THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER

You have probably heard the saying “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” It means, of course, that one person may think something is beautiful and someone else doesn’t. The idea is that not everyone has the same sense of what is beautiful and what isn’t.

Apparently it’s the same with regard to balls and strikes and other calls at a baseball game. I attended a college baseball game on Saturday and a couple of fans from the visiting team didn’t see the umpires’ calls the way the umpires did. I, on the other hand, being a fan of the home team, fully agreed with each call the umpires made. It seems balls, strikes, tag outs, and force outs are also in the eye of the beholder.

Even if you are not a baseball fan—don’t go to little league, high school, college, professional games, or watch baseball on TV–I’m sure you get the point. The only people who are (in theory) objective observers at a baseball game are the umpires. And there is no guarantee they always get it right! (It’s the same with basketball, football, and other sports that have referees.)

The reality is that people don’t always “see” things the same way. My wife and I don’t always see things the same way. I don’t always see things the same way my friends, many politicians, or authors I read do. When people do not see something in the same way it doesn’t necessarily mean one is right and the other is wrong.

But that is not to suggest that everything is open to how one sees it. Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, and so also may be many other things, but not everything is in the eye of the beholder. Some things are true and right; some things are false and wrong. The error of postmodernism is the premise that there is no absolute truth—no moral right and wrong.

While is it not really new, postmodernism has led to a wider acceptance of relativism. As the term indicates, relativism holds there is no such thing as absolute truth and all viewpoints are equally valid—everything is relative. Christianity, of course, rejects relativism.

But going back to the eye of the beholder, some things are obviously relative. Everything is not totally objective—some things are subjective. Preferences with regard to pizza toppings, hobbies, vacation spots, music, and many other things are relative.

The challenge for us is to not confuse what is absolute with what is relative. What is true and right is true and right; and what is false and wrong is false and wrong. But the way you and I see a lot of things is not necessarily either true and right or false and wrong. You may not agree that what I think is beautiful really is beautiful. Our preferences are relative. Can we keep that in mind?

Feel free to share these thoughts on social media and I welcome comments below.

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HUMBLE AND KIND

(A follow-up to “Do We Need to Be So Harsh?”)

Country music fans will recognize this post’s heading as the title of Tim McGraw’s current number one song. If you’re not a fan of country music don’t worry—I’m not going to include the words or a link to him singing the song. I simply appreciate the song’s challenge to always stay humble and kind.

Who doesn’t need that challenge? I don’t know about you, but I certainly could do better when it comes to humility and kindness. I’m guilty sometimes of thinking more highly of myself that I should (see Romans 12:3).

Because I drive a lot I have XM radio and split my drive time listening to sports, news, and music. And I rotate the music I listen to between oldies but goodies and country. McGraw’s song is one of the few I hear that convicts and encourages me.

It seems to me that the two, humility and kindness, go together. Humble people tend to be kind–and kind people tend to be humble. In my experience, proud people are often cruel—and cruel people are proud.

Consider a couple of synonyms of humble: respectful and submissive. Think about a couple of synonyms of kind: considerate and gracious. I know I need to be more submissive and gracious, more considerate and respectful.

The Bible is clear that followers of Jesus need to cultivate both humility and kindness. Among many passages, four New Testament passages you might consider are Jesus in Luke 14:7-11, Paul’s description of love in I Corinthians 13:4-7, Paul’s list of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22 and 23, and Paul’s call to us within the body of Christ in Ephesians 4:2. Go ahead and take the time to check out those four passages—it won’t take long at all.

When do we need to be humble and kind? And who are the people we need to show humility and kindness? I would suggest we begin with those closest to us—family and friends—and then include everyone with whom we come into contact. I think we should show humility and kindness to people we don’t even know—including those who serve us in so many ways.

It’s not in the Bible, but I note the song challenges us to always stay humble and kind. That suggests we may be humble and kind at one point in our lives only later to abandon those qualities. Or it may suggest that we are generally humble and kind but there are times when we are not. Do either of those suggestions ring true in your life—as they do in mine?

I plan to become kinder and more humble as a way of life. And not because of Tim McGraw’s song, but because I want to live more like the Lord wants me to live. We have to decide that we are going to be humble and kind and then with the Lord’s help do it.

Share these thoughts on social media and feel free to comment below.

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DO WE NEED TO BE SO HARSH?

In reading a lot of opinions and responses lately I am wondering if we need to be so harsh. A lot of it, of course, relates to current political back and forth, but it includes far more than just that. I read a lot of it on Facebook, in periodicals, book reviews, blogs, and a variety of other places. What is particularly unsettling to me is the tone of a lot of writing within the Christian sphere.

What really got my attention was what one author wrote in the revised and updated edition of one of his books. The first edition, published in 2005, dealt with a controversial subject among Bible believing Christians. You can tell how beat up he has been by what he writes in the first chapter of the new edition: “Instead of immediately consigning our opponents to the lake of fire, let’s remember that we love Jesus. Let’s remember that we’re trying to understand Jesus, and worship Jesus, and obey Jesus, and become like Jesus, and share Jesus the very best that we can.”

I don’t want to say what the issue he deals with is because I don’t want it to get in the way of the larger observation I am trying to make. What he writes is a good reminder for everyone who wades into the choppy waters of controversial biblical and theological matters.  

I’m not suggesting we should never critique or refute the ideas and interpretations of others. I just think we should be respectful to those with whom we disagree and not attack their motives. We can be passionate about what we believe and still be gracious in our disagreement.

The reason this bothers me so much is because I have been guilty of it too many times myself. Metaphorically speaking, too many times I have shot the fly on the wall with a bazooka. And while I killed the fly, I also did a lot of unintended damage.

For example, I have some strong opinions when it comes to the meaning of I Thessalonians 4:13-18 and the general purpose of the book of Revelation. In terms of the greater Bible believing community, I hold a minority position with regard to both the purpose of Revelation as well as what many call “the rapture.” There have been times in the past when I was unduly harsh about others in talking about my understanding of “the end times.” What a rebuke it was to me when I read in Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart’s How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth “no one should approach Revelation without a proper degree of humility!” Our harshness towards others often seems a little prideful.

In the church I grew up in we learned a few slogans we claimed defined us. My two favorites were and are “We are Christians Only, but not the Only Christians” and “In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Love.” The first is unique to my church background, but the second is widely used. It comes from a German Lutheran theologian around 1627.

Here’s the challenge: even if we can’t agree on what is essential and non-essential, even if we agree something is essential but don’t have unity on it, we are to be loving. Do we need to be so harsh?

Share this if you think others would benefit from it and I invite comments below.

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REMEMBER THE ROLLING STONES?

“Older” readers no doubt remember the Rolling Stones and most “younger” readers probably have heard their best known song I Can’t Get No Satisfaction (1965). I’ve been reading the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes and could not help but think of the their first number one hit in the US and what is considered by many the greatest song they ever recorded. The writer of Ecclesiastes relates how he did not find satisfaction in work, pleasure, wealth, wisdom, or power.

Ecclesiastes comes right after the book of Proverbs in the Old Testament and both are in the category of wisdom literature. When I read the book of Proverbs I am challenged and encouraged, but when I read the book of Ecclesiastes, if I am not careful, I am confused and almost depressed. Parts of it seem to contradict not only the book of Proverbs, but a lot of the rest of the Bible as well.

The second verse of chapter one declares, “Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless!” The Teacher not only can’t get any satisfaction, he thinks everything is futile and pointless. Most of us have felt the same at times in our lives. But this is the Bible; you can see why I am confused and almost depressed! In their book How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth authors Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart affirm “There is good reason for the reader to be puzzled, because Ecclesiastes is a very difficult book to read.”

Even with the unsettling parts, there are numerous notes of wisdom throughout the book. We just have to read it carefully and with discernment. For example, 3:1 tells us “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” There follows a list of 14 pairs of opposites beginning with “a time to be born and a time to die” and ending with “a time for war and time for peace.”

I appreciate the insight of 4:9 that “two are better than one” and the examples of why that is true that follow: “they have a good return for their labor,” “if either of them falls down, one can help the other up,” “if two lie down together, they will keep warm,” and “two can defend themselves.”

The Teacher’s observation on money and wealth in 5:10 gets my attention: “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.” The wisdom of 7:5 gives us something to consider: “It is better to heed the rebuke of a wise person than to listen to the song of fools.”

In reading the Teacher’s honest assessment of things it’s helpful to keep in mind he is talking about life “under the sun.” Chuck Swindoll notes that life “under the sun” is life without the Lord. The writer of Ecclesiastes doesn’t use the phrase, but Swindoll suggests that to find happiness and meaning in life “we must get above the sun”—by including God and faith in our lives.

Philip Yancey sums up the book, “Ecclesiastes endures as a work of great literature and a book of great truth because it presents both sides of life on this planet: the promise of pleasures so alluring that we may devote our lives to their pursuit, and then the haunting realization that these pleasures ultimately do not satisfy.”

The conclusion of the book provides perspective, a warning, and a challenge: “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil” (12:13 and 14).

It all reminds me of a question Jesus asked, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Mark 8:36). We might ask ourselves where we are looking for satisfaction and where we can find it.

I invite and welcome your comments below. Also share this post on social media if you think others would appreciate it.

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IT STILL HURTS

Eighteen months ago I stepped down from the church I planted and led as pastor for 30 years. Since then numerous people have asked me how I am doing. Here’s my response: I’m doing well and I believe I made the right decision, but it still hurts.

Our elders and I planned and carried out the transition over the period of about three years. I knew leaving the place, the people, and the wonderful privilege of doing what I was doing—all of which I loved so much–would be a loss to me. I just didn’t know then how big a loss it would be.

I read something yesterday that gave me some insight into my loss. The authors suggested that being a pastor is a role in which many place their entire identity in the job; and when they let go they feel they have lost their identity. I suspect that partially explains the loss I felt but it’s about much more than my identity.

Early in the last 12 months of my ministry I read a book entitled A Grace Disguised by Jerry Sittser. It’s about the tragic experience of the deaths of his wife, mother, and daughter in a car accident. My loss in leaving Discovery Christian Church pales in comparison to his loss, but his book was a great help. Inside the front cover I wrote “reread chapter 6—good for any loss.”

In the preface to the first edition of his book Sittser wisely observes “Sooner or later all people suffer loss, in little doses or big ones, suddenly or over time, privately or in public settings. Loss is as much a normal part of life as birth.”

Is there anyone who will read this post who has not experienced loss? I distinctly remember the loss I felt both the night I graduated from high school and the afternoon I graduated from college. I remember the loss I felt when I left Bridgetown Church of Christ as youth minister and when I left Delaware Valley Church of Christ as minister. When I think back on those times of loss I still feel some sadness even though I had something new just ahead.

During our almost 42 years of our marriage Jan and I have had three dogs we loved and love who were all an important part of our family, two of which have died. Readers who have had beloved pets know the pain of losing one.   

One of the greatest losses we experience is the death of a loved one. At the age of 65 I have lost numerous relatives including both my parents as well many friends who meant much to me. During my years as a local church pastor I led many funeral and memorial services and shared the grief of those left behind. One thing I often said to a surviving spouse that I hope became helpful was “You’ll never get over this. With the passing of time you will adjust, but you will never get over your loss.”

In the preface of his book Sittser suggests it is not “the experience of loss that becomes the defining moment of our lives” but “how we respond to loss that matters.” Like I used to tell surviving spouses, Sittser says his “book is not intended to help anyone get over” their loss. His “aim is not to provide quick and painless solutions, but to point the way to a lifelong journey of growth.”

It hasn’t been easy, but I think I have grown through every loss I have experienced so far. And I know I will experience more losses in the years ahead. How I respond has been and will continue to be what matters. But even though I have grown through my losses, including my stepping down from Discovery, it still hurts.

If you think others would appreciate these thoughts share them on social media. And feel free to leave a comment below or send me an email (bobmmink.com).

Photo courtesy of the boy’s mother, my daughter.

GOD’S NOT DEAD 2

I saw the second God’s Not Dead film last night and enjoyed it. But the fact that I enjoyed doesn’t mean you would.

For many Christians the movie will be inspirational, scary, funny, angering, and uplifting. But other believers will see it as corny, cheesy, predictable, and overblown.

For most people the movie will reinforce what they already believe.

I don’t think God’s Not Dead 2 will be helpful or effective in leading those who do not believe to faith. However, for unbelievers who are open, it could be useful in challenging them to greater consideration of the Christian faith.

There are a couple of powerful scenes with Christian apologists and authors Lee Strobel (The Case for Christ) and J. Warner Wallace (Cold-Case Christianity) on the witness stand.

Again, I enjoyed it, but I am not recommending or discouraging anyone see or not see it.

If you saw it or do see it I’d like to hear what you thought as I’m sure others would too.

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