Yearly Archives: 2023

Becoming Thoughtful, Part 1

For more than two decades, I have been known to some as a “Messenger to the Thoughtful.” This is not an exclusive club, but an invitation to conversation that is not merely retweeting headlines. My life has been enriched by the insights of many as we have explored serious issues, laughed and wept at the human condition, and sought hope is a world full of anxiety.

Later this year, I will publish a new book, with the working title, Thoughtful, inviting readers to a 40-day journey from unfiltered reactions to thoughtful responses. In these two essays, I want to offer a preview of five key ideas guiding this process. Hopefully, these will be helpful as we process the deluge of data coming at us from all sides (and even from our own imaginations!).

Our first step in the journey to thoughtfulness is deciding ahead of time what foundational convictions we will not compromise. For example, a devout Christian will not waver concerning the authority of the Bible, the truthfulness of Jesus death and resurrection, and the need for all to find salvation in Christ. There is much room for prudential diversity and interpretation, but God’s commands are not suggestions and the truth of Christ crucified and risen is not up for debate, apart from kind and thoughtful interfaith dialogues. This step also includes essential moral axioms that are not subject to the whims of culture, from integrity to sexual sanity, true equality of all people, and deep concern for the vulnerable.

Our second step is processing our reactions to circumstances and the news of the day. We will have reactions, and many will not be pretty! Our first reactions are not sinful, IF we then process them well. There are some public figures we endure, and others we enjoy. Sometimes we hear ideas and recoil, thinking, “How can anyone believe that?!” We must take a moment before responding publicly (apart from lamenting tragedies and joyful celebrations), and ask why we are responding in certain ways. Sometimes we are feeling deep moral outrage at injustice. We should not apologize for this, even though our responses must be measured. Sometimes our emotional reaction is personality preference or irritation…and in these cases, we must pause (and pray for them) before responding. Some reactions come from deeper places, including subconscious and unconscious influences. For example, a story of abuse and violence will touch all of us, but a victim will feel it more acutely.

Processing reactions can be instant, or it can take time. But it is vital for our emotional health and for our eventual contributions to the culture. So much public discourse is infected with reactionary and repetitive nonsense. We must live in the opposite spirit and pursue the good, even if it means swimming upstream.

Deciding ahead of time and processing reactions well are first steps toward a life of thoughtfulness that will help us and others thrive. Next week we will explore three more steps that will help us contribute to the common good.

Certainties for 2023, Part 2

As we look ahead to a new year, there are often feelings of hope and trepidation, a sense of a fresh start battling with nascent fatalism that wonders if life can change. The good news is that while we cannot control all the decisions of others or the events around us, we can prayerfully make wise decisions. Here are four more certainties for the coming year.

Fourthly, apocalyptic climate change propaganda will continue, along with reasoned pushbacks that call for environmental sanity that does not impoverish the working classes around the world. Global prosperity will always include a carbon footprint, and only elites sheltered from economic realities are promoting draconian policies. Thoughtful women and men will call for both/and approaches that sustain economies while developing amazing new technologies.

A fifth certitude is that many women and men will question traditional religious values and “deconstruct” their faith, while millions more find the freedom of the gospel. This paradox is reflected in the New Testament as the writers expect global evangelization and great apostasy, with awakenings matched by persecution. Serious Christians and healthy local churches will be places of intellectual, spiritual, and social refuge for women and men searching for meaning and truth. God hears the prayers and records the tears of millions crying out for an awakening.

Sixth, the gender chaos of the LGBTQIA+ movements will continue, but thoughtful men and women will offer nuanced responses to this anarchy, and its deliberate recruitment of vulnerable children and adolescents. Underneath the social trends is the deconstructionism of post-modern and Marxist ideologues that desire the end of the biological family and the remaking of human persons as transhuman group members, rather than male and female individuals with freedom. The good news is that reasonable people are seeing through the nonsense and offering ways forward that allow adults liberty while shielding children from nefarious agendas.

Finally, the new year offers an invitation from God to all: will we find our identity, peace, and rest through faith in Christ, or will we pursue our own idols and finish another year in frustration? Five questions that can help us as we aim for a flourishing life: 1) Will we live in humble reverence before God or make self-fulfillment our chief aim? 2) Will we allow the Lord to heal and bring hope, or will we wallow in fatalism? 3) Will we relate to others with love and wisdom, or see people only as a means to an end? 4) Will we discover and articulate a life mission that honors God and serves others, or live for momentary pleasures? And 5) Will we offer each day of work as an act of worship, or merely trudge along and live for Friday night? For more on these dimensions of life, go to www.discipleshipdynamics.com and discover the abundant life Christ has designed for each of us.

Please join me in welcoming the challenges and opportunities ahead. We are not alone. Our Lord is with us, and there are millions of faithful and thoughtful sisters and brothers praying for and with us.

Certainties for 2023, Part 1

Futurists and prognosticators, social influencers and trend-setters are all making their predictions about the new year. From color palettes and wardrobes, to political battles and economic fortunes, there is no lack of “data” available as we surf the internet.

In these essays, I want to share some certainties about the year ahead that can inform our personal decisions and influence our communities. I am not claiming divine revelation, but I hope they reflect divine wisdom. I have considered biblical principles and historical insights, the inputs of women and men I trust, and observations of the human condition informed by reflection.

These certainties can change, if key players in particular dramas make foolish or wise decisions. While I trust the overarching providence of God, I also believe that humankind’s freewill introduces contingencies that alter the trajectory of both persons and nations. For example, a child with few prospects and raised in abuse and poverty is mentored by a caring woman or man and learns wise decision making. What was “inevitable” is now forever changed for the better.

Here are seven certainties as we enter 2023, and ideas for thoughtful responses:

First, many will keep defending their ideology-driven narratives, despite facts and information challenging their assertions. The public square will continue being a contentious place and many will engage in projection as they accuse opponents of “disinformation.” Thoughtful women and men must humbly investigate, reflect, and offer principled responses, regardless of the noise around them.

Second, economic uncertainty and opportunity will continue. We are in the midst of epoch- changing global and local upheavals, with the rise of the gig economy, a generation of frustrated college graduates, and changes in the types of jobs that pay sustainably. The “great resignation” is real – and many will have to re-enter the workforce with lower expectations. These harsh realities are offset with opportunities as our global and local economies continue supporting creativity and innovation. If we are people of character who know our charisms and are willing to gain new competencies, the future is challenging and encouraging.

A third certainly in our world will be the rise of histrionic and irrational antisemitism as protest groups go beyond critiques of Israeli policies (which are part of Israel’s own contentious public square) and morph into historical eliminationism and anti-Jewish screeds. “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free” does not mean a peace settlement with states living in harmony. It means the destruction of Israel and extermination of Jews. Fortunately, Israel is a robust democracy, a “start-up nation” and a dynamic partner in energy and technology. She will weather these storms.

Next week, we will share four more certainties. For now, it is vital that we decide ahead of time to turn our hearts toward our Lord, keep our heads, and be slow to speak. Thoughtful persons take time to process reactions and consider responses.