Sunday, August 27, 2006

Walmart and the Culture War

As part of its initiative to expand beyond its traditional customer base, Walmart has partnered with gay activist groups. It appears that the substance of the partnership involves Walmart's desire to attract suppliers with gay and lesbian persuasions. As expected, there are protests from Christian family oriented groups like Family Research Council (FRC).

I'm often grateful for the activism of groups like the FRC but I do wonder how I should evaluate the merits of battling corporations like Walmart over internal corporate policies.

Part of my apprehension stems from the sheer volume of issues pertaining to moral or ethical positions that we are faced with everyday. With the rapid pace of communication today enhanced by email blasts and blogs, information from the front lines of the "culture war" can be absolutely innundating. If you don't believe me, check out sites like the Family Research Council and American Family Association. You'll soon discover that there is a continuous stream of issues pertaining to sanctity of life, media standards, homosexuality, sanctity of marriage, ... the list goes on. The problem isn't with fine groups like FRC but rather how an individual Christian should interact with such information. The subtle danger in responding to every clarion call of the culture war is that we can be distracted from the primary purpose of our lives to proclaim the gospel and live in the good of it everyday. There are going to be critical issues like the pro-life position that require a definitive stand but not every issue carries that weight and importance.

Another consideration is the manner by which we engage the opposing position. Protests or threats of boycotts are acceptable approaches to make our point but not the only ones available to us. They may not even be the most effective ones in every instance. Using phrases like "culture war" is useful in rallying the Christian base but not always helpful in thoughtfully and humbly engaging the opposition. Too often the rhetoric accompanying the approach seems adversarial rather than engaging.

Finally, I believe that looking for opportunities for the gospel is vital. The apostle Paul upon encountering widespread idolatry in Athens is described in Acts 17 as "greatly distressed". His response? "He reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there" (v. 17)
He looked for opportunities to present the gospel from the context of the culture. He used the evil practice of idolatry as a window to preach the gospel. (v.22 - v. 31).

Back to Walmart and their current initiative - not every Christian will judge this as a weighty matter to contend for, since the policy is not explicitly externalized to the buying community. However, if we choose to respond, making our position known by humble appeal rather than adversarial threats will not only be more effective, it'll render a better testimony of the grace we've received.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Preparing for Mondays

Lately, I've found myself struggling to enter the week with a joyful heart. I sit somewhere in the middle between burdened by discouragement and genuine gladness of heart - essentially uninspired, lethargic and not particularly amazed at God's grace.

It's not a particularly good attitude to carry forward into the week. So by God's help, I'm hoping for change this week and taking a cue from how 19th century pastor, George Mueller prepared for Mondays (actually, it's how he prepared for every day) -

"According to my judgement the most important point to be attended to is this: above all things see to it that your souls are happy in the Lord. Other things may press upon you, the Lord's work may even have urgent claims upon your attention, but I deliberately repeat, it is of supreme and paramount importance that you should seek above all things to have your souls truly happy in God Himself! Day by day seek to make this the most important business of your life. "

Think you have responsibilities? George Mueller was a man of immense responsibility, overseeing care for more than 2000 orphans - all this accomplished without government assistance, personal wealth or corporate sponsorships. Despite his many noble responsibilities, he placed as his highest priority to have his heart happy in God, each and every day.

How did he go about pursuing and practicing this? He offers an important hint by the following quote:

"But in what way shall we attain to this settled happiness of soul? How shall we learn to enjoy God? How to obtain such an all-sufficient soul-satisfying portion in him as shall enable us to let go the things of this world as vain and worthless in comparison? I answer, This happiness is to be obtained through the study of the Holy Scriptures. God has therein revealed Himself unto us in the face of Jesus Christ."

I'm applying this by looking to God to reveal himself through his word. In particular, I'm looking for the portrait of Jesus Christ in the passages I read, reminding myself of his work of sacrifice on the cross, meditating on his love. I'm doing so with confidence that my lethargic heart is no match for God's inspired words to me. Here's what God graciously turned up for me in Psalms 130:3-4

If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.

Buried in the Book of Psalms, is this wonderful gospel picture, speaking of God's holiness, our depravity and his provision of forgiveness. I'm meditating on those verses together with 2 Cor 5:21.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Today, I'm focusing on that bit of good news till I get happy in God.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Every Day Together is a Gift From God

Today , Kathy and I celebrate our 17th wedding anniversary. Here's what we looked like on our wedding day. After 17 years and three kids, it's nice to remember that we were young once.

Last night as we were reflecting upon our marriage, gratitude welled up in our hearts. We're amazed at how God has lavished his grace upon us - to keep us from evil, to help us in our weaknesses and to multiply our joys.

For the past five years, we've lived with this motto - "every day together is a gift from God".
Every day we laugh together and cry together... every day we worship together and serve together...every day we have conflicts and resolve conflicts...each and every day we live together is a gift and we're grateful.

We didn't always think that way but confronting mortality, however briefly, has a way of bringing things into focus. Kathy's bout with cancer five years ago was a means for God to infuse that truth in our hearts and strange as it seems, we're glad for the lesson.

I'm grateful for Kathy.

"We love because he first loved us" 1 John 4:19

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The IBM PC Turns 25

This past Saturday August 12th, marked the 25th anniversary of the IBM PC. While there were other personal computers prior to the PC, it was IBM that took the idea of the personal computers mainstream. Since its introduction in 1981, the PC and its many variants have changed the way we work, play and communicate.

I thought I'd commemorate the occasion with a few random thoughts on technology. How should we as Christians, think about technology, its role and influence on our daily lives? Here are my thoughts -

First, we should consider the invention and development of technology as a gift from God. Even among Christians who love and live technology, it's not a view commonly considered. Unfortunately,we too often credit the advancement of technology to the ingenuity of man rather than the common grace of our Maker who enables such advancement.

Second, computing and communications technology has made the gospel more readily accessible to areas and populations that were previously unreached or limited in some way. Undoubtedly, technology such as the Internet has been used to propagate pornography and accentuate other societal ills. However, it's also been used for good. Chief among the good applications of technology is the advancement of the gospel and other Christian content.

Finally, it's probably just as important to recognize the inherent limitations of technology. The Internet is no substitute for gathering with the saints every Sunday. Chat rooms and blogs cannot replace pastoral care and accountability. Even the gospel is best communicated in person, its truths proclaimed and lived out rather than explained over email.

After all, you can't replicate the hugs and greetings you get on a Sunday morning with simply a computer and broadband connection... at least not yet.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Making Much of Christ from 8 to 5

I didn't post last week due to an exceptionally busy week but I'd like to pick up where I left off. Thanks for those who contributed with comments on how they make much of Christ in their workplace. There were some excellent thought provoking comments.

Here's what John Piper has to say on the topic from Chapter 8 of his book Don't Waste Your Life -

1. We can make much of God in our secular job through the fellowship we enjoy with him throughout the day in all our work.

2. We make much of Christ in our secular work by the joyful, trusting, God exalting design of our creativity and industry.

3. We make much of Christ in our secular work when it confirms and enhances the potrait of Christ's glory that people hear in the spoken gospel.

4. We make much of Christ in our secular work by earning enough money to keep us from depending on others, while focusing on the helpfulness of our work rather than financial rewards.

5. We make much of Christ by earning money with the desire to use our money to make others glad in God.

6. We make much of Christ in our secular work by treating the web of relationships it creates as a gift of God to be loved by sharing the gospel and by practical deeds of help.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Free for All Friday

Every now and again, I'll be running what I've decided to call a "Free for All Friday". Here's how "Free for All Friday" works - on a given Friday, I will post a quote or pose a question or briefly raise a provocative topic....then wait for comments. The idea is I'd like to hear your thoughts on a topic or quote so please, please, please don't leave me hanging.

For the first "Free for All Friday", I'd like to draw your attention to Chapter 8 of John Piper's book, Don't Waste Your Life entitled "Making Much of Christ from 8 to 5". He makes six points on how to make much of Christ in our secular work but never mind about his points for now...we'll cover those later. I'm interested in your answer to the following questions:

How can a Christian worker in the marketplace make much of Christ from 8 to 5?

or to personalize it...

How do you make much of Christ from 8 to 5?

Please share your thoughts.