BEAUTY DEMANDS TO BE NOTICED

My latest post at The Gospel Coalition is titled “In Christian Theology, Beauty Demands to Be Noticed“.

In a world without beauty, Balthasar declares, “What remains is . . . a mere lump of existence.” God did not have to create so many things in our world to be beautiful, but he did.

If beauty demands to be noticed, let us take note. If there’s something intrinsic in humanity that’s drawn to beauty, let it draw us in. Both the world and the Word call us to behold the sovereign Creator God.

As we see in the Word, all the beauty of this world points beyond itself to the breathtaking beauty of God himself. Beauty is a powerful signpost that calls out to all: “Look and see. The one true God is good.”

To read the entire article, click here.

Ministry Grid: Training Made Simple

It’s finally here. Whether you have been waiting with baited breath or this is your first time hearing about it, Ministry Grid has launched. We are excited about this dynamic platform for training the church. We believe it will provide unprecedented opportunity for churches to develop leaders and servants in every area from the parking lot to the pulpit and are pleased to partner with them.

Ministry Grid bases their entire ministry on the vision of Ephesians 4:11-13:

“11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds[a] and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. . .”

Their vision is to see churches built up and equipped to do the work of the Kingdom, and they have provided a unique and unparalleled resource to do this.

 WHAT IS MINISTRY GRID?

Ministry Grid is a customizable platform designed to help churches develop all their leaders, no matter which area they serve in. Ministry Grid makes training leaders simple with content available to leaders anytime, anywhere, while giving pastors unprecedented control and insight into how their people learn. Launching with more than 1,500 training videos for pastors, staff, volunteer leaders, and every-day church goers, Ministry Grid covers, or will cover, every topic a church needs from the parking lot to the pulpit.

HOW DOES MINISTRY GRID WORK?

Ministry Grid’s Learning Management System enables your church to customize training to fit the unique needs and goals of your people. Select built-in tracks, choose from Ministry Grid’s 1,500+ video sessions, or add videos to create your own customized training. With tracking and administrative tools, Ministry Grid allows leaders to assess an individual or group’s skill level, assign training content, and view progress. It is accessible from computers, tablets, and smartphones with a native app that allows offline training, so users can train anywhere, at any time.

WHAT DOES A LEARNING MANAGEMENT SYSTEM DO?

While video training itself is not a new concept, it has historically lacked a way to manage and track a user’s progress. A Learning Management System like Ministry Grid’s allows you to assign content and track the progress of every person using Ministry Grid in your ministry or organization. Ministry Grid’s Learning Management System gives unprecedented insight into how training is taking place, allowing you to easily view a group at a glance or see an individual’s progress, provide accountability, and measure effectiveness. Ministry Grid comes with built-in training tracks and assessment tools that can be customized according to your needs. You can also build your own.

WHO CAN USE MINISTRY GRID?

Ministry Grid is for the entire church, with pricing based on your church’s average weekly attendance. Content is organized into four areas of development—pastoral, church staff, lay leader/volunteer, and personal development—with a wide range of topics videos averaging 15 minutes in length. Ministry Grid works with churches of any size, and because you can upload your own content, there’s no limit to how you can utilize the platform. Ministry Grid is also perfect for organizations and non-profits that are developing Christian leaders on matters relevant to their ministry.

WHAT MAKES THE MINISTRY GRID PLATFORM SO SIGNIFICANT?

Ministry Grid is unprecedented in terms of the quantity, quality, and range of training content available. Every aspect is customizable according to your church’s needs, including the ability to skin the site with your own colors, drop in your logo and church branding, and upload your own content. You may also choose from Ministry Grid’s 1,500+ video sessions or disable access to content not relevant to your assigned users. No other training platform comes close in its ability to perfectly fit your specific needs.

CAN I USE MINISTRY GRID ON MY MOBILE DEVICE?

Yes. Ministry Grid features apps for iOS devices and Kindle Fire. The mobile app allows people to watch training content on the go. You can even download content to your device to watch when offline, and connect your mobile device to a project—perfect for churches that do not have wi-fi access readily available. The Ministry Grid app is a free download, but requires a Ministry Grid subscription to use.

http://www.ministrygrid.com/

Community Serve 2011

http://vimeo.com/26518173

The Calvary church family just finished up our week-long mission trip to our community, here is a recap of the week. This video was shot and edited by Peter McKenzie, view his work here.

The Hypersocialized Generation

This is a fascinating talk by Dr. Albert Mohler, President of Southern Seminary, on “The Hypersocialized Generation.” This issue calls for reflective thought about the patterns of our lives.

You can also stream the video here directly from Dr. Mohler’s web-site.

Uncovering Idols (Part 3): Beauty Magazines and the Idol of Image Projection

Note: This is the last  post taken from the manuscripts of a series I preached titled “Uncovering Idols.”

Human beings were created to “image” God. Because of sin we cannot properly “image” God. But the Spirit conforms us to the ‘Image of Christ’ and we are enabled to do what we were created for.

Introduction

Idolatry is difficult to uncover in our society because it is so subtle, so covert. We don’t necessarily worship idols formed from wood and stone. Our idolatry is hidden in our hearts. Remember that “an idol is anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.”[1]

What makes “uncovering idols” even more complicated is that are idols are, on the one hand formed by our inner desires, and at the same time socially shaped. In other words, our idolatry is “generated from within and insinuated from without.”[2] Idolatry is a problem rooted deeply in the human heart, but is also powerfully imposed on us from our social environment. So, in order to understand idolatry we need to

  • Examine the world around us.
  • Examine the world within us.

This is extremely important for the subject we are examining tonight, “the idol of image projection.” The very idea of “image” is quite informative on what it actually means to be a human being. In Genesis 1: 27 we are told that;

God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.”

“Unlike the rest of creation, we are made in God’s image,”[3] we were made to literally ‘image God.’ Humans were created for this very purpose, to image, to mirror, to represent God within creation order.[4] Let’s make an honest observation: If humans were made to reflect God in our world something has gone wrong. In fact, a quick glance at the world around us reveals that something has gone terribly wrong. If we truly reflected God as we should, things would not be as they are. Now, as Christians we understand that our projection, or “reflection of God” has been ‘perverted, corrupted, and distorted.’ by sin. Yet at the same time the mirror has not been completely shattered. “Imaging” is still a very important aspect of human function, it’s what we were created to do. We just reflect the wrong things; we mirror God in the wrong way.

Our Culture: A Reflection on Self Image

If you need to be convinced of the importance of “image in our culture”[5] consider what’s projected at you as you pass through what one author called the ‘gauntlet of temptation’, more commonly known as the magazine racks in the checkout line. We have all seen it. On each of these magazine covers a message is proclaimed, a message reflecting what it looks like to have “the good life.” The images communicate to you that;

  • ‘This’ is what it looks like to be significant!
  • To be secure in who you are, you must have or look like ‘this!’
  • ‘This’ is what it feels like to have fulfillment!
  • You will have comfort if you surround yourself with ‘these’ things!

In the supermarket checkout line you are presented with a mosaic of images on magazine covers, images that reflect “the fulfilled life.” While standing in line you enter “a place of possibilities where you can imagine your life differently” a place where you can “choose who you will be.”[6] The message here is simple, “by the choices you make, you tell the world who you are”[7] Typically, this “ideal image” that is being projected can be accomplished by the purchase of certain products.

Think about it, we can construct our image by the things that we adorn ourselves with; how we posture ourselves. We communicate “our meaning” in various ways,

  • Our appearance communicates something about who we are.
  • Where and how we live communicates something about who we are.
  • How we talk, what we say, communicates to others who we are.
  • Our accessories and the things we own tell the world who we are.

In our culture it’s about projecting your significance, your “meaning”[8] to the world around you, and “our preoccupation is with the outward appearance”[9] is very clear. The most obvious cultural example of what I am talking takes us back to the line at the super market. Consider magazine covers again. I think one author put it well when he wrote that “magazines peddle unrealistic hopes to people desperate for some version of the good life.”[10] Magazines sell an unrealistic ideal.

The covers of these magazines are imprinted with our cultural gods known as celebrities. In many ways they have become “the physical manifestation of the fulfilled life.” They represent what we are told we need to be.

Take this months “O” magazine for example. This particular magazine typically features articles on relationships, spirituality, health, and helpful tips on just about everything. Just like many other magazines this one features a celebrity or cultural guru who is aptly pictured and invites us to participate in the fulfilled life.[11] In this particular magazine the cover shot is of a celebrity/guru, and by the way, she is on the cover of “O” every month.

Listen to what this particular magazine promises;

  • “Who are you meant to be: A Step-by-step guide to finding your life’s purpose.”
  • “How to talk so people really listen: 4 ways to make yourself heard.”
  • “Plus: 28 questions that will change the way you see yourself.”

Everything is geared towards “creating an image” for yourself. Now, let’s break the cliché literary rule and make a few judgments about magazines based on their cover, just based off the cover shot. Think about this for a second. In preparation for this image to make the cover of the magazine this celebrity;

  • She goes into several hours of hair and make-up.
  • They create a set with ideal lighting and backgrounds that accentuate the colors in her clothing and shaded in her makeup.
  • They shoot hundreds if not thousands of angles.
  • Once a photo is chosen, it then enters into a multiple phase manipulation process where a graphic designer adjusts the light and dark contrast, the colors, removes any blemishes in the skin, crops, and so on.

This is the absurdity of our cultural attempt to “image” fulfillment, as manifested in magazine covers. They present you with a person that embodies the “image” of the fulfilled life. But the person presented is not the person as they actually are. This is the paradox, what is represented as the ideal does not actually exist. In reality we do not get an actual image of this person. We get an image of what she wants to be perceived as.

This is something that we need ponder. There are many times when we try and cover who we actually are by projecting an image of ourselves that is not actually true. So we project an image not of who we are, but what we would like others to see us as. In other words, we try and cover our true selves.

The Twofold Perversion of “Image”

As human beings we find comfort in mere “window dressing,”[12] or “fig leaves” that we hide behind. This started in the Garden of Eden. See, before the fall Adam and Even were pure and clearly reflected the image of God. This is why humanity was made, to reflect the glory of God. This is where we were meant to find our significance, our worth, our security, our comfort.

Our image is a derivative image; it is derived from the one who created us. When we sinned, we were cast away from clearly reflecting the glory one whom we derive our image. This created a problem because we were created to reflect God’s glory. And now we were left to ourselves, to reflect ourselves. Therefore, since the fall we have tried to glorify our own image by adorning ourselves with all types of functional fig leaves. In short, we begin to bow to the idol of self-image. Two quick observations from Genesis that provide ‘examples of’ and ‘explain why’ creating and reflecting our own “image” is so devastating;

1. The fall was preceded by a heightening exaltation of “our image.”

Genesis 3:6So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

Adam and Eve wanted to be higher than God. In disobeying God’s clear command not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, our first parents exalted themselves above God taking things into their own hands. They decided to “create their own image” apart from their creator. Reminds us of Paul’s word in his letter to the Romans in chapter 1, “claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man.” Which begs us to head Paul’s warning later on in 12 “not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment.” Simply put, a heightened sense of “image” leads to unreasonable pride.

2. The fall was followed with a lowering perversion of “our image”

Genesis 3:7- “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.”

Now Adam and Eve felt ashamed of themselves, and rightly so. Their self image became wholly negative- with a devastating shame and worthlessness. They no longer clearly reflected the God who made them. In verse 10 we see that shame revealed itself in fear. Adam hid from God in the garden. Even in us we see the effects of this shame in human despair. Here is the point of pointing out these two;

  1. heightening exaltation of “our image.”
  2. lowering perversion of “our image”

We (as humans) still fluctuate between these two today. “Man’s image is sometimes extremely high (in the form of sinful pride) or excessively low (in the form of feelings of shame and worthlessness).” Both cases are perversions of our created “image.” More often times than not we “exalt our image” as an attempt as a cover who we truly are. When we truly see ourselves for who we are, its obvious that left to our own devises we offer nothing but shame. I would argue that vacillating between these two (pride and despair) is inevitable when humanity cannot clearly reflect God.

Human beings were created to “image” God. Because of sin we cannot properly “image” God.  (Then where do we turn?) But the Spirit conforms us to the ‘Image of Christ’ and we are enabled to do what we were created for. (This keeps us from pride, and keeps us from despair.

But, I would not hesitate to guess that many of us in this room find ourselves vacillating between pride and despair because when don’t have a proper understanding, or forget who we are in Christ. Here’s our hope, we have a good God, a God who is on “mission is to restore creation to its full original purpose of [reflecting his glory].”[13] This proper “image of God” is, is being, and will be restored to us through Jesus Christ.

Restoration: Jesus Christ the “Image of God.”

1. God’s Image Revealed in Christ

Colossians 1:15- “He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” Though God is invisible, through Christ God becomes visible. Christ is the pure reflection of God! So the one who looks to Christ is actually looking to God. There is a remarkable passage in Hebrew’s proclaiming this same glorious truth.

Hebrews 1:3- “He (Jesus) is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.” Think about that, Christ radiates the glory of the Father. In other words, Christ is the mirror image of God. Every trait, ever characteristic, every quality found in the Father is seen in the Son, who is the exact representation.

We begin to understand what it means to be created in the image of God as we look at Christ. As we are conformed to the image of Christ, the image of God will be restored. In fact, being ‘conformed into the image of Christ’ is the purpose for which God has chosen his people. Romans 8:29- “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” (Equivalent to the “image of God”) This is the purpose of redemption, to restore the image of God to man.

2. God’s Image Reflected from Christ

1 John 3- “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” Think about that “we shall be like him because we shall see him as he is.”

You will be conformed to him as you look at him “as he is.” Christ is the pure image of God. He does not need make up or digital manipulation, He is perfect “without spot or blemish.” Yet we often attempt to conform ourselves to the images of cultural gods who are not pictured as they actually are. Listen to the words of Paul.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all behold the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness, from one degree of splendor to the next, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor.3:18)

The complex verb that Paul uses is which means “to behold in a mirror.” “This word combines the ideas of looking long and hard at something, and resembling or reflecting something. We are called to long, contemplative gazing at the Lord Jesus and changing so as to reflect his image.”[14]

The more we gaze at and contemplate Jesus, the more the Spirit shows us his glory and the more we become transformed into the likeness of what we see. As we look at Christ we realize in our hearts His beauty. In other words, the Spirit conforms you by affecting the heart by what you see in the person and work of Christ.

3. God’s Image Restored Through Christ

Ephesians 4:22-23

“Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Tim Keller unpacks the description of “putting on” Christ like a garment, which implies several important things

a) That our primary identity is in Christ. Our clothing tells people who we are. Clothing is a way of showing that we are identified with others of the same gender, social class national group. But to say that Christ is our clothing is to say that our ultimate identity is found, not in any of these classifications, but in Christ alone!

b) The closeness of our relationship to Christ. Your clothes are kept closer to you than

any other possession you have. You rely on them for shelter every moment. They go everywhere with you (hopefully). So to say Christ is our clothing is to call us to moment-by-moment dependence and awareness of Christ. We are to spiritually “practice his presence.”

c) Our acceptability to God. Finally, clothing is worn as adornment. It covers our nakedness. To say that Christ is our clothing is to say that in God’s sight we are loved because of Jesus’ work and salvation. This is why the gospel restores our original “image” which is not based on cultural standards or comparisons with others. Only the gospel keeps us from being prideful or disdainful of our image.

The gospel creates a new self-image. The gospel keeps us from excessive pride or excessive despair. In Christ we are a “new creation.”

Self-image can be a very elusive idol that absorbs our heart and imagination before we realize it. There is this cultural assumption that a reflecting a particular image of oneself will bring security, comfort, significance, worth. No! In Christ alone will you find your security, comfort, significance, and worth!

The question tonight is simple: “Is your sense of identity found in who you are as a child of God or how others to perceive you?” Like a mirror we reflect whatever we are oriented towards. We reflect what we revere.[15]

We have a desire to reflect and mirror because this is what we were created to do, we are imagers. Human beings were created to “image” God. Because of sin we cannot properly “image” God. But the Spirit conforms us to the ‘Image of Christ’ and we are enabled to do what we were created for.


Uncovering Idols (Part 1): Meteorology and the Idol of Future Control

Note: Over the next few weeks I will be posting the manuscripts from a series I am preaching titled “Uncovering Idols.”

Introduction

Last week Laura and left for Nashville, Tennessee late afternoon for a conference that was beginning the next day. It was about dinner time so we stopped in a small town in Western North Carolina named Canton. We began to notice a strange stench; to us it was a horrible smell- a smell we could not get away from (in other words it wasn’t inside coming from insider the car)

For those of you who know the area, Canton is the home of Blue Ridge Paper Products- a paper mill, and paper mills smell. Anyway, we ate and as we got back on the highway I began thinking to myself. “I wonder of the people of Canton are even aware of that smell? They live and breathe that air. I tell you this story becuase in many ways this is the way idolatry functions in our culture. It’s the air we breath.

An Important Distinction in Idols: The Overt and Covert[1]

For most people, the subject of idolatry conjures up pictures of a “primitive people bowing down before statures.”[2] We would be pretty safe to say that when most people think of “idols” they picture literal statues- which is what we might call “overt idolatry.” An example of overt idols would be “the golden calf” that the people of Israel worshiped in Exodus 32. It was a literal statue, an “overt idol.” Even today, there are people across our world who worship “overt” idols- consider Hinduisms many god’s.

Tonight we are going to focus on a different type of idolatry, one that runs rampant in our culture, a type of idolatry that may be the most dangerous because it is so elusive, so obscure, so concealed, so “covert.” See, our idols are not the “overt” idols seen in Hindu temples, but the covert idolatry of the human heart. Actually, I would argue that it’s better to understand idolatry as a posture of the heart, rather than a religious practice. Therefore idolatry is not constrained to false religions; an idol can be anything, literally.

The human heart has a powerful way of taking anything and turning it into the ultimate thing. We have this uncanny ability to take anything that gives us significance, security, comfort, safety, and fulfillment, and place it as the center of our lives. “An idol is anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.”[3]

How Does Meteorology reveal idolatry?

Some of you are still trying to figure out the point of my title for this post. What does meteorology have to do with idolatry? Nothing in and of itself; but meteorology (weather reports and forecasts) reveal something that we as a people value, something we are concerned about. See, the weather report and forecast are permanent fixtures in the news. They are very practical and convenient as a reference point for “future planning.”

Let me clarify something, we are not exploring the scientific discipline of meteorology, we are examining meteorology as “cultural phenomenon.” In other words, “what does our cultures [reliance, maybe even] fascination with weather reports [and forecasts] say about who we are and what concerns us?”[4]

I thought it would be interesting to test this concept with an actual meteorologist. I had the privilege of interviewing WXII’s meteorologist Austin Caviness this past week, we talked a few minutes about “weather reports” and “forecasts.”

See, forecasting is simply, the process of estimation in unknown situations. Austin’s job is really to “prepare people for what lies ahead.” This is not wrong in and of itself. But, he quickly pointed out that “people want to it to be right, they get upset when its not.” That’s the key- how we respond when things don’t go as expected.- What does this reveal about us? I think Austin nailed it when he said; “we want to fill like we can control the things we can’t. It takes us out of our comfort zone when we can’t control our expectations for a situation. It’s a way we protect ourselves.” When our future expectations are not met, how we respond reveals what’s truly in our hearts.

See, on a much deeper level I believe that our concern with the weather reveals a deeper anxiety over the future – here is the reality of our situation;

  1. Because we cannot fully see the immediate future. We don’t know exactly what will happen in the years, months, weeks, even moments to come. We can estimate.
  2. But, without being able to fully see all the things ahead, we cannot control certain situations our specific outcomes in our future.

‘Meteorology’ is just one (maybe even trivial) cultural expression of an attempt to find security in the unknowns of the future. Think about insurance (being covered for the future), financial planning (making sure you have your assets alighted for the future), there are 10,000 examples of good things that we do to prepare for the unknown.

When facing the unknown – we can feel somewhat helpless. So we forecast, because the illusion of control helps us “deal with that uncertainty”. Remember, and idol is anything that we find our security, comfort, safety, and fulfillment in other than God, “anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.”[5]

For many people, the illusion of “future control” can be a very covert idolatrous posture of the heart. If we are not careful our concern over the future can absorb our lives. In fact, we can begin to act as if “control” over the future gives us only what God can- security, comfort, and safety.

“Hold your future with open hands.”

The Attitude and Action of Unbelief revealing the “Idol of Future Control.”

Idolatry deeply affects the way one thinks, behaves, and lives. Idolatry always produces attitudes and actions that reveal what the heart reveres.

A.) Attitude of Unbelief: “The Idol of Future Control” is rooted in Anxious Fearfulness- Matthew 6:34

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

In this passage Jesus is addressing the disciples. He is basically saying, worrying about tomorrow is nonsensical, because today has enough to occupy our attention and it does no good to dwell on the situations of tomorrow (the inevitable, possible, or hypothetical) Honestly, we all worry about many things, but we often get obsessed with the wrong things. Almost any of your worry’s can hijack the controls of your mind. So we need to start by asking “what do I worry about”, but that will get you nothing but a big list.

  1. I am worried that I won’t get that job, or job promotion.
  2. I am worried because I won’t have enough saved for retirement.
  3. I am worried because I have a family history of cancer.
  4. I am worried because my older child has strayed away from the faith.
  5. I am worried because I am getting older and don’t know if I’ll ever get married.
  6. I am worried because we have been trying to have children for 3 years, and it’s not working.[6]

The list goes on and on. While these things are good to identify, we need to learn to pull the roots up on these problems. The deeper and more important question is “why do I worry about these things?” What is it in these things that you are trying to obtain? Worry assumes the possibility of control over the un-controllable. So the attitude of unbelief often leads to actions aimed at “controlling the future.” So the attitude or root of the “Idol of Future Control” is usually anxious fearfulness.

B.) Acting on Unbelief: “The Idol of Future Control” is often revealed in Arrogant Confidence- James 4:13-14

What do I mean by arrogant confidence? I mean the illusion that we know how the future ought to be, therefore we are going to bring it about ourselves. To this mindset we should be reminded of the words of James; (James 4:13-14)

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—  yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”

In this particular passage James is writing to combat boastful arrogance in his readers. James is not forbidding any type of planning here, or even forbidding concern for the future altogether. But, James is warning from “any type of planning for the future that stems from human arrogance in our ability to determine the course of future events.”[7] Worriers act as if they might be able to control the un-controllable. Central to worry is the illusion that we can control things. “I am going to this town or that”, I am “going to spend a year there” and make much profit.

  1. If only I could get that job, or job promotion everything would be secure.
  2. If only I had enough saved for retirement we could be comfortable.
  3. If only I get my diet and exercise right I can overcome our family history of cancer.
  4. If only I can get my child rearing techniques right, my other kids wont turn out like my prodigal son.
  5. If only I can find someone to marry I will be complete.
  6. If God would give us children, we would be happy.

See, worry assumes the possibility of control over the uncontrollable. Sure you can take preventative measures to set yourself in a better place, but you cannot completely control the future. This is essentially what James is asking here, “how do you finite creatures presume to dictate the course of future events” as if you know better than God almighty. The obvious sin in this approach to this approach is having no regard for God as you plan for the future. And it’s not just that forgetting God is evil (of course it is), it’s not just that this attitude boastful, arrogant, and proud. The greater evil is that when your forget God, you assume God’s place. We were created in the image of God, in other words God built us to reflect him.

But, our sin has distorted us and how we reflect God. In other words, in our sin we even seek to reflect God in sinful ways.- What do I mean?- Let’s work this out a second. When talking about God we describe Him according to his attributes. His attributes being the characteristics or qualities that express His nature. Typically we classify God’s attributes into his moral and non-moral attributes. This is important;

  1. Moral attributes: The attributes that humans share with God. (Patient, holy, truth, love, etc.)
  2. Non-moral attributes: The attributes that humans do not share with God. (Self-existent, all-powerful, all-knowing, and sovereign, etc.)

Here is the point: Under the influence of sin, we tend to care less about reflecting God moral attributes (love, patience, holiness), but what we want more than anything else is to reflect him in his non-moral attributes (self-existence, all-knowing, all-powerful) When facing our uncertain, and often scary future; (think about this)

  1. We would rather be All-knowing, than patient.
  2. We would rather be All-powerful, than loving…

Sinfully we desire God’s non-moral attributes, because we think “control = comfort and security.[8] (This is an illusion)

Why is this devastating?

“We are but images of God, not the real thing. We are shadows and echoes. So there will always be an emptiness of in the soul that struggles to be satisfied with the resources of self.”[9] Sure, you can take preventative measures to prepare for the future, but ultimately you cannot control the future. This is always revealed when our expectations or desires for future circumstances or outcomes are not obtained. We become angry and confused, because things are not the way we wanted them. You assumed the place of God without considering that God may have other plans. Ultimately you bow down to the idol of future control rather than the only God of the universe who knows eternity in its entirety.

Let me propose to you that “the root of worry/anxiety is unbelief.”[10] Even more so, unbelief is the reason we act in arrogant confidence.

  1. The Root of Unbelief: Anxious Fearfulness
  2. The Fruit of Unbelief: Arrogant Confidence

Idolatry is always connected to unbelief. It is turning to anything other than God for a sense of security and comfort because we don’t trust God. Now, since the Idol of Future control is rooted in unbelief, we need to learn to fight for faith. Let’s apply some biblical doctrine as armor for the fight of faith.

Truth to Destroy the “Idol of Future Control”

1. God is in control of all things, therefore we don’t need to control the future.

Often times, “We don’t just want His word that he will be with us; we want Him to show us the end from the beginning, and prove to us that He can be trusted. We want to know what tomorrow will bring instead of being content with simple obedience on the journey.”[11] Let me be clear here. You don’t need to know the future, and most likely God is not going to show you the future. When we obsess about the future we get anxious. Anxiety is simple “living out the future before it get’s here.” This is why James says in 4:

“you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

“If the Lord wills.” This is one of the clearest texts on God sovereignty in the Bible. James is confronting his readers and arguing that we must live our lives believing that all of our plans are subject to the sovereign will of God. God is all-knowing, God is all-powerful and what God wills will be. Period. Trust that, and trust him. We are humbled when looking to the future because we don’t control it; God does. God is our hope, the future is not our hope- therefore we don’t need to control the future, we need to be content with knowing that God is in control. We must repent of our sinful desire to control the future, and walk into the future with our confidence in God, “not because the future is known to us, but because it is known to God.” We trust Him fully.

2. God will supply all of our needs, therefore we should not obsessively worry about the future.

Matthew 6:25-26 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

God provides you with life itself, we He not sustain you, provide for you? Look at the birds, they are more helpless than you…they cannot grow their own food, they cant even make a sandwich, and God provides for them. God knows what we need for life. God knows when we will die, we will die. As long as He wants us to live- will he not provide us with the necessities of life? Plus, worrying and fretting about the future will not “add one single hour to our lives, “and it will certainly not add any happiness or holiness either.”[12]

Listen to Jesus question, “and which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?(Matthew 6:27)

This is almost funny when you process what he is saying. You worry and fret about “how you will continue living”, and it will not add anymore time to your lifespan. Worry is a spiritual issue that must be fought with faith. We must believe that God has mercy for today’s troubles, and no matter what comes tomorrow we will have fresh mercy every morning. I think there is much wisdom in the words of C.S. Lewis on this point. He argues that we should be “living each day as though it were our last, but planning as though our world might last a hundred years.”[13] We need to learn how to hold our future with open hands. If we don’t we will continually act like the school girl who got angry at the weather man because he got the forecast wrong.

– “Hold your future with open hands.” –


The Freedom of Choice Act

The issue of abortion, and the issues surrounding abortion have been at the heart of many pro-life advocates for the past few months. I thought I would pass on this blog post from Justin Taylor,

“Consider signing the Fight FOCA [Freedom of Choice Act] Petition.

No matter your political persuasion or feeling on the role of politics, it’s a simple thing you can do to help fight against this legislation, which would:

eradicate state and federal laws that the majority of Americans support, such as:

  • Bans on Partial Birth Abortion
  • Requirements that women be given information about the risks of getting an abortion
  • Only licensed physicians can perform abortions
  • Parents must be informed and give consent to their minor daughter’s abortion

FOCA would erase these laws and prevent states from enacting similar protective measures in the future.”

For more background information on the Freedom of Choice Act, please see his post here.

To sign the petition, CLICK HERE