphoristic style of writing. These little disruptive bites of thought[5] are woven all through culture. You find the residue of Nietzsche in much pop culture literature even today. The leaders of the Modern era used the destructive idea tools of Marx and Nietzsche to remove religion and attack existing social structures. Modernity and its authors offered a new clear promise. Modernity promised that science, technology, and civil progress along with individual rights could unite humanity and fix many of our civil and social problems instead of religion and the old guard of civil structures. In other words, bring it all down and rebuild with the scientific method and individual equality.

As we fast forward to our age, we see something new developing. Pluckrose and Lindsay in their work, Cynical Theories, define our current societal upheaval as postmodern. The postmodern person’s summary of thought is that the promises of modernity didn’t fully work. We still feel empty (see below). We see this ever-present attitude even in the rise of dystopian stories in the creative arts.[6] Modernity has failed to deliver in ways that satisfy the masses. So, we find the postmodern person feeling desperate and dejected, left with empty promises and no clear future. The book Cynical Theories says it so well:

Postmodern thinkers reacted to modernism by denying the foundations of some aspects of Modern thought, while claiming that other aspects of Modern thinking didn’t go far enough. In particular, they rejected the underlying modernist desire for authenticity, unifying narratives, universalism, and progress, achieved primarily through scientific knowledge and technology. At the same time, they took the modernists’ relatively measured, if pessimistic, skepticism of tradition, religion, and Enlightenment-era certainty—along with their reliance on self-consciousness, nihilism, and ironic forms of critique—to extremes. Postmodernism raised such radical doubts about the structure of thought and society that it is ultimately a form of cynicism. Postmodernism is also a reaction to and rejection of modernity, meaning “the profound cultural transformation which saw the rise of representative democracy, the age of science, the supersedence of reason over superstition, and the establishment of individual liberties to live according to one’s values.” Although postmodernism openly rejects the possibility of the foundations that have built modernity, it has nevertheless had a profound impact on the thinking, culture, and politics of those societies that modernity built.[7]

A large portion of the postmodern populous is not merely moving forward from modernity, they are vehemently rejecting and trying to dismantle it. Postmodernity is “cynicism” embodied. Functionally the postmodern person is attacking the modern world with the same idea tools used to destroy the worldview before it. From the postmodern person’s perspective, modernity has failed, and just like their predecessors they want to start over again. 

The progressive left has aligned itself not with Modernity but with postmodernism, which rejects objective truth as a fantasy dreamed up by naive and/or arrogantly bigoted Enlightenment thinkers who underestimated the collateral consequences of Modernity’s progress.[8]

Postmodern Theory and liberalism do not merely exist in tension: they are almost directly at odds with one another. Liberalism sees knowledge as something we can learn about reality, more or less objectively; Theory sees knowledge as completely created by humans—stories we tell ourselves, largely in the unwitting service of maintaining our own social standing, privilege, and power.[9]

            The evidence is clear. Postmodernity isn’t really a forward step for humanity as much as it is an attempt to erase our past, again. It is an attempt to “start over.” It is a destruction, not a creation. Therefore, we see the very idea tools of Karl Marx and Friedrich Nietzsche reemerging, albeit with new language and reformed axioms. We are yet again in an age of destruction, an age of erasing. 

Looking at society’s structures:

All humans are religious, even while many claim not to be. Subverting Global Myths challenges our global perspectives of personal rights, religion and even society. One group’s altruistic endeavor or national right can quickly become another group’s terrorist attack. The author even takes aim at the media for working to pin global violence on religion when in fact, as he supports below, atheistic administrations are extremely guilty of “religious” violence too. Arguably, even more so. There is no such thing as non-religious. 

Even the most “secular” of states worships such surrogate gods as “national security,” “market forces,” “technological imperatives,” “economic growth” and “patriotism.” The biblical term for such prostration before human creations is idolatry, and the propensity to idolatry is endemic in all human individuals and societies. Idols not only blind us to ultimate realities, but they exact a heavy price. They demand human sacrifices and, as we have learned painfully in recent years, wreak havoc on the nonhuman world.[1]

We are brought to a very important question: What is the superstructure that makes our civil actions right to us? The author continues by showing that we in the West are heavily influenced by part of Christian morality while rejecting its meta narrative. Even those who can understandably be critical of how Christianity and religion have been applied to society agree that Christian ethic is in American DNA.[10] The postmodern person wants moral law with no moral law giver. In essence the postmodern person wants morals with no divine moral compass. The postmodern person will evangelize their faith all while claiming there is no objective faith that needs to be adhered to. The reality is Christianity isn’t merely a set of subjective morals to adhere to. Its weight is in the belief in a supreme God, believing in divine guidance, believing in our origin from a divine mind that is intentional and personal. The postmodern person misses that religion’s power (especially Christianity) is in believing in a heavenly destination where all will be made right. The power of religion (again, especially Christianity) is believing that its morals are not subjective and that they transcend human preference. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” -Romans 6:23 [11] There is weight in real belief. Moreover, many of the morals in scripture require one to walk in humility and may even require selflessness, possibly unto death. What drives us to practice charity at great personal cost? Knowing this life is not the end and the faithful will be rewarded. 

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 13 You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. 14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” [12]

            Since modern man has partially embraced Christian morals without heaven’s hope, we find them “held captive by fear and death” and an insatiable need to define right and wrong based on their own pseudo “Christian” definitions of justice. 

In the absence of biblical hope, which is grounded neither in futurology nor in romantic (man-made) utopias but in the promises of God, entire societies are held captive to the merchants of fear and death. [13]

            Our current structures are both Christian and antichristian. Many of our movements from abortion clinics to the LGBTQ agenda have a desire for justice and individual rights that originate in Christian morality and yet reject other parts of Christianity. This lack of objective truth and hope also makes a type of religious zealot. One that will hurt anyone, give fully of themselves and demand adherents all while saying moral right and wrong is subjective. Look for the cognitive dissonance. The voices that demand the poor single pregnant teenager undergo an abortion to help with the mother’s hardships has the residue of Christianity. Yet, they lose the total picture of a Christian ethic by aborting the baby. Unlike the postmodern subjective ethic, Christians can look at people, even their own, who don’t take care of the mother well and call both the abandonment of the mother and the abortion sin. The postmodern subjective ethic is creating a cognitive dissonance and it is the fundamental tension much of the culture lives in. It doesn’t work. By rejecting an objective law giver and a hope that a good God will make all things right they are devolving into “religious” tribal extremists. We are not progressing; we are devolving into tribalism. 

Ramachandra also details what a right Judeo-Christian tradition looks like and how it offers a unique emphasis on human rights and civil harmony. An objective ethic beyond human preferences is necessary and it is what makes Christianity, when rightly applied, incredibly effective at civil charity. This requires not only the charity of Jesus in this life but the hope of heaven for the next. [14] I will address this divine therapeutic more below. 

The embodied evidence we see in culture: 

            Outside of recognizing society’s philosophies we also can know a culture’s foundational belief by the evolution of their practiced holidays and accepted art. In the subsequent section any prolific reader will quickly note that many of the mentioned Christian activities aren’t Christian in their origin. I agree, and that idea alone deserves a critical eye through multiple lenses far beyond this paper. The way Christianity redeems practices rather than makes new ones is very important to note. In a sense, Christianity isn’t a cultural practice but a shaper of cultural practices. Christ took the cross, a torture device from ancient Rome, and made it into an emblem of love and redemption. This modality of redemption is prevalent where Christianity is practiced well and many of the practices we now believe to be Christian are a redeemed practice from another culture. For the sake of brevity, I will intentionally leave out this important history and merely report on what currently is practiced broadly in the American Midwest.  

            The United States has 12 permanent federal holidays according to the Congressional Research Service R41990:

The United States has established by law the following 12 permanent federal holidays, listed in the order they appear in the calendar: New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday, Inauguration Day (every four years following a presidential election), George Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Juneteenth National Independence Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. Although frequently called public or national holidays, these celebrations are only legally applicable to federal employees and the District of Columbia, as the states individually decide their own legal holidays.[15]

            The above report also gives the history to each of these holidays. The heart of a country is seen in its nationally recognized celebrations. On June 28, 1870 the observance of these holidays was put into law: New Year’s day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. 

            On June 28, 1870, the first federal holidays were established for federal employees in the District of Columbia. Apparently drafted in response to a memorial drafted by local “bankers and business men,” the June 28 act provided that New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Christmas Day, and “any day appointed or recommended by the President of the United States as a day of public fasting or thanksgiving [were] to be holidays within the District [of Columbia].” This legislation was drafted “to correspond with similar laws of States around the District,” and “in every State of the Union.”[16]

This, along with many other examples, show how deeply aspects of Christianity were woven into the fabric of the United States. The evolution of new holidays like Martin Luther King Day and Juneteenth also speak to a fundamental Christian ethic. From the celebration of Christmas to the newer holidays like the aforementioned ones, there is no doubt the ideas and ethic of Christianity are in us by evidence of our celebrations. We are a country in trajectory of giving equal rights to all humanity. 

Galatians 3:25-29

But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. [17]

We should acknowledge Christianity was prevalent in the United States while sinful things like human trafficking, slavery or the oppression of women existed, but it’s equally clear that a Christian ethic has worked like a therapeutic to eliminate them. This journey is evident by our history of holidays alone and shows the effectiveness of Christianity. 

            We are even working to give value rights to those the Christian would see as sinful. We look to the heroes of today that will possibly shape the celebrations of the future. Today we have people like Ellen DeGeneres,[18] an outspoken homosexual who is also a syndicated television talk show star. Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple technologies and arguably one of the most successful executives ever, who is also a well-known proponent of homosexuality.[19] Even people like Colin Kaepernick, a professional athlete who started the movement of refusing to stand during the singing of the National Anthem to be a disruption that brought attention to minorities.[20] As you expand the circle of cultural heroes to include the creative arts we see Black Panther (note Killmonger was also made to be given sympathy), Black Widow and the new Amazon.com’s version of Cinderella. They celebrate minorities, women, and even transexual people. The Christian ethic values human life, all life, even the lives of those who are from other nations and socioeconomic status. Christians even value the life of those who aren’t Christian. I point this out only to show the cultural progression. Ironically, the postmodern person who rejects Christianity enjoys the freedoms they now have because of a Christian prime rubric that highly values all people. Ironically, as the postmodern person rejects Christianity, they will lose the ethic that set them free. We already can see it. We don’t have Christian tolerance for all anymore; we have tribalism emerging that requires no obligation to tolerate those who believe differently. Where does this lead?

Culture’s Force and Movement:

Even now, as postmodern ideas work to dismiss not only religion but modernity, we are finding people not joining together but delineating into this tribalism. This is noticed by not only Christians but relatively secular groups too. A broadly read pop culture magazine called The Atlantic offers an interesting article in which Shadi Hamid makes this problem clear. 

But if secularists hoped that declining religiosity would make for more rational politics, drained of faith’s inflaming passions, they are likely disappointed. As Christianity’s hold, in particular, has weakened, ideological intensity and fragmentation have risen. American faith, it turns out, is as fervent as ever; it’s just that what was once religious belief has now been channeled into political belief. Political debates over what America is supposed to mean have taken on the character of theological disputations. This is what religion without religion looks like.[21]

The Atlantic continues this thought by noting the emerging tribalism that is happening in our country. To the postmodern, the belief is religion, the empty promises of modernity and current societal structures are what keep us divided and cause most of the suffering. Yet as they begin to tear them to the ground something is emerging, they don’t entirely know what to do with. It is the new tribalism.

When we think of tribalism, we tend to focus on the primal pull of race, religion, or ethnicity. But partisan political loyalties can become tribal too. When they do, they can be as destructive as any other allegiance. The Founders understood this. In 1780, John Adams wrote that the “greatest political evil” to be feared under a democratic constitution was the emergence of “two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other.” George Washington, in his farewell address, described the “spirit of party” as democracy’s “worst enemy.” It “agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection.”

The causes of America’s resurgent tribalism are many. They include seismic demographic change, which has led to predictions that whites will lose their majority status within a few decades; declining social mobility and a growing class divide; and media that reward expressions of outrage. All of this has contributed to a climate in which every group in America—minorities and whites; conservatives and liberals; the working class and elites—feels under attack, pitted against the others not just for jobs and spoils, but for the right to define the nation’s identity. In these conditions, democracy devolves into a zero-sum competition, one in which parties succeed by stoking voters’ fears and appealing to their ugliest us-versus-them instincts.[22]

The evidence is damning. By the works of western philosophical thought, cultural practices of the current day and by the emerging heroes we celebrate, we find ourselves in a postmodern world, a disappointed world that feels as if it was given false promises. A world that has cognitive dissonance with a deep desire for charity and selflessness to be practiced but no hope of a heaven, a time where all will be rewarded and made right.

Our culture demands charity while stealing away power. They scream over others to be heard, they flip cars, pillage stores and burn buildings while demanding a fair and just society. Most notably, they like parts of our Christian morality, their own salvific history, but reject its divine origin and culmination. In this confusion there is a rising group of people who just want to start over. So, they do as noted above. They turn to the ideas of Marx and Nietzsche again. Not as a hope to believe in but an idea weapon to destroy culture yet again. We need to stop seeing postmodern people as the problem but the product of something The Age of Reason started, and Modernity culminated. The postmodern person is not the sickness but the symptom. They are not our enemy; they are the culmination of us. 

A lesson from the Trinity:

Seeing this through the lens of the Trinity also creates a level of understanding. Dr. Aaron Perry made the case that manmade social constructs operating at their best are to mirror the Trinitarian God. Each of the three branches of the Trinity represent an important attribute that is required for a healthy community to function. The first of the branches is truth, representing the Father. It is the prime compass for understanding what is real and good. Truth is not something humans create; it is something we acknowledge and submit to. The second branch is embodiment, representing Jesus the Son. It is the truth personified perfectly. Knowing truth and embodying it are both required for community to be practiced well. The third of the branches is the ethos, representing the Holy Spirit. The Trinitarian family is the original and perfect rubric for community. This includes everything from families to societies. The way this perfect family interacts theologians call Perichoresis[23], or perfect relating. As David Guretzki stated in his lecture at the Wesley Symposium, Satan’s war on societies has always been centered on the enemy attacking the Trinitarian family model. He will attack submission to an objective truth, the Father. The enemy will attack the agreed upon proper embodiment of truth, Jesus Christ. He will even attack a community’s ethos, the Spirit.  When this falls so will a society.[24] Guretzki goes on to say that “God is working to redeem all things. In the eschaton right order will rightly facilitate human experience.”[25] In other words, the perfect human experience is humanity fully embracing Perichoresis as the model for living. Perfect human families and societies are humans fully embracing the Trinitarian family. 

A lesson from Acts:

            We are not the first to face a decaying disillusioned culture full of prejudice. The Book of Acts is the story of God’s people in a culture that looks very similar to ours. Tribal, disenfranchised, angry, vengeful, and full of a twisted, poisoned version of religion. As Christianity began to emerge in this cacophony of cultures, Christians themselves faced rejection and persecution. Listen to Baker’s Encyclopedia of the Bible describe the cultural bed of Acts.

Persecution against the church in Jerusalem (8:1–3) under Saul’s auspices led to dispersion of Jerusalem Christians into the surrounding regions of Judea and Samaria to the north. Philip’s mission into Samaria is of particular significance because of a longstanding bitterness and animosity between Jews and Samaritans, going back to very early times (see the words of a Samaritan woman to Jesus: “for Jews have no dealings with Samaritans,” Jn 4:9). The Jews regarded Samaritans as racial and religious half-breeds;[26]

I believe we can develop a plan for the future by learning from our past. First, we begin with prayer. We pray for a divine outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Unlike most of all the notable sources above, we are Christian in the sense that we believe God is very real, Jesus truly lived and He really did die and rise again. We believe in the power of prayer and believe in heaven. We are secure and the best part of us can never be stolen away. We believe God will make all things right in the end. So, we begin with fervent grounded prayer. We pray that there would be an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in us and through us to these people. Pray their confusion and disillusionment would be a doorway to hear an ancient and glorious hope, Jesus.

            Acts 2:1-4 

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. [27]

Next, we proclaim. We move, like a child learning to walk, with one step being prayer and the next being proclamation. We take every opportunity we can to tell of the good news of Jesus, what He has done and what He is doing today. We invite people to join. Always proclaiming. Always inviting. 

            Acts 2:14-21

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: 17    ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 18 even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; 20 the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. 21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’” [28]

            Like a child learning to walk, we are going somewhere, our eyes are set on a destination, our Father. We, in our adolescence and imperfection, toddle through society and do good while focusing on Jesus. We reach out to the sick, we lift up the broken hearted, we pray for the sick to be healed, we gather the lonely and we show the world what the heart and family of God looks like. 

Acts 5:12-16

12 Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. 13 None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. 14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, 15 so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. 16 The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed. [29]

The state of this world shows how discouraged the postmodern person is. In us is a desire for life to be “fairer, freer, and less cruel,”[30] yet every time the postmodern person does this for one group another suffers. Again, postmodernity isn’t a forward step from modernity but heart-breaking realization that man only makes messes. The problem is in us. We need saved from an indwelling sin. The foremost thinkers, even secular ones as noted above, are already realizing that true equity isn’t possible, and I fear what will come next. To use a pop culture metaphor, we are beginning to see that a Capital City (Hunger Games) can only exist if the other districts decay. As this reality hits the masses the people will war over who gets to be “The Capital.” My prayer is that some will see this and become exceedingly hungry for a real divine charitable love. To those few we must make Christ clear! Just like in Acts. We cannot run from this brokenness but align even closer with Christ, the perfect embodiment of Truth, and take the Trinitarian culture back into the world. As Dr. Walter Kim would say, “There is a movable middle,”[31] a group of people that have not rejected Christ and long for a glorious family. Their hearts are warmed to the Gospel, but they have yet to be called into it. Our objective is to pursue, call and disciple these people. Our goal is to teach them the way of Perichoresis, the way of the Trinity, the way of our eternal home.

Resources:

  1. Barron, Robert. “Ideas Have Consequences: The Philosophers Who SHAPED 2020.” YouTube. YouTube, September 18, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KQcm0Mi5To&t=9s
  2. Colin Kaepernick. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colin_Kaepernick
  3. “Congressional Research Service R41990.” Federal Holidays: Evolution and Current Practices, July 1, 2021. https://sgp.fas.org/crs/misc/R41990.pdf.
  4. Ellen DeGeneres. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ellen_DeGeneres
  5. Guretzki, David. Lead 725 Transformational Leadership Symposium at Wesley Seminary. September 21, 2021
  6. Hamid, Shadi. “America without God.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, March 11, 2021. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2021/04/america-politics-religion/618072/. 
  7. Haselby, Sam. “Perspective | What Politicians Mean When They Say the United States Was Founded as a Christian Nation.” The Washington Post. WP Company, April 1, 2019. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2017/07/04/what-politicians-mean-when-they-say-america-was-founded-as-a-christian-nation/. 
  8. Manfred T. Brauch, “Acts of the Apostles, Book of The,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 20.
  9. Kim, Walter. Lead 725 Transformational Leadership Symposium at Wesley Seminary. September 24, 2021
  10. Perry, Aaron. Lead 725 Transformational Leadership Symposium at Wesley Seminary. September 20, 2021
  11. Pluckrose, Helen; Lindsay, James A.. Cynical Theories . Pitchstone Publishing. Kindle Edition.  
  12. Ramachandra, (p. 13). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.
  13. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016
  14. Tim Cook. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Cook
  15. Popular dystopian pop culture stories: Nineteen Eight-Four by George Orwell, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, Brave New World by Aldus Huxley, Blindness by Jose Saramago, A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, The Giver by Lois Lowry, The Stand by Stephen King, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. 

[1] Barron, Robert. “Ideas Have Consequences: The Philosophers Who SHAPED 2020.” YouTube. YouTube, September 18, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KQcm0Mi5To&t=9s. 

[2] Barron, Robert. 4:01

[3] Barron, Robert. 6:05

[4] Barron Robert. 16:31

[5] Barron, Robert. 13:24

[6] See a list of popular dystopian stories in the Reference section. 

[7] Pluckrose, Helen; Lindsay, James A.. Cynical Theories . Pitchstone Publishing. Kindle Edition.

[8] Pluckrose, Lindsay, Kindle Edition. Locaton 88

[9] Pluckrose, Lindsay, Kindle Edition. Location 3954

[10] Sam Haselby, “Perspective | What Politicians Mean When They Say the United States Was Founded as a Christian Nation,” The Washington Post (WP Company, April 1, 2019), https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2017/07/04/what-politicians-mean-when-they-say-america-was-founded-as-a-christian-nation/.

[11] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ro 6:23.

[12] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 5:1–14.

[13] Ramachandra, Vinoth. Subverting Global Myths: Theology and the Public Issues Shaping Our World (p. 10). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

[14] Ramachandra, (p. 13). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

[15] “Congressional Research Service R41990.” Federal Holidays: Evolution and Current Practices, July 1, 2021. https://sgp.fas.org/crs/misc/R41990.pdf. 

[16] Congressional Research Service, pg. 1,2 

[17] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ga 3:25–29.

[18] Ellen DeGeneres. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ellen_DeGeneres

[19] Tim Cook. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Cook

[20] Colin Kaepernick. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colin_Kaepernick

[21] Hamid, Shadi. “America without God.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, March 11, 2021. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2021/04/america-politics-religion/618072/. 

[22] Chua, Amy; Rubenfeld, Jed. “The Threat of tribalism” https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/10/the-threat-of-tribalism/568342/

[23] Perry, Aaron. Lead 725 Transformational Leadership Symposium at Wesley Seminary. September 20, 2021

[24] Guretzki, David. Lead 725 Transformational Leadership Symposium at Wesley Seminary. September 21, 2021

[25] Guretzki, David. 

[26] Manfred T. Brauch, “Acts of the Apostles, Book of The,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 20.

[27] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ac 2:1–4.

[28] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ac 2:14–21.

[29] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ac 5:12–16.

[30] Pluckrose, Helen; Lindsay, James A.. Cynical Theories . Pitchstone Publishing. Kindle Edition.  

[31] Kim, Walter. Lead 725 Transformational Leadership Symposium at Wesley Seminary. September 24, 2021

The Gospel is becoming more offensive.

Many want to make the gospel more attractive. It took a long time for me to unpack what people meant by this and I am still working it out. For some, it’s as simple as keeping the church tidy and making sure your greeters pop a breath mint. For others, it’s hiding culturally unpopular Christian beliefs in the shadows or trying to dress them up as worldly as possible. At best, the hope is that cynical people will put up with Jesus followers long enough to maybe choose to follow Him. At worst, we want to remake Jesus so modern people will like Him.

In reading through the Gospels there is one way people come to Jesus.

It’s through humility.

Being undone.

Letting go of this world.

Complete brokenness.

You can’t follow Jesus with caveats. The Gospel is offensive to people who want to keep defining right and wrong by their own standards. Christianity isn’t a tool to validate preferred ethics but to supplant them. It means there is a heavenly Kingdom ethic you must accept and a worldly one you must denounce. The disposition of a person ready to hand their lives over to Jesus is one who is totally humbled. In Christianity everyone is welcome and is seen as an eternally valuable child of God. Yet, those that really choose to accept the call of Jesus are not left the same. There is an inclusion and exclusion in the Gospel. God pulls us through a painful filter of humility. This process is such a big deal Jesus pushes it on people who come to him with no externally visible sin issue, like the rich young ruler. This humility process is mandatory. You must be offended and face your offenses first. You cannot follow Jesus and bring another ethic along. You cannot follow Jesus without first being undone. All are welcome, only the undone will actually follow Him.

I believe we are in a season where the church as we know it will split into two roads. Today many are still a valid church. In 20 years many will no longer be the church at all. One road will slowly sacrifice more and more of the Gospel for cultural acceptance and the other will slowly lose cultural acceptance for the Gospel. I believe God is allowing (maybe forcing) this divide to happen. Pause and look at your own heart. What road are you on? Are you trying to change the Gospel or are you letting the Gospel change you? The churches that center on the Gospel will become increasingly less attractive. The churches that center on attraction will be increasingly less church.

We cannot undo Jesus. Jesus requires we begin our journey undone so we can be made into something better than we were before.

Mark 10:17-27

Matthew 7:14

Mark 7:24-30

2 Kings 5

Critical Race Theory, Systemic Racism and The Ickabog

J.K. Rowling wrote an excellent little book called The Ickabog. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. In the book there is a monster that hides in the deep fog. There is evidence of it, yet no one knows if it’s actually real. The king is certain he has seen it. In the wake of uncertainty of the monster’s actual existence some of his sly top advisors have found a way to use the very real FEAR of the Ickabog to gain a lot of power and make a lot of money. I won’t spoil the end of the book, but as you read it you begin to see the power of fear mongering Ickabogs. You see it when you hear of undercover FBI agents pretending to be political extremists who end up recruiting and training people to be real extremists who weren’t extreme before the undercover agents found and trained them. This type of entrapment might be as much a producer of evil as it is a force to stop it. The fear of the Ickabog attacks can make the attacks actually happen, even if the Ickabog was never real at all. You see it when a young black man is terrified to be stopped by a white police officer. The young black man is convinced something awful is going to happen. The white police officer is also convinced of this. The black man’s heart races. The white cop’s heart pounds in his chest. One has his hand on the door ready to run and the other on his gun ready to defend. Statistics are on the side that this should be a non-violent event. Yet the relentless marketing of the deadly Ickabog makes this should be benign stop actually become malignant.

The fear of the Ickabog has become the force behind the violence, necessity of control, and need for us to give our freedom and finances away to powerful people. Can you see it? The stories and rumors of fear and suffering can end up making more real fear and suffering events happen. Is the Ickabog now real? Independent of whether it is real or not it has real power. J.K. Rowling has a very interesting answer to this in her story. Again, I won’t spoil it, but I will say this. You will read this book and grow very discontent with loud powerful voices that make a lot of money off Ickabog rumors and fear mongering. They make real evil happen from the pounding marketing of fear.

Jesus was great at taking on the Ickabog rumors. Jesus did such a great of job of continuing to press into a person until the motivation behind their sin was exposed. You cannot read the New Testament in its entirety and not notice that charity and reconciliation for even our enemies is a prime mantra. The enemy of Jesus wasn’t people but the evil that has their hearts. Charity and reconciliation are two words that Jesus embodied. I love the way the apostle Paul phrased it, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” Ephesians 6:12. Charity and reconciliation are some of the highest vales in the Kingdom of God. We must learn to love people and expose and articulate the real evil engines that drive much of the modern depravity in them. The true enemy of the black man isn’t the white cop. It’s the fear mongering, the exaggerators, the whispers that the Ickabog will get you that drive much of the misery and somehow manifest real Ickabog attacks…that only work to drive more fear and steal more freedom.

When a wise teacher sees two teens fighting on the playground she not only separates them, she looks for the person who instigated it. The one taking bets on the side. An even wiser teacher learns how to shut down the lies, exaggerations, jealousy, and fear that give opportunity to this. She learns to expose the WHISPERERS themselves that say the Ickabog will get you if you don’t do something drastic. Jesus knew his first followers didn’t primarily need saved from Rome. All humanity needed saved from the lies of the devil.

Can you see it?

You will make the Ickabog the monster you believe it to be.

Just maybe the Ickabog isn’t a monster at all. Maybe it too is a victim of something deeper that Jesus exposed.

I personally do not see those that fear the vaccination or those that hate the people that do fear it as the enemy. I do not see minorities, immigrants, white or black people as the enemy. We are all so affected by the Ickabog rumors. In the wake of fear mongering, all white cops become racists. All immigrants become gang members. All black people become socialists who want to destroy America. All white people become evil monsters who want to reinstate slavery.

My friends, stop!

You will be filled with the very anger, fear and jealousy you claim to be above. Call out the engines that perpetuate this. See what is making money, stealing your freedom and demanding power. Jesus will not save you from immigrants, white people or black people. His goal is NOT to do away with societies or police officers in this church age. His goal isn’t to tear America to the ground or deify it as perfect. Jesus wants to save ALL people from the sin that is poisoning their hearts. Open your spiritual eyes and see what is happening. Fight to maintain a charitable disposition and seek reconciliation.

There is no other way.

We are destined to willingly walk into social hell without confessing our own hearts inclination towards Ickabog rumors (even if some are true) and the subsequent hate they produce. We need the work and heart of Jesus.

If The Unborn Could March

With a soft coo and gentle kick my delicate infant smiles at me.
It’s humbling to think all she needs comes from my charity.
She cannot clean herself, change her clothes or even prepare a meal.
For her needs to be met and heart content she’s fully dependent on how I feel.

By God’s design at our first breath we find our greatest strength.
It’s not in our wealth or might of hand but a heart of interdependence we take.
Independence with selfish pride works to subjugate.
And if a life makes them feel threatened they may even terminate.

It’s always been this way. Notice what they say.

It’s humane, they feel little pain and it helps our research grow.
Said Nazi Germany to the Jews as the gas chambers glow.

The baby lives in my body so it’s my choice.
The land owner says they live on my land, I represent them, they have no voice.

It’s education and intelligence that determines tissue’s worth.
Slaves aren’t educated or intelligent, it’s the purpose of their birth.

If we let them live think of the societal cost.
If we let them free think of the profits lost.

Let me pause and ask some questions as I think about humanity’s direction.

Who is strongest?
Who will last?

We stand strongest not as a me, but we.
It’s a complex selfless group of people that embrace their diversity.
It’s the ones that voice their passion not for themselves but for the weak.
Selfless love must bind us tight not merely protect me.

My strengths covering your weakness, my weakness covered by your strength.
I came into this world incredibly needy and will leave it just the same.
The more complex our charity gets the stronger we could be.

The oldest, the youngest, those born to the poor.
Black, White, First Nation and Asian, we need interdependent love to soar.

How do you practice this? How do you grow? How do you become the ones the world needs to know?

You stand up for their rights.
You sacrifice for their needs.
You stand up for the ones who do not yet have, instead of fighting just for me.

If you only march for what you may lose you don’t understand my call.
The key is selfless charity that makes us powerful.

Even if you feel the victim, model speaking up for others.
Mature a countenance in a people of sacrificing for another and another.
It’s a call not only for the babies, it’s a call to provide for the mother.

Who will march for the weakest of these?
Who will grow the charity society needs?

Can you see it? The unborn can’t march. They can’t say, “What about me?”
It’s more than saving a life. It’s saving the heart of humanity.

-An excerpt from Mike’s personal journal.

Finally… We know you can’t support every ministry family. The next time you do support a ministry would you consider supporting us? We love doing this and would love your help to keep this going. Click on the link below to see how you can help. https://luke117.givingfuel.com/luke117

An open letter to my church about the current political landscape

This chaos is not new:

Let’s be clear up front. Racism is sin. Anyone who marched or assembled on belief of manmade hierarchy isn’t Christian according to Christian doctrine (Gal. 3:28). We are all created in the image of God. However, this letter isn’t about racism. This letter is to those in my church who have identified with one of the two political parties and now you find yourself at increasing disillusionment. This is for you.

There have always been out of control “Zealots” and “Roman sympathizers” Jesus (and Christian history) had to correct. Both groups claim to follow God but try to create a true kingdom in a wrong way. This doesn’t work. The end doesn’t justify the means in real Christianity. They both end up in sin and creating the very types of societies they claim to reject. 

In the last week (and year) we have seen this very scenario play out. The same one that has been playing out for thousands of years many times over. 

Both of these groups (Zealots against the politics of the day and Sympathizers who support it) have consistently through history used the Lord’s name in vain. Meaning, they took action under the banner of God that wasn’t actually of Him. Both sides miss the mark and damage the name of Jesus. Both sides justifying sinful means (actions) to win what they consider a “good” end. This never works. 

Jesus is about another Kingdom:

Jesus brought a new kingdom. It begins in the heart. Hate and vengeance are traded for forgiveness and charity.

Love in the Bible (khesed, Hebrew or agape, Greek) is more like a promise of committed continual acts of charity. In my home and church, we define Biblical love as doing good unto another independent of their capacity to reciprocate. That’s right, even my 12-year-old defines love like this. Real Christians trade revenge for love and trust.  We love our “enemies” and believe that they are not actually the enemy, but victims of the real spiritual enemy. We trust that God will make all things right (Rev. 21:4). 

Christ sacrificed immeasurable personal rights and His personal safety to demonstrate love to those that hated him. His actual followers should do the same. Christians today keep responding with “you go first.” I can only imagine Jesus saying, “I already did.” Moreover, the “you go first” attitude is evidence the person’s heart doesn’t actually get Christianity or Christ yet. 

There are a lot of people that want to weaponize the Gospel.

Christian love can only be expressed by people who know deep down they were (or still are) just as lost in sin and evil as their enemies (Rom. 3:23). They finally see that God chose to love them immeasurably while they were still a total mess and didn’t deserve it (John 3:16). In light of this, they finally get how love (charity) works. It’s an immensely kind response they don’t deserve (Rom. 6:23). Their hearts become full of gratitude, and humility takes the place of pride and arrogance. The Christian Gospel (euangélion) isn’t a weapon to be used against others, it’s good news that there is a surgical scalpel that can cut the cancer out of our own hearts. You could live forever in heaven. You are the one that’s been sick, and you need the good news (Matt. 7:5).

No doubt there are countless “Christian” people who wave Christian flags and wear Christian t-shirts that aren’t actually Christian at all. They weaponize Christianity– using the spiritual scalpel on others that is meant to be used to save their own hearts. 

Let the Bible speak:

Let’s lean into the famous sermon from Jesus

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” -Matthew 5:43-47

Let’s also let the Apostle Paul speak up. 

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary:

‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him;

if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.

In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” -Romans 12:9-21

This is true Christianity, and this Kingdom awaits those who follow Jesus. But true Christians don’t idly wait, anticipating this reality. True Christians work to bring the Kingdom of God to earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:10). True Christians work to bring the Kingdom to those around them– those they work with, their neighbors, and even their enemies. That is why in Christianity, the end does not justify the means. The end is accomplished and done in Christ. Our responsibility as followers of Christ is to honor Him in the “means.”

To my Christian liberal and conservative friends: 

To my more conservative Christian friends:

Let’s be clear up front. Your movement is not perfect and it is not heaven. Christ’s ultimate kingdom can’t be stolen away or lost. It’s already solidified and every temporal kingdom in this fallen world will pass away and make way for it. Expect our manmade systems to fail us. Expect the systems you made to fail you and your children. They all will fall at some point. Hang on because things will get worse before Christ comes back. No need to panic, the mission might be tough but Christ’s real kingdom will never fall. Yes, vote kingdom values, but place your hope and peace of heart in the promises of Christ. Commit to work with and understand your eternal family members, no matter what party they vote for. Commit to redeem, rather than defend, your party’s spiritual failure.

To my more liberal Christian friends:

Let’s be clear up front. Your movement is not perfect and it is not heaven. Hope in a new manmade system is equally empty. All through history we see humanity trade suffering for another version of suffering. You are absolutely allowed to have dialogue about better systems but don’t give your heart to a passing away world. The true kingdom where all is truly fair and just is done and eternal and already coming! In the meantime, hang on because things will get worse before Christ comes back. Yes, vote kingdom values, but place your hope and peace of heart in the promises of Christ. Commit to work with and understand your eternal family members, no matter what party they vote for. Commit to redeem, rather than defend, your party’s spiritual failure.

To those I am called to steward:

The world is lost. We are not. We are also not at war with each other. Our allegiance is first to Christ’s Kingdom. That’s your true family. Like you prefer a sports team, you can prefer a political party. But, 1,000 years later when you are in heaven, it’s your true allegiance that will remain. We know how the story began. We know what went wrong. We know what the solution is. We also know that the fix has already begun. Christ has died and is risen! He has gone to prepare a place for His people, us. We trust in the Lord, and live in accordance with our name. We are Christian. That means you are not lost, and you worship with your eternal brothers and sisters. Act like it. You have an eternal glorious family. Hold your head up, and place your trust where it belongs, in the power of Christ.

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What to consider when choosing a career.

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“Who here is working in the career they were educated for?”

A few years ago I was teaching a group of young adults and I posed the above question. To my amazement only about a quarter of the people in the room raised their hands. Most people in that room were working in careers that didn’t match their education. Why?

I asked them. Here were the common answers.

“I learned my degree (job) didn’t pay enough.”

“After a few years of doing it I realized I don’t like the work.”

“I had to start at the bottom. It’s too competitive.”

Finally, “Pastor Mike, they were asking me to do things I felt weren’t right.”

I know fear and regret around work is a big deal for young adults and now that I am getting ready to launch one out of my own home I thought I would share what I counsel in ministry and in my house.

First, don’t forget the world is cursed. Work is toil (Genesis 3:17-19). If you are expecting to find a job that only produces what fulfills and satisfies, you will be greatly disappointed. The most fulfilled version of your work will come when Christ has redeemed the world (Revelation 21:3-5).

Expect work to be well…work. Expect work to be a reward when God has redeemed it.

It’s true. In this world you will have misaimed desires that God shouldn’t allow to be fulfilled but you don’t understand why. You will have rightly aimed desires that won’t be fulfilled because of sin. You live in a world of rot, theft and disloyalty. Only in Christ do we have the promise of work becoming true fulfillment and joy.

With this in mind I have four “spheres” (or reflective questions) to consider when making a career choice.

1. What do you want to do?

Take a moment and write out what you enjoy doing.

2. What are you good at?

It’s really import to honestly consider your God-given skill set. Yes, education and practice can do wonders but raw capacity does matter. Consider it. To ignore this completely is to deny the creative uniqueness of God. How did He equip you naturally?

3. What has earning power?

This is often ignored because all know deep down it’s a messed up system and is unfair. Some of the most important jobs in this world have little or no earning power. Think of all the creative arts! Yes, the .001% are wealthy but the vast majority are broke. It is unfair but it is reality. Consider the likelihood of actual income.

4. Does it honor God?

This is the “trump card” for Christians. If you find yourself able to accomplish the first three but the fourth is clearly out of alignment, you are placing your eternal state behind your temporal needs and wants. What good is it to gain the whole world and lose your soul? (Mark 8:36)

A few other things to consider.

Hobbies:

In our modern world we have virtually done away with hobbies. For those that don’t know, hobbies were work that your grandparents did that they enjoyed but didn’t foot the bill. We, understandably, want our hobbies to be our career. This desire is good but most often unrealistic and when it doesn’t work out you’re broke and bitter. Many of you may find a much more fulfilling life and family by picking something with good earning power that you kind of enjoy AND having a hobby like art or playing an instrument. If the hobby takes off? Awesome! Run with it, but if it doesn’t you can still have a “good” life. Get a hobby.

Longevity:

You don’t have to have the same job your whole life. So many young adults experience failure to launch because they were afraid of getting “it” wrong. You will get it wrong, at least parts of it. Don’t let your fear of not seeing your future clearly prevent you from moving into a wise future at all. If you want to change jobs or hobbies along the way, go for it. Just consider the 4 spheres again.

Money:

I want to bring this up again. We have become a culture that shames people that talk about money. That’s so wrong! Jesus talked about money and material things a lot. In fact, money and what to do with material things is mentioned more than 800 times in scripture. It’s the second most referred to topic! Know, life isn’t fair, not all important jobs pay well and being blind to that reality is a bad move. Please consider earning potential.

What else would you consider when looking for a job?


I also did a series where we built a right theology of work.

There are sermons and lecture notes at the following links. All FREE!

Session One: Work in a Perfect World: https://www.encountertrinity.com/messages/archive/?page=3#beyond-the-daily-grind

Session Two: Work in a Perfect World Part 2: https://www.encountertrinity.com/sermon/work-in-a-perfect-world-part-2/

Session Three: Work in a Fallen World: https://www.encountertrinity.com/sermon/work-in-a-fallen-world/

Everyone longs to be naked

I know the first reaction of many to the prior phrase is that it is mere “click bait”. 

It’s not. I literally mean, everyone longs to be naked. 

If we go back to the moment the world fell and sin washed over the earth, we see a very sad scene. A man and a woman suddenly awash with a new shame and desire to cover themselves and control what others can see. With the realization of their vulnerability also came this innate new instinct to protect and hide what they believed was fragile in themselves. They hid from God; they hid parts of themselves from each other. 

From this moment on humans have had two competing instincts. The first, a desire to be fully known, to put on display to someone who we really truly are, and second is the desire to “clothe” ourselves, to mask what we think makes us vulnerable. We love and hate all the “clothes” we put on. We struggle with our finances, body image, intellect, addictions and fears but “clothe” ourselves and hide away these things, working to show the world a false image. We both love that we can do this and hate that it makes us feel less connected. This is how one has hundreds or thousands of friends and feels very lonely. See, the true them actually has no friends. 


Even social media is a “layer of clothing.” It’s a way to hide the parts of us that are vulnerable and only expose or exaggerate what we feel confident will impress others. 

We both love and hate these “clothes.”

We love the “clothing” because it gives us control over how others see us. We equally hate it because we know that it keeps us from being fully known and prevents someone from being able to like us for who we truly are. We know to be fully loved at some point one must fully know us. We must be exposed. There is nothing more wonderful and terrifying than being seen as our true selves. 

This is the Gospel.  

Jesus sees us for who we truly are, even the parts we “clothe,” the parts of ourselves that we are embarrassed of, the parts we are afraid will drive everyone away. Jesus sees those and says, “I still choose you.” Christianity at its core is an intimate love story, one where the beloved is flawed and deep down knows it. Yet, the lover sees through the beloved’s “clothes” (our personal hyperboles) that we use to hide and paint a false image of ourselves. He sees the real us and still chooses us. The truest and most complete love comes from those who see us for who we truly are. 

Every part of the Christian maturation process is exposure. Prayer is exposure, accountability is exposure, Christian community is exposure, even scripture is meant to “expose” us.  Salvation itself is intimacy. 

I love the “naked” gospel, the intimacy, love, and purpose that real Christianity is. This year, I want to invite you into a relationship. I don’t want to write another apologetic aimed at convincing you of Christ intellectually. I want you to see the heart of Christianity – a glorious love story that God wants you to participate in. Real salvation isn’t first a mind game, it’s a love story. 

I believe God is raising up a generation of people who long for a faith that is more than mere mental gymnastics. They long for a forever family that has real love. Even as a doctoral student, my greatest spiritual hunger is in my heart.

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Image is The Fall of Man-1616-Hendrik Goltzius

To those facing hard situations. Don’t quit. We want to help.

Some of you are hurting because of poor decisions you have made.

Some of you are hurting because of decisions made by others.

Some of you are hurting because the natural world is wrought with sin and death.

In the last few months, we have watched families devastated because of the Coronavirus. Some by the economic impact, others by the disease itself, and still more because of the emotional strain of the lockdown. I personally know families that can’t pay bills because no money is coming in. I know others who have lost multiple loved ones to the disease. I know families that are filing for divorce because they can’t take it anymore. I even know of some students that are really struggling after months of being locked at home staring at a computer screen for school.

As a pastor, I get a front row seat to the pain people feel.

History is full of examples of deep suffering. You can read about Dr. Viktor Frankl in the concentration camps during World War 2, watching his friends die and personally experiencing torture himself. You can read the famous author C.S. Lewis write about the front-line brutality of World War 1. William Wilberforce, Richard Wurmbrand, and even John Foxe have written about unbelievable suffering. The Bible itself is full of pain. The famous story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den is a story that begins with deep suffering.

Daniel watched his nation turn from Godly principles.

Daniel watched his nation crumble.

Daniel most likely watched his family killed during a foreign invasion.

Daniel was abducted and enslaved.

Daniel had his identity stripped from him.

Daniel was sentenced to die in a den of hungry lions.

Daniel didn’t know the end of his story, and what he had experienced most likely led him to believe he would die by their claws and teeth.

All these stories have something else in common, something your story has as well. They aren’t finished. Yes, the enemy is working to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10) but God is gloriously good, and immeasurably loves you. Like the rest of the verse in John, we look not at the enemy or our current circumstances to determine our future outcome. We look to the nature of our Father.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. -John 10:10

The very places where it feels like Satan is dancing on your failures, faults, and struggles, God can turn those hardships into the greatest crescendo of victory in your life. Don’t measure your future state by the enemy or your current set of circumstances. Measure it by the nature of your Father. Your story isn’t done.

If you are really struggling, please reach out to us. Seriously, right now. Text this number and we will call you back. We would like to hear your story and pray with you: 231.215.9013

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Conflict = Intimacy?

The greatest thing that happened to my marriage was our first real fight.

I remember it like it was yesterday. As newlyweds we had just moved into in our brand new (to us) apartment. It was in that tiny slightly run down little apartment complex that many of our firsts happened. One of them being our first real fight. I mean, slam the door, don’t talk to me, you are the worst, kind of fights. While she sat in the bathroom crying and I sat on our bed I remember thinking… it might be over. We just started and it might be over! 

We survived the fight, actually looking back the fight opened the door to develop a new relational tool that has since caused us to thrive at a much deeper level. With the help of some counseling we learned how to have intimacy. I’m not talking about sexual intimacy, but how to speak in full transparency with honor. 

We learned how to fight right. Still to this day it is the places of conflict where we commit to be vulnerable and stay faithful to each other. To commit be fully known and to try to fully know the other all while choosing to stay committed. It feels really good to be in a relationship where you are fully known and still chosen. No masks, vulnerability and real intimacy in a bedrock of covenant. This speaks love (charity) at another level. One that only comes through learning how to do conflict well. These tools and truths aren’t only for marriage. They are for your church, your children and even things like real racial reconciliation. 

In the podcast below Todd Williams, Yamil Acevedo and I, three doctoral students working on three different terminal degrees from three different nationalities, wrestle with Conflict as a God given tool that can forge beautiful community. It is possible you are giving up on communities because of conflict, the very conflict that could bring intimacy.

Click on the button above to listen to the podcast and make sure to subscribe!

If the image above doesn’t work here is the direct link. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/made-for-more/id1533683753?i=1000499680281

Breaking stubborn addictions and thought patterns.

Breaking stubborn addictions and thought patterns can be tough…really tough. 

Too many Christians have prayed for healing from an addiction or a negative thought pattern only to find themselves staring down their struggle time and time again. What do we do when we just can’t seem to find the freedom we desire? Has God rejected us? Are we unloved by God? What do you do when you don’t know what to do and everything you have tried isn’t working? Let’s ask these hard questions and grow together.

Week 1: We will unpack a word called metacognition. This is the capacity to “think about what you’re thinking about.” This second level thinking is a powerful tool in beginning the journey towards health. See the video for week 1, Christ Cares-Understanding Metacognition and the notes below.

Week 2: We look at metanoia. Retired college professor and professional counselor Dawn Marie Colaw talks about the beautiful overlap of modern cognitive neuroscience and spiritual formation. See the video for week 2, Set Free-Live Free and the notes below.

Week 3:  We will look at those long stubborn addictions and negative thought patterns. What do you do and what might actually be happening? Check out week 3, Hardship Does not Mean God has Rejected You and the notes below.

Week 4: The pursuit of holiness is often a moment of awareness and a commitment to walk a road of healing. What does that road look like? What does the continual pursuit of holiness look like? Check out week 4, It’s a Journey and the notes below.

Week 1 – Christ Cares – Understanding Metacognition: Mike Colaw

Week 1 Notes: Click Here

Week 2 – Set Free-Live Free: Dawn Colaw

Week 2 Notes: Click Here

Week 3 – Hardship Does not Mean God has Rejected You: Mike Colaw

Week 3 Notes: Click Here

Week 4 – It’s a Journey: Mike Colaw

Week 4 Notes: Click Here

Lastly:

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