Monday, June 6, 2016

Every Square Inch - Book Review

I just finished reading Every Square Inch - An Introduction to Cultural Engagement for Christians by Bruce Riley Ashford. I am thankful that I read it. This small book will bear much fruit for Christians who wish to live more faithfully in and for culture.

Bruce purpose for this book was aiming to equip Christians to think holistically about how the gospel informs everything we do in the world. For the most part I thought he did a good job at this. Right out of the gate he talks about a few different world views regarding Christians and culture.

I thought he could have done a better job defining culture. He states that:
"Culture" is anything that humans produce when they interact with each other and with God's creation. 
Maybe I can spend some time coming up with my own way of defining culture. He does a better job at putting feet to his concept. He than gets into some differing world views regarding culture.

1) "Christianity against culture" where Christians can tend to view the church as a bomb shelter. In this world view the church seeks to escape the world and wall out godlessness. The problem though is that godlessness is a disease of the soul. One that man made walls can't keep out.

Another world view of "Christianity against culture" is where Christians view the church primarily as an ultimate fighter. Here, instead of escaping the go out into the surrounding culture to assault it with lethal force. The fault of this view is that everything is war.

2) "Christianity of Culture" where Christians seek to incorporate the dominant culture seamlessly into their lives and churches. This mentality fails to take into account that every culture and every aspect of culture is corrupted and distorted because of human sin.

3) "Christianity in and for Culture" where Christians are human beings as representatives of Christ who live their lives in the midst of and for the good of their cultural context. We trust a God who has enabled all people - Christian or not - to make good and valuable contributions in the cultural realm.

The BIG THOUGHT of the book:
Christians should try to discern the way in which any cultural reality is corrupted and misdirected by sin and idolatry, and then seek to redirect that reality toward Christ. We do this as a matter of obedience and witness, proclaiming Christ with our lips and promoting him with our lives, in the hope that we can serve as a preview of his coming kingdom. pg. 24
Some favorite quotes from the book:
Nothing in this universe escapes his [Jesus Christ] lordship. And if his lordship is as wide as creation, then our obedience to his lordship must be as wide as culture. pg. 19
Every dimension of culture, whether it is art, science, or politics, is an arena in which we can speak about Christ with our lips and reflect him with our lives. pg. 19
We must live Christianly not only as the Church gathered on Sunday morning for worship, but also as the Church scattered into the world in our work, leisure, and community life. pg. 20
Every cultural activity is an opportunity to practice discipleship, to employ words and deeds in Christ's service, to orient our lives toward Christ. pg. 132 
Overall it is a great resource. Bruce goes out of his way to list many recommendations for each arena of life. He is very passionate in helping all Christians take serious their interactions in the arts, the sciences, the public square, the academy, and into all of God's creation. He certainly wet my appetite for more Francis A. Schaeffer and Abraham Kuyper. This book will help change how you view this world and culture and it will help you walk worthy our Lord Jesus who is Lord of all!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Not Of This World

But actually in this world.

What is the Christian to do with this world? I am sure we have all taken 1 John 2:15 in the wrong direction. We read, "Do not love the world or the things in the world," so we act like this world and the things in the world no longer matter.

What is the Christian to do with God's creation? I mean, God took nothing and created everything around us. And when He was finished with all His work He saw it all as very good (Genesis 1:31). God also commanded that humans engage His creation. He told our first parents (Adam and Eve) to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over every living thing (Genesis 1:28). So avoiding and having a disregard for creation is to have a disregard for the Creator.

Christian, we do need to check our heart and attitude towards this world. The world (culture) around us is corrupted and distorted because of sin, and to be against the creation and culture is not why Jesus left us here.

Craig Hamilton talks about a good mindset in his book, Every Square Inch. He says we should view "human beings as representatives of Christ who live their lives in the midst of and for the good of their cultural context, and whose cultural lives are characterized by obedience and witness."

In regards to obedience he says, "Nothing in this universe escapes his [Jesus] lordship. And if his lordship is as wide as creation, then our obedience to his lordship must be as wide as culture."

In regards to witness he says, "Every dimension of culture, whether it is art, science, or politics, is an arena in which we can speak about Christ with our lips and reflect him with our lives."

One thing we need to come to understand is that everything in life matters to God.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Be Thinking!

Leaders should be thinking! We can't go through the day checked out. We ought to be engaging each day. When it comes to how we use our day we need to make sure it lines up with how God would want us to be using our minutes.

We must be present today. We need to think about how we handle situations that come up in our vocations, parenting, marriage and every part of our life. Does anything need to change? Are we growing in how we handle the Word of God in our thinking and living and doing and encouraging others?

Sometimes our thinking is wrong. When it fails to line up with the Bible we must repent of that. If we are never repenting of wrong thinking than you need to repent of being proud! We must seek after understanding and wisdom and that starts with repentance and dependence on God for His help! If we think we are good we are only setting ourselves up for a good fall!

Above all, our foundation must be God and His Word. But we also need to make sure everything we build on that foundation lines up with God's Word. We must engage the process and ideas that come at us. Do they line up with God's Word? The Bible rather than man is the final authority. Does our thinking fear God or man?

When we actively think through things we protect ourselves from error and sin. The human heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick (Jer. 17:9). The good news is that God has given His people new hearts and His Spirit and His people to help us grow up in Christ. We need all three in order to be godly and growing! He is now our wisdom. We once were blind but now we can see. That changes everything, including our thinking!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Good Thoughts on Reading

I am reading through what's best next and thought this was a good word on reading. When Al Mohler was asked his thoughts on reading here is what he said in an interview with Matt Perman.

Q: What is the most important advice you would give to others on reading?

A: I can't give just one word there. Two or three. Realize that when you read, you are putting investments in a bank from which to draw, even if it doesn't appear to have direct relevance. Second, use your books, don't just read them. Mark in them, keep a conversation in them. Third, don't build a book collection; build a library and make it work for you. Fourth, realize you're never going to read everything. We will die with things we wish we had read. But the fact is too many people do not read. The problem for most is not that they are learning too much, but that they aren't learning enough.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Actively Idle

Have you ever thought about what it means to walk in idleness? In 2 Thessalonians 3, Paul warns believers to "keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us." While Paul is warning us who not to follow he is also encouraging believers who to follow.

I am guilty of being busy and not really doing any work. It is easy to fill up your days and accomplish nothing at the end of it. I would have thought an idle person was someone standing on the side of the road asking for handouts, but I came to see that even a man that goes to work in some ways can be idle. Just because we are doing something does not mean we are free from walking in idleness.

What the Lord opened my eyes to was that I was being actively idle. While my schedule was busy I was not really making much progress. I was being the husband and father that Paul is warning the Thessalonians to avoid. I was not being a responsible head. My headship was not worth imitation. While I still have room to grow in my example, I am thankful for the growth and ability to put on bigger man pants.

How are my daughters going to know what to look for in a man if I am not living out that example before them? They are going to learn what it means to be a man by my example. How can my wife feel nourished and cherished when I am busy making second place things more important that first place things? As a husband it is my responsibility to take care of and protect my wife.

It has been great sacrificing and serving my wife and daughters. It has not been easy but it has been a blessing. Doing hard things and being uncomfortable equals growth. From getting more involved in my daughter's homework, spending time with them to help them grow in discipleship and understanding where they are in their world, to taking care of the care maintenance, the many projects left undone around the house, to helping my wife grow in her discipleship and anything else that deals with being engaged and active in their lives.

I have wasted a lot of time being actively idle in my home. Taking dominion of my family and home has been such a joy. The Lord is teaching me many things. And for that I am very thankful. I keep telling my self that every opportunity to an opportunity to grow in the Lord. When I am being idle than nothing will ever change, but when I am walking worthy of the gospel everything changes.

Questions for men: How am I nourishing and cherishing my wife? How am I modeling biblical headship? Is my walk as a husband and father worth imitation?

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Doing God's Will

I believe that God is sovereign and that He does all that He pleases. God is in control and no matter what comes to pass, He ordained it. Many Christians affirm that God is sovereign and what I learned is that it is to easy to hide behind this doctrine in a way that leads to a slothfulness.

I recently found myself hiding behind God's sovereignty. It is to easy and comfortable to want God to work things out the way I want them without any labor on my part. God is not sovereign so that I don't have to do anything. 

The fact that God is sovereign calls me to labor and action. I may want God to protect my family, but am I willing to stand up and physically protect them? What about my I going to just pray that God would bring them a godly and growing husband or will stand up as a man and model to them what a godly and growing husband looks like?

The way that I was hiding behind God's sovereignty was I wanted Him to change hearts or open and close doors without me doing anything. God wants me to move forward and honor Him in all I would say and do. I asked the Lord to close a door and what I learned was that if I wanted that door closed it was going to be me that closed it. While I didn't know God's will for this situation, He calls me to stand up and lead and make a decision.

Understanding this will not leave me the same. While the Lord can close and open any door as He pleases, He still calls me to be active in the process. Maybe I will make a wrong decision and maybe it will be a right one. God is working through all things for His honor and glory and my good. Either way, God is calling me and all men to own their decisions. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Don't Lose Heart

I have been thinking about my own heart. In light of the daily grind of struggles and troubles that may come my way, I seem to lose heart more than I want. I find myself not being content with where I am. Coming back from Texas can do that. It is a fight to be exactly where God has me. Today is here, dreams are over there.

Progress will tends to be slow and hard. But avoiding my responsibilities is going in the wrong direction. Each day is full of gifts from the Lord. He is behind it all and with me through it all. He uses the lives of others to grow me. Growth comes from living in community with others not by isolating myself from others.

It is easy for me to be critical of others, or to grumble about the troubles I find each day. But the problem is me. God is orchestrating the best stage for my maturity and growth. Last night at men to men, I was reminded that we are always creating culture with our actions and words and what kind of culture am I making?

What is my example teaching?

How is my thanksgiving with God's gifts (everything given to me is a gift)?

Ouch. Thankful for eyes that can see more clear today. Things may not go the way that I want. But what I must not do is lose heart in the process. As Matt Perman says it, "Make mistakes of forward motion, not mistakes of sloth." If I am not going to lose heart, than I must continue to move forward step by step.

"Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love." 1 Corinthians 16:13-14. Love never gives up. "Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things 1 Corinthians 13:7." That is the kind of love I need filling my heart. It comes from the Lord and He loves to help those who seek Him and trust Him and depend on Him!