In 2 Corinthians 8.7 the Apostle Paul challenges us to grow in the grace of generosity through giving:

“But as you excel in everything -in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you – see that you excel in this act of grace also.”

Within his textbook, Biblical Ethics, Robertson McQuilkin, formerly President and then President Emeritus of Columbia International University, likens personal giving patterns to personal maturation stages, as a metaphorical expression of spiritual maturity.   McQuilken says the Bible teaches us that our giving patterns are “Jesus’ material yardstick for measuring spiritual maturity”.

In sum, here is the “yardstick”:

  • Infancy: Non-giving
  • Kindergarten: Impulse Giving
  • Elementary: Legalistic Giving
  • Secondary: Honest Managership
  • Higher: Love Giving
  • Graduate: Faith Giving

Senator Ben Sasse (R – Nebraska) addresses The Gospel Coalition 2017 Conference, with an address titled: What Has Washington to Do With Jerusalem?.

Sasse, a vocal opponent of Donald Trump as his party’s presidential nominee during the 2016 election, speaks refreshingly and intentionally non-partisan about the distorted role politics plays in the American psyche.  Sasse’s thoughts are well worth the 36 minutes this video runs.

Benedict Option collage

Since I already have some pretty definite opinions about the book, I thought maybe I ought to read it.  My preliminary thoughts about Rod Dreher‘s The Benedict Option is that if offers a good analysis of the present states of both culture and Church, but Dreher’s solution seems more imposed than necessary or biblical. In other words, Dreher seems to have a fascination with the Rule of Benedict, and uses the current social climate as an excuse to encourage others to embrace it.

It’s not that I think there is no benefit from Benedictine practices. On the contrary, I was intrigued a few years ago when reading Dennis Okholm’s Monk Habits for Everyday People with a group of pastors with whom I would meet monthly or so.  What I appreciated from Okholm’s work, and expect to appreciate from Dreher, are the categories of thought the Benedictine’s have developed.  I appreciate many of their disciplines, and I can see that many of their practices could help cultivate a disciplined and rich spiritual vitality.  However, the notion of withdrawal from the world at the root of Benedictine discipline, is not only not a practical option for most people, I am convinced that it violates Jesus’ command to his disciples found in John 20.21:

“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

And it out of line with God’s expressed instruction to hie people who were living in Babylonian exile, as recorded in Jeremiah 29.7:

“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”

In other words, despite some – even many – ideas worthy of serious consideration, and that might be appropriate to be adopted if some adjustments are made, it seems to me that The Benedict Option is not really an option for those who want to be faithful followers of Jesus Christ.  And Dreher himself seems to understand this since, despite the provocative title, he spends much energy explaining that what he is encouraging is the employment of some of Benedict’s principals without actually withdrawing into monastic communities.

See also:

 

My wife and I made a brief escape, down to the Outer Banks of North Carolina – Corolla and Duck specifically. Though only a two hour drive from our home – a home where we have lived for the past 4 1/2 years – this was my first time to visit the Outer Banks.  We loved it!

Here are some shots taken during our brief stay:

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vote-by-post

I have never been a fan of early voting, especially not in something as significant as a presidential election.  I am of the opinion that there are some things important enough that people ought to order their lives around them in order to participate.

As a Christian, and a pastor, I would consider the Lord’s Day to be the ultimate example of such a thing.  God created the world in a span of six day then, essentially and metaphorically, “rested” the 7th Day.  God then decreed that people – especially those who claim to be devoted to God – should follow the same pattern; that we ought to set one-day-in-seven as a Sabbath, where we rest from our labors, and commit the day to God in a way unique from the others (which also actually belong to God).  The Sabbath is a gift, if we understand it correctly. The 4th Commandment, that requires humanity to observe this day in no way mitigates the gift God has given us in the form of a day of rest. My point in this post is not to make a case for a specific day of Sabbath, nor to consider appropriate vs. inappropriate activities for this day, but only to offer it as an example. A Sabbath day, commanded by God, as a gift of God, is intended to be, and is important enough to be, a day set aside, around which we build our weekly schedules.

While less important cosmically than a Sabbath, in the civil sense Election Day is monumental enough that people ought to set the day aside, and vote on the appointed day, whenever possible. In other words, Election Day is too important to subordinate it to the idol of convenience.

Granted, some exceptions can, and should, be made.  For instance, the case for our daughter who, as a student at a college in another part of the state, would find it quite difficult to appear at our home precinct. She needs some accommodations.  I am not sure that an absentee ballot would not be a sufficient accommodation, but in Virginia an early voting option is offered. And students are not alone in their need for some accommodation.  Some whose business travel requires them to be out of town, others who may be in the midst of various types of long-term infirmities, are examples of those I believe should also be afforded some sort of accommodation.  But the thing is, in Virginia early voting requires a good reason. Simply avoiding lines, or whatever motive for convenience, is not sufficient reason.  But not all states are as much sticklers as Virginia is.  in Tennessee, for example, which I consider to be my adopted home state, early voting is just one option among many, offered for convenience.  As I understand, far more states are akin to Tennessee than to Virginia in this respect.

I appreciate those who are concerned about restriction that make voting prohibitive for some segments of our society. In no way would I want to endorse practices and policies that would suppress legitimate opportunities for any citizen to vote.  But I fear that by making convenience a chief factor in our national elections, we have devalued the importance and downplayed the privilege extended to every citizen of the United States.  I can’t help wondering if this – along with an unappetizing roster of candidates – has not played some part in declines in voter turnout.

Having expressed some of my philosophical aversion to allowing early voting as a common option, I want to turn my attention to the more pragmatic reasons for my oppostion.

About a month ago – 6 weeks before Election Day 2016 – some political analysts expressed their concerns about early voting.  Their concern: simple regret.

“Some people have estimated, and this may be way too large, that one third of the electorate will already have a voted early by November 8 of this year. One-third!”

“And somebody could say, ‘Well I wouldn’t have voted for that person if I would’ve known that that happened 24 hours ago’,”

I am not a fan of October Surprise as a political strategy. It seems to me, if a candidate is worthy of my vote he or she ought to show me why they deserve it; not keep pointing out to me why the other candidate does not deserve it.  Someone else’s disqualifying characteristics do not necessarily qualify me.  But sometimes, like this year, what comes to light in the final days of the election season are not mere sleazy revelations from the opposition camp, but legitimate news of criminal or disqualifying facts from legitimate sources.  And as some political analysts predicted a month ago – weeks before revelation that the FBI was re-opening its investigation of Hillary Clinton – once certain facts come to light, conscientious people are likely to have regret.  But their vote has already been irreversibly cast.

In our present election cycle, it is difficult for me to believe that if the one about whom these potentially criminal revelations have surfaced is elected, that the citizens of the USA will have any reason to believe real justice will ever be carried out.  Whether the possible allegations are legitimately criminal or not, I do not know.  But if a candidate with a reputation for and  history of cover up is elected, unless impeached, can we ever know if justice is done?

If early vote were not such an easy option, those who are already experiencing buyers remorse would not be able to send the nation in such a regrettable direction.

Two Sides of Holiness

October 24, 2016

east-knox-reflections

Jerry Bridges offered a powerful insight and challenge to Christians about the nature and focus of the Christian life:

“Scripture speaks of both a holiness which we have in Christ before God, and a holiness which we are to strive after. God has made provision for us to live holy, but He has also given us definite responsibilities to pursue holiness. Only as we accept our responsibility and appropriate God’s provisions will we make any progress in our pursuit of holiness.”

College football season is just around the corner. In fact, I think this is the last weekend without a game until January.  While I don’t seem to be able to watch as many games as I used to – I just don’t seem to have the endurace; my interest wanes – I still feel the excitement this time of year.  In many ways it’s like my New Years – everything is starting new, anything is possible.  And this year my Tennessee Volunteers are back!