Discernment — March newsletter article

Discernment: the ability to see and understand people, things, or situations clearly and intelligently (Websters).

I found myself in a quandary the other day.  I have rediscovered vinyl (yes, it really does sound different!), so I am always on the lookout for cheap records.  Occasionally I find something that I used to listen to back in the 80’s, and it’s always fun to take a trip back in time, so I pick it up.  What I sometimes discover is that I’m a more discerning person now than I was back then (thanks to the Holy Spirit, God’s Word, and a little age), and that there are lots of messages in the songs that I just didn’t get or didn’t care about back then.  That’s actually good news though!  My problem is something different.  What do I do about it?

It may surprise you to know that I’m not even really thinking about the rampant sexuality that is often explicit in so much music out there.  I love harmony.  I like a lot of folk music.  But the messages often espouse philosophies that I don’t agree with.  Here’s an example from The Indigo Girls, who have beautiful harmonies, but their lyrics can be problematic:  “We go to the Bible, we go through the workout. We read up on revival and we stand up for the lookout. There’s more than one answer to these questions pointing me in a crooked line. The less I seek my source for some definitive, the closer I am to fine.”  Of course, they are looking at life from a particular viewpoint based on their own lifestyle choices, so this doesn’t surprise me.  But the greater question is, once I recognize what the song is espousing, what should I do? Is it enough to know that the message is wrong when listening, or should I not listen to it anymore?

I have to admit that I have waffled back and forth on this issue in my life, particularly with music.  I may buy a record thinking “It’s not a big deal,” listen to it, and then get rid of it again!  That’s when I’m glad that I only paid $1 for it!  I end up disposing of the record because of an acronym that I learned when I was a computer science major: GIGO (garbage in, garbage out).  The principle should be self-explanatory.  What goes in, comes out.  If it’s bad on the way in, it comes out bad.  If it’s good, you’re golden!  There are numerous Biblical passages that seem to say the same thing, but the best may be Philippians 4:8, and I’ll leave you with that…

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

God’s Sovereignty — February newsletter article

Why did God allow the Packers to lose???

I’ll admit, it seems a little trite.  Perhaps it is a strange question, but maybe not so strange considering the reaction of so many Packer fans!  But it leads us to a larger question: why does God allow some things and not allow others?  I mean, if God is really sovereign, why doesn’t he…have the Packers win the Superbowl? (Or insert your favorite theological dilemma.  Many would say “end suffering.”)

There are various terms that people use to describe the will of God.  Some may say sovereign will, while others say ultimate will.  Some may say revealed rather than intentional.  Almost everyone uses permissive, even though we have to define what it means.  Some have more categories, some may have less.  Here is my understanding of the will of God:

1) God has a sovereign will.  There are some things that are going to happen.  God has decreed it.

2) God has a revealed will.  This is what we find in the Bible.  This is how he wants us to live.

3) God has a permissive will.  Now, don’t misunderstand this.  This doesn’t mean He gives tacit approval to everything that happens.  But He does allow things to happen – some good and some bad.  He allows us to make choices, and some of our choices break His heart.

What is amazing about God and His sovereignty is that somehow, in the midst of all of this mess, and our decisions to go against His revealed will, He works it all out to accomplish His ultimate purpose.  Oh sure, He gives a nudge here and there when He needs to (Exodus 4:21), but when you think of all the infinite possibilities that come from human beings making decisions on this earth, God is pretty incredible!

So, what about the Packers?  I suspect that God let the game play out.  It’s nice that Russell Wilson gave God the glory, but I’m not sure that God chose his team to win!  Win or lose, our testimony should be the same.  We serve an amazing and awesome God, and that God gives us guidance but He also lets us make both good and bad choices in this life.  In the midst of all that, He still accomplishes His will and His purpose on the earth, and that is truly breathtaking!

Pushing the boundaries…

There is so much that one could say about the upcoming “50 Shades” movie, but much of it has been written about already.

Here is an excellent article about the movie/book, and this article provides 7 lessons we can learn from the “50 Shades” phenomena.  Finally, here is an interesting read about the possible emotional effects of romance novels.

My best word on the subject comes from the Bible: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).