“Many pray for the power of God. More every year. Those prayers sound powerful, sincere, godly, and without ulterior motive. Hidden under such prayer and fervor, however, are ambition, a craving for fame, the desire to be considered a spiritual giant. The person who prays such a prayer may not even know it, but dark motives and desires are in his heart…in your heart.
Even as people pray these prayers, they are hollow inside. There is little internal spiritual growth. Prayer for power is the quick and short way, circumnavigating internal growth. There is a vast difference between the outward clothing of the Spirit’s power and the inward filling of the Spirit’s life. In the first, despite the power, the hidden man of the heart may remain unchanged. In the latter, that monster is dealt with.
(Edwards, Gene. A Tale of Three Kings: A Study in Brokenness. 1980. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale. 1992. 40-41.)
“The loosening of the marriage bond, that is the gradual return to a temporary union made and broken by mutual consent…reverts to what it was at first…The social vision…returns to regard the present only. Pride in the past, responsibility for the future, both disappear. And when a generation arrives which has known no sterner discipline, but which spends its early years in an atmosphere in submission to impulse, it does not add one whit to what has gone before, but, sinking into unrelieved lethargy, ekes out its meagre existence in the grip of forces which it is no longer able to control. Its energy sapped by its own indulgence, its vision reduced to a single dimension, it finds that it can no longer cope with the ultimate causes of things, and there comes a loss of affirmation, a failure of nerve, a denial of the gods, and a despondent fear of the future.”
(J.D. Unwin, “Monogamy as a Condition of Social Energy,” The Hibbert Journal, vol. 25, no. 4, 662-77, 1927)
One door closes and another opens. The way is always forward not backward even if it seems like I moved to the side. That being said, there are moments when the way provides lookout points to assess where I’ve been and where I’m headed. I have come to view these lookout moments as pauses or breaks in the action. The hustle and bustle of life has a way of swallowing them up. When the way provides breaks in the action, wisdom demands that I respond in kind. It’s so very important to recognize where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m going. Someone once said that the unexamined life is not worth living. I agree with that assessment wholeheartedly.
I’m not suggesting that introspection is the ticket. Maybe I’m splitting hairs a bit, but my gut tells me that there’s a difference between introspection and reflection. The former requires that I look inward for the answer while the latter searches outward. The tagline to The X-Files show has some basis in reality: “the truth is out there.” When I scan the horizon at this current lookout point, what do I see? One thing I realize is that my view seems partially obstructed by my finite condition. Some of the path is perceptible, but some of it isn’t. When I glance behind me, the view is clear. I see the dark and shadowy patches as well as the lush ones and those moments that were somewhere in the middle.
Now, the way forward seems more or less visible to the naked eye; however, I can’t help noticing that I’m looking for higher ground in order to get a better view. From where I stand, I see what I am able to see. I want to see more, to know more. Way off in the distance, I see the final destination. It’s a glorious sight, and my heart yearns for it. There’s still much more of the journey that remains. I know that as I keep moving forward, the moments between here and there become clearer. Each step requires faith in my Lord because this fuels hope and perseverance during the rough and tumble moments. Faith is also the sight needed for perceiving people, places, and things along the way. Without it, I’m a blind man ambling along the way oblivious to moments of blessing and danger.
Not only does faith in Jesus give me sight, but his word lights up the way that I walk (Psalm 119:105). What I find ironic about this is that the journey is real and takes place on this physical earth; however, the only way that I can truly navigate it requires that I have spiritual or unseen things in my possession like faith in him and the indwelling presence of his Spirit. Both of these grant me the ability to make sense of his word in order to apply it to my life. If I don’t have faith in Christ and the indwelling presence of his Spirit, I’m a blind man on the way. It doesn’t matter how clear the path is, or how bright and sunny the weather is, a blind man is blind. It was a wonderfully, gracious and merciful act on the Lord’s part to enable me to see. The journey demands it.
“We have fallen into the bad and unquestioned habit of thinking that our educational system is broken, but it is working on all cylinders. What our educational system aims to produce is cultural amnesia, a wholesale lack of curiosity, history-less free agents, and educational goals composed of content-free processes and unexamined buzz-words like “critical thinking,” “diversity,” “ways of knowing,” “social justice,” and “cultural competence.”
“Our students are the achievement of a systemic commitment to producing individuals without a past for whom the future is a foreign country, cultureless ciphers who can live anywhere and perform any kind of work without inquiring about its purposes or ends, perfected tools for an economic system that prizes “flexibility” (geographic, interpersonal, ethical).
“In such a world, possessing a culture, a history, an inheritance, a commitment to a place and particular people, specific forms of gratitude and indebtedness (rather than a generalized and deracinated commitment to “social justice”), a strong set of ethical and moral norms that assert definite limits to what one ought and ought not to do (aside from being “judgmental”) are hindrances and handicaps.”
(Patrick Daneen, “How a Generation Lost Its Common Culture,” Minding the Campus, 2 Feb 2016)
There are many things I could say about the spiritually dangerous view known as the prosperity gospel or the health and wealth gospel. Rather than spew my thoughts, I decided to share an excerpt from an opinion piece published in The New York Times this past Valentine’s Day Weekend. The author is Kate Bowler, who is a Biblical scholar at Duke University, who spent nearly a decade researching prosperity preachers, their teachings, and their churches for her book titled, “Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel,” which was published in 2013. Ms. Bowler’s words are honest, loving, and trenchant. Kudos to her and may the Lord continue to lead and embolden her to speak his truth.
“The prosperity gospel has taken a religion based on the contemplation of a dying man and stripped it of its call to surrender all. Perhaps worse, it has replaced Christian faith with the most painful forms of certainty. The movement has perfected a rarefied form of America’s addiction to self-rule, which denies much of our humanity: our fragile bodies, our finitude, our need to stare down our deaths (at least once in a while) and be filled with dread and wonder. At some point, we must say to ourselves, I’m going to need to let go.
“CANCER has kicked down the walls of my life. I cannot be certain I will walk my son to his elementary school someday or subject his love interests to cheerful scrutiny. I struggle to buy books for academic projects I fear I can’t finish for a perfect job I may be unable to keep. I have surrendered my favorite manifestoes about having it all, managing work-life balance and maximizing my potential. I cannot help but remind my best friend that if my husband remarries everyone will need to simmer down on talking about how special I was in front of her. (And then I go on and on about how this is an impossible task given my many delightful qualities. Let’s list them. …) Cancer requires that I stumble around in the debris of dreams I thought I was entitled to and plans I didn’t realize I had made.
“But cancer has also ushered in new ways of being alive. Even when I am this distant from Canadian family and friends, everything feels as if it is painted in bright colors. In my vulnerability, I am seeing my world without the Instagrammed filter of breezy certainties and perfectible moments. I can’t help noticing the brittleness of the walls that keep most people fed, sheltered and whole. I find myself returning to the same thoughts again and again: Life is so beautiful. Life is so hard.”
(Kate Bowler, “Death, The Prosperity Gospel, and Me,” New York Times, 13 Feb 2016)
“As an advocate of Birth Control, I wish to take advantage of the present opportunity to point out that the unbalance between the birth rate of the “unfit” and the “fit,” admittedly the greatest present menace to civilization, can never be rectified by the inauguration of a cradle competition between these two classes. In this matter, the example of the inferior classes, the fertility of the feeble-minded, the mentally defective, the poverty-stricken classes, should not be held up for emulation to the mentally and physically fit though less fertile parents of the educated and well-to-do classes. On the contrary, the most urgent problem today is how to limit and discourage the over-fertility of the mentally and physically defective.
“Birth Control is not advanced as a panacea by which past and present evils of dysgenic breeding can be magically eliminated. Possibly drastic and Spartan methods may be forced upon society if it continues complacently to encourage the chance and chaotic breeding that has resulted from our stupidly cruel sentimentalism.
“But to prevent the repetition, to effect the salvation of the generations of the future–nay of the generations of today–our greatest need is first of all the ability to face the situation without flinching, and to cooperate in the formation of a code of sexual ethics based upon a thorough biological and psychological understanding of human nature; and then to answer the questions and the needs of the people with all the intelligence and honesty at our command. If we can summon the bravery to do this, we shall best be serving the true interests of Eugenics, because our work will then have a practical and pragmatic value.”
(Margaret Sanger, “The Eugenic Value of Birth Control Propaganda,” Oct 1921)
Few Americans have impacted our nation to the degree like that of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This holiday is always an important one, especially in light of the recent, racial turmoil over several police shootings between 2014-2015. For me, it’s both a sober day and a hopeful one. One never knows how much good is possible until making the effort. There are other instances where very little headway is made at all. In the end, I live in the space between both poles. It is a place of tension. The same goes for my fellow Americans and the rest of humanity throughout the globe. Thank you, Lord, for Dr. King, Jr. and the gift of his life.