A Worldview That Works

It was 1975 and we were wrapping up a course on Sociological Theory when our professor, asked our class this question:  “After studying these various theories, what do you think is the basic problem of society?”

Hands went up all over the class – all with different answers.  “Poverty”, said one.  “Injustice!” said another.  A few other students piped in with  “Social Inequality!” and “Bigotry!”.   All the answers were met with approving nods from our professor.

I was a new Christian at the time and felt the answers were falling short – so I raised my hand.  Our professor  motioned his hand toward me and queried, “David?”  I answered (with fear and trembling), “Sin!”  The good doctor just shook his head and told me that I could not prove my answer empirically (by the way, the other answers couldn’t be proved empirically either!)

Later, when talking with that professor and my adviser, he asked me a question.  “Unlike most of the other students in this department, you have had a conversion experience.  How has this affected your view of Sociology?”  I responded with my hands and said, “Sociology looks at a problem this big (holding my hands above each other about 18″ apart), but only sees this much of it (holding up one hand – thumb and forefinger 1″ apart).”

Forty-one years later, I still believe the same way. . . and even more so.

In this story lies the difference between an education that leaves God and His Word out of the equation and an education that seeks to see the world from His point of view.  Without His perspective we can only truly understand an “inch” of a reality that is really a “foot and a half” deep.   Approaching education with this flawed view of the world actually hinders the acquisition of knowledge and leaves us to deal with life’s challenges only superficially – leaving the roots totally untouched.

A wise man tells us in Proverbs 1:7 that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”  Why is this?  Investigation, experimentation, and research can only give us data – lots and lots of data.  That data needs to be filtered, organized, and interpreted to be of any use.  Our worldview is what gives us the framework to organize and interpret that information.  If our worldview does not “frame up” like reality is “framed up”, then our understanding of the world will be skewed, no matter how good the data may be.

Everyone has a worldview, but everyone’s worldview does not square with reality.  Any  view of creation that does not acknowledge the Creator in His proper place will only lead us away, not toward a true and coherent view of the world.

As parents (and grandparents) we have a responsibility to help our children (and grandchildren) form a worldview that works.  They need a framework of the mind and heart that will hold them true and steady as they walk through a world that seems to be growing darker by the minute.  A Christian education is a tool that can help us achieve that goal – and that is why I have always found Christian education exciting.

Most Christian schools will probably never have the facilities, programs, and equipment that can be found in public schools.  But I am convinced that an education from a Christian worldview (whether through homeschool or a Christian school) can do more to prepare a young person for life than any other.

If you haven’t already considered the possibility of a Christian education for your children or grandchildren, why not now?

Heavenly Pain

Yesterday was the 9th anniversary of the passing of my Dad.  He was a great father, and I could tell he always “had my back”.  As a sergeant in the army  during World War II, he was a disciplined man and expected his children to be disciplined as well.

Although I do remember getting “belted” once or twice, my dad’s primary form of discipline was a lecture, ever so often a tirade, sometimes a restriction, and even an occasional confiscation.  I still remember the time he threw out all of my “Superman” comic books because I had neglected to pick them up out of the car as he had asked.  I was broken -hearted and so upset I even threatened to sue him (which didn’t work as it was 1962 and I was only 9 – stuff like that just didn’t fly back then).

Whatever method he used, he used it for one reason – he wanted me to grow up.  He wanted me to break out of the skin of my self-centered world and begin to think about others.  Dad wanted me to realize there was evil in the world and I had to wise up before I became its victim.   He wanted me to learn to control my desires, curb my passions, and comprehend life’s higher purposes.

It is not a wonder that, when a very wise man named Solomon was trying to describe how God deals with His children, he said this:

My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor detest Hos correction; for who, the Lord loves He corrects, just as a Father the son in whom he delights.  Proverbs 3:11,12

Receiving correction, especially if it is accompanied by some kind of sanction (a ticket, a “letter of discussion”, a fine, losing comic books, etc.), can really be discouraging.  It is especially discouraging when you felt like you had already done your best.  When God, who is loving and kind, sends His “spankings” it can really be distressing.  After all, we have been “good”.  We did our best. We have kept our nose clean, paid our tithes and went to church yet bad things – sometimes really horrible things – come charging into our lives.

Around nine hundred years after Solomon another man, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, took this same proverb and opened it up when he was writing to a group of people who had lost a lot (some had lost everything) because they had decided to follow Jesus.  He did not want them to be discouraged.  He did not want them to quit. So he penned these words:

For consider Him [Jesus] who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.”

If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:3 – 11

When God allows evil things to enter our world, there are some things we need to remember.  First – He allows this because we are His children.  It is an evidence of son-ship. In some ways our suffering is our birth certificate….a proof of His paternity.

Second, God always has a purpose for allowing that suffering to enter our lives.  One purpose is to help us to “come into subjection” to His will.  Just like my dad wanted me to learn obedience God wants me to learn to obey Him, to stay within His boundaries, and to follow closely in his steps.  In fact the Bible tells us that even Jesus learned obedience through the things He suffered ( Hebrews 5:8)!

Third, the overall purpose of God’s discipline is to build His holiness into us.  You see, God doesn’t just discipline us to teach us obedience.  He also disciplines us so we can run to Him in our weak, flawed estate.  Finally liberated from our arrogant self-righteousness we are free to drink from the well of HIS holiness instead of the muddied spring of our own “goodness”.  This produces the calm, peaceful fruit of real righteousness in our life.

Like a good father, our Heavenly Father sends His divine disciplines to break us out of our selfishness, to wake us up to the evil around us, to motivate us to control our desires, curb our passions and to become wise, “understanding what the will of the Lord is”.  Although painful, even traumatic, at the time of their arrival, they eventually produce in us a deeper peace, a stronger faith, and a stronger confidence in His providence if we receive them as from His hands.

 

The Mechanics of Wonder

In my last post, I wrote about the power of wonder.  But how do we keep the wonder alive?  If it has departed, what can we do to bring it back?  What is the cure for the “fat heart” that I mentioned in my last post?   I truly believe that, if the enemy of our souls cannot bring us to forsake Him, he will at least attempt to dull the reality of Who He is, what He has done, and what He wants to do in our lives.

The first thing we need to understand is that wonder is not something we work up.  It is not a commodity we can produce or hoard, nor is it only a feeling we get when we listen to wonderful worship music or are blessed with material or spiritual blessings.

Wonder is the natural result of meeting God.  Period.

In the Bible when someone met God – whether on a mountain or a valley, in prosperity or in wealth, in comfort or in pain – they were usually overcome with wonder.  John the beloved, Daniel, Saul-soon-to-become-Paul, and Isaiah were all men who knew what it was to be rammed with the wonder of meeting God (Revelation 1:17; Daniel 10:7-10; Acts 9:1-9; Isaiah 6:1-5).   There is a good chance that most of us will not meet God quite like these men did, but the “Wow Factor” in our walk with God is directly correlated with the depth and the frequency with which we really meet with our Creator.

The second thing we need to know is that meeting God is not a mystical experience.  It does not happen through rituals, incantations, or special objects of veneration.  Although God may speak through visions and dreams, most of us will not meet Him through those mediums.  The way we can meet God is through the way that He has chosen to reveal Himself – through His word.

His word, the Bible, otherwise known as the Scriptures are not just words on pieces of paper.  They are alive and powerful.  They are sharp and two-edged.  They can instantaneously cut through all the other “stuff” in our lives and pierce into the innermost part of our being.  The Scriptures are likened to bread (that nourishes), a hammer (that breaks) and a fire (that consumes and cleanses) because of the effect they can have on our psyches.  The Word of God is the sword that the Holy Spirit uses to do His transforming work in our lives.  This is why the Word – reading it, hearing it, memorizing it, and studying it (all combined with thinking deeply on it) – should occupy the central place in the day of every follower of Jesus.

Yet, even this is not all that we need to maintain the “Wow Factor” in our Christian walk.

We must also obey Him.  We must follow His leading.  We need to walk in His ways.  We must always remember that the Christian life starts with an event but it continues as a walk.  It begins with a re-birth but it does not grow on its own.  It grows only as we follow.  In John 12, Jesus says the following to His disciples:

But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified.  Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.  He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.   If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor. John 12:23-26 (NKJV)

There are 3 important principles here.  First, the fruit He wants to produce in our lives (and there is a LOT He wants to produce) comes only as we die to ourselves.  The greatest hindrance to our fruitfulness is our own desires – as noble as they may seem at times.  Second, the way we serve the Lord is by following Him.  The Christian life is not static, it is dynamic.  It is a continual process of leaving our comfort zones and following Him – whether that means a habit forsaken, a possession given,  a relationship broken, or even a location changed.

Third, it is only as we follow Him that our fellowship with Him remains fresh and real.  I think the reason we lose the wonder in our walk with God is not because we left Him, but because He has, in a sense, left us.  He has moved on to where He wants us to be and we have stayed where we were!  Jesus says here that if we follow Him, then we will be where He is.  Most importantly, if we serve Him – His Father will honor us.   He will treasure us, He will value us.

There are times when the wonder will wane.  Sometimes it is an opportunity to stand on His word.  Sometimes it is a wakeup call to follow closer.  One thing is certain, as we seek Him in His word and we apply what He shows us we will stay by His side.  We will see Him work in our lives and the lives of those around us.  As He works, the wonder will stay alive.  The hymn writer expresses it perfectly:

But we never can prove the delights of His love,

            Until all on the altar we lay;

For the favor He shows and the joy He bestows,

            Are for them who will trust and obey.

The Power of Wonder

Several years ago I had the privilege of teaching fifth grade science in a small private school.  I loved teaching that class because the students still had what I called the “Wow Factor”.  They were developed enough to understand some rudimentary science, but still young enough for those same facts to produce a sense of awe.

I really think that we lack a sense of wonder in the 21st century.  We lost it somewhere in our search for solutions. We were separated from it as we entered our virtual worlds of avatars, tweets, Facebook posts, and Pixar movies.  For some, the divorce from wonder has been quietly finalized in the hourly, daily, and monthly humdrum of pursuing a career, raising a family, and paying off debts.

As a follower of Jesus, maintaining a sense of wonder is important because wonder produces awe – an overwhelming feeling of reverence and admiration.  The root word for awe means to scare, or produce fear.  A sense of wonder feeds what the Bible calls “the fear of the Lord” – an awareness that an Almighty Creator God sees all that we think, do, and say, constantly evaluates those things, and will someday require an account – an answer – from us. It is the beginning of wisdom and will cause us to hate evil, pride and arrogance – first in ourselves, and then in the culture around us as well (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7; 8:13).

Wonder also produces curiosity.  It causes us to draw near and investigate.  It fills us with questions that cry out for answers.  It causes us to seek out the essence of what caused the wonder.  It causes us to seek God Himself.  In fact, God produces this wonder in us for no other reason than to call us to seek Him (Psalm 27:8)

Wonder not only challenges (or overwhelms) our minds, it also opens our hearts.  A sense of wonder gives us ears to hear, eyes that see and hearts that understand.  As the Israelites prepared to cross over to Canaan, God warned them about losing that sense of wonder.  He told them that after the battles were fought and the homesteads were erected that there was a danger that the “Promised Land” would become the “Forsaken Land”.  Why?  Because there was the danger that their hearts would grow “fat” and that all the wonders that God had done for them would be forgotten, or worse, taken for granted.  A holy sense of entitlement would replace the hunger their hearts should have for Him alone.  God said that if that became the case, the wonder of deliverance the Israelites lost would be replaced by the wonder of exile, captivity, and restoration (Deuteronomy 4:9,10; 8:11-20)

In the end, a sense of wonder is essential for a lively faith.  In Psalm 72, right at the end of the end of the psalm and the end of all his prayers, David concludes “Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who only does wondrous things!”  Although there were times his sense of wonder faded, David, even in his old age, never lost the wonder that only God could produce.  Everything that God does is wondrous, and He is the only One Who can do them!  Everywhere David looked, he not only saw, he recognized, God’s wondrous things.  To David, the whole earth was filled with His glory, and his faith was strengthened day by day through the “Wow Factor”  (Psalm 72:18-20).

I read a biography of Albert Einstein a few years ago.  In the book the biographer related the first time she saw the famous scientist standing by a fountain on the Princeton campus.  He was looking at the fountain moving three of his fingers in front of his eyes.  She approached him and asked what he was doing.  He said that he was creating a strobe effect so he could “count the drops “of water coming from the fountain.  Then he looked at her and said (what I think was the secret of his genius), “Never lose the wonder.”

How important is this sense of wonder?  In Matthew 18:1-5, the disciples asked what seemed to be their perennial question, “Who then is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  Jesus called a little child into the midst and told them that, unless they are converted (twisted, turned around, changed) and become like that little child, not only would they not be the greatest in the kingdom – they would not even make it in the door!

I like to think that child that Jesus called into His meeting with His disciples was about the same age as a fifth grader.   The “Wow Factor” was still alive in his or her heart.  We need to be sure it never disappears in ours.

The Purpose of “Musings”

What is a “musing”?  This word comes from the root “muse” which means to ponder, to think, or meditate in silence. It can also mean a person muses, or helps others to muse.  A “musing” is the result, or the fruit of this activity.   This is what I hope to share in my posts on this blog – my thoughts and ponderings.

My musings come from the perspective of a follower.  Whether we like to admit it or not, we all follow something or someone, and whatever (or whoever) we follow inevitably affects our perspective.  My musings come as I try to follow the Lord Jesus in the 21st century.  I have followed Him, albeit imperfectly, for 40+ years now and have never regretted a minute of it.  Following Jesus is not drudgery, nor is it boring, or something that I do when not occupied with anything else.  It has been, and is, the prime focus of my life.  By nature, I avoid adventure.  I like comfort and security.  I am naturally ”risk-averse” and shy away from challenges.  But following Him has filled my life with adventures.  A life of pursuing Him is a life that is continually leaving its comfort zones and stepping into new exploits.

We do not hear much about musing these days.   Our lives are too often busy pursuing “a-musements” – activities that distract us from seriously pondering or deeply thinking on our life’s direction, it’s meaning, and the legacy it will leave.  This is not to say our life should be devoid of amusements.   I enjoy an reading an “escape” book, birthday parties, a football game, or good time with family –  just like anyone else.   However, my problems start when I make these things the end, or the goal of my life.   My journey following Him ends when I make these pools of refreshment  my destination instead of just stopping points.  My pilgrimage ends when my tent becomes a house.

So, I hope you join me as I share some of these musings with you in the coming years.  It is my prayer that the musings that have come from the things, peoples, and events that have been blessings to me will become blessings for you as well.