Me with my lovely wife, Kathy:

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Benedict Option, Minds That Have Been Closed, and Lions In Waiting:

The "Benedict Option" is a concept that has been fairly big lately in the online neighborhood where I hang out.
Breakpoint recently interviewed Rod Dreher, who has written about the concept.

Click here for a brief commentary, and/or here for  1/2 hour  interview with Dreher.  

I appreciate Dreher and Breakpoint encouraging this conversation.  I look forward to hearing from others about how Christians need to live according to a different standard than the "over-culture" that dominates our society.  In the past we Christians in the USA--others will need to calibrate their own communities--have lived in a culture that was still clearly marked by a system of Christian ethics.  Even the "evil" people in our culture acknowledged the morality of the mores they violated.  "I know I should, but don't."  What has changed in the past few years is that now the majority culture is looking at what could be called "traditional values," or what I would call, "values built on the left-overs of a Biblical worldview"--the standard by which the Cleaver family lived, or what what was more formally called "civic religion," and saying that is evil.  I read somewhere a while back that it used to be that our neighbors didn't like Christians who take the Bible seriously because we talked about sin too much.  Now the same culture looks at us and says "I don't like you because what you believe is sinful."
In The Closing of the American Mind, Allan Bloom spoke of students in the prestige colleges of the day as believing in only one virtue, openness.  The young leaders who were being trained in the era Bloom spoke of have spawned the college, high-school, and elementary teachers who have shaped our world.  As the mono-virtue of openness/acceptance has permeated our society, we have passed through the live-and-let-live phase to a new standard.  It is not sufficient to give someone the freedom to do that to which I object, now I must fully embrace and rejoice in others expression of their freedom to do as they please.  Not only must one obey Big Brother, one must love Big Brother. Since those of us who take the Bible seriously cannot be accept that which God's word rejects we are the evil ones.     
The situation in which we find ourselves is not new.  Christians in the Roman Empire were accused of being atheists.     
As Christians became more numerous, and their beliefs more well known, the charges of immorality became harder to sustain. But one accusation is repeated time and time again- "Atheism"; rejection of the tutelary deities of their communities. This was a very serious matter; deities were believed to bring good fortune to a town, and slighting them might bring down their wrath. According to Tertullian: "If the Tiber reaches the walls, if the Nile does not rise to the fields, if the sky doesn’t move or the earth does, if there is famine, if there is, plague, the cry is at once: "The Christians to the lion!"" Outbreaks of persecution often coincided with natural disasters. Earthquakes in Asia in 152, and an outbreak of plague in Alexandria at the time of Origen, were blamed on the Christians. Around 270, Porphry blamed the plague in Rome on the fact that the temple of Aesculapius had been abandoned for the Christian churches. This sort of accusation was persistent; as late 419, Augustine wrote "The City of God" to prove that Christians hadn’t caused the fall of Rome by slighting the old gods. The charges of atheism and immorality help explain the hatred of the mob for Christians, evidenced in the pogroms in places such as Smyrna and Lyons.  (
 We are the new atheists.  We reject the god of absolute autonomy.  We can no longer live as if things haven't changed.  They have.

Or, maybe not.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Praying for the welfare of my city, even if I don't live there.

Though I have never really lived in the country, I think there is country in my bones.  My parents, and as far as I can tell all my ancestors were country-folk, farmers and such.  I have enjoyed time in
cities.  I've been privileged to visit Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Prague, Rome & Florence in Italy, Alamaty Kazakhstan, Dresden Germany,  Jerusalem, Athens, and Corinth in Greece, Quito Ecuador, Austin Texas, and Washington DC.  In addition to those notable places, I've enjoyed time in some smaller, but impressive in their own right, cities like Roanoke VA, Ibarra Equador, and Neuva Ocatepeque Honduras, and College Station TX.  For all my adult life I've lived in a mill-town in the mountains of Virginia, that though technically a city, is quintessential, small-town America.
If you give me a box of crayons, though, and a piece of paper and ask me to draw the ideal place to live, it is none of the above.  Likely it would be a place on a lake, situated so the sun would rise over mountains behind the house, and set across the water spread out before my spacious front porch.  No antelope in my art-work, but deer would roam there.  If you pressed me for details, though, somewhere, just out of sight, far enough away that I couldn't hear or see it, there would be a city--a city where my wife could shop, where I could take her on a nice date, go to concerts and see lovely architecture.  I'd like for there to be a baseball team there--triple A would do.  There ought to be places to work and learn.  The college there ought to have a noble laureate on faculty.  The signs, as you come into town should boast "Home of . . ."

In other words I want the benefits of city, I just don't want to live there.

Sound familiar?

I was brought up short, along these lines, this morning as I was studying 1 Timothy 2, getting ready for Sunday's message.  I Timothy 2 has a strong emphasis on praying for our community and our leaders.

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. . . . Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension. (1 Timothy 2:1–8, NASB95)     
This led me to consider Jeremiah's instructions to a group of exiles,
‘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 have welfare.’ (Jeremiah 29:7, NASB95)
I confess, I tend to think of cities in a somewhat negative light--"Nice places to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there."  Cities, however, when done right, are places that produce great works.  As people pool their resources, talents, dreams, and hard work, great things emerge.  That is, if those people are able to "lead tranquil and quiet lives."  On the other hand, some of the recent unrest in cities, reminiscent of the late sixties, reminds us that piling people together without the benefit of that which fosters tranquility and quiet, is like piling oily rags in the furnace room.  Sooner or later . . .

All of us, whether we live at the end of a dirt road or in a high-rise looking down on millions, ought to be praying for our nations, our leaders, out communities.  And for all of us that includes our cities--those engines of culture and influence that drive culture.

Trevin Wax suggests some ways to pray for our cities:
Below I have listed out prayers that we have recently been utilizing to pray for our city. My prayer even now, is that the Lord would use these to glorify Himself in the redemption and renewal of your city.
  • Sunday - That the Gospel would be boldly and unashamedly proclaimed in our local churches. That our churches would be places for the broken, unwanted and hurting. That Christ will be offered as the only remedy for the very thing we cannot do, make our selves better or save ourselves.
  • Monday - Pray that Romans 8:35-39 would become a reality. Pray for yourself, for your family, for your pastors, for your church. That our hope would be found in Christ and in Christ alone and that his hope would produce Gospel boldness in our lives.
  • Tuesday - Pray Matthew 6:10 over your city. Spend this day replacing the word “earth” with the name of your city… for me it is “In Charlottesville as it is in heaven”.
  • Wednesday - Pray that the Spirit would weed out the sin in your life that has kept you from living a life on mission. That He would open up opportunities for you to be present and intentional with the gospel in your neighborhood. Pray for your neighbors by name.
  • Thursday - Pray boldly Psalms 33:8 over your city.  The the people would stand in awe before Him.
  • Friday - Pray Habakkuk 3:2 over your city. That the Lord’s love, wrath, justice and mercy would be made known in the City.
  • Saturday: Pray that the Lord would increase our burden for our city. That our love and growth in the Gospel would produce a desire to see others saved, and grow in their love and understanding of who God is, what He has done and what He is doing.
You can read his entire blog post here.