Thursday, July 31, 2014

What Legalizing Marijuana Teaches Me About Christian Liberty

I am writing this post from beautiful southern Colorado where I spend a week every year with my husband's family. This is the first time I've been here since the state legalized marijuana last year, and it's kind of weird to think that I could just go to a store and buy pot if I wanted to. It's hard for me to get my head around the fact that something I have always categorized as "bad" and "dangerous" is now considered normal, natural, and completely legal.

I've never done a drug in my life - for lots of reasons, a big one being I didn't want to break the law. So, now that the law prohibiting its use in Colorado has been abolished, it got me thinking (hypothetically, I assure you), why wouldn't I try it while I'm here? I mean, since I'm legally free to do it, what's the big deal?

Well, for one thing, there are serious health issues to consider. You are four times more likely to have a heart attack in the hour after smoking marijuana. Pot smoke is 50-70% more carcinogenic than tobacco smoke. THC has been linked to greater incidences of psychosis, depression and anxiety. So there's that.

Furthermore, I wouldn't want to upset my husband, since he would be opposed to the idea, or set a bad example for my nieces who are here with us. I wouldn't want to get behind the wheel and endanger others on the road. So there are social ramifications to consider, as well.

Here's my point: Even though it is completely legal for me to smoke pot in Colorado, I still choose not to because it's not beneficial for me to do so.

And therein lies the theological principle.

God's Word says we have been released from the Old Testament law with all its rules and regulations because Jesus set us free. Now, incredibly, all things are permissible for us. (Romans 7:6, 1 Cor. 6:12)  However, just because we are free to do what we want doesn't mean that everything is good for us. 1 Corinthians 6:12 in the Amplified Bible nails it,

“Everything is permissible (allowable and lawful) for me; but not all things are helpful (good for me to do, expedient and profitable when considered with other things). Everything is lawful for me, but I will not become the slave of anything or be brought under it power.” 

Even though we are no longer under the Law and are permitted to do all things, it doesn’t mean that we should. Just like smoking pot would be bad for me, sinful behavior is detrimental to our spiritual lives and can lead to devastating consequences.

When we truly understand what Christian liberty means, our motivation changes. Our obedience becomes an expression of our love for God, not just a legalistic obligation. Remember Jesus' words in Matthew? He said that the two greatest commandments were to 1) love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and 2) to love our neighbor as ourselves. In fact, he said that all the laws hang on these two commandments. As U2 put it, "Love is the higher law."

If we are seeking to live lives of freedom from the law yet obedient to Christ, the best rule of thumb is to ask yourself, "Is what I'm doing the best way to love God, others, and myself?"

Thursday, July 24, 2014


Israeli soldiers at Gaza border on July 23rd
photo credit: Mendy Henchman/Flash90
 Today is the 17th day of fighting between Israel and Hamas. Israel continues to bombard the Gaza Strip in hopes of halting rocket fire and destroying a network of tunnels used by Hamas to smuggle weapons into Israel. Meanwhile, the death toll rises on both sides.

As I read the news, what strikes me about Israel is their unwavering courage. They stand and fight for their land while surrounded by nations who want to wipe them off the face of the earth. I am inspired because, like Israel, I fight battles of my own.

The bombardment I endure is of a different nature than that of Israel. The weapons threatening me are not missiles or tunnels; yet they take their best shot at me and attempt to burrow their way into my soul:


Like emotional terrorists, these enemies attack without warning and without mercy. As I feel them closing in on me I cower in fear. I retreat, withdrawing from the world, and try to hide myself in a cave of isolation. But then I hear the Lord calling to me,

Get up, my child. Get up and fight.

Reluctantly, tentatively, I get up off the floor, reach for my sword and begin reading. The words are written about Israel but they are mine to claim as well:
  • “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Jeremiah 29:11

  • “You will arise and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to show favor to her; the appointed time has come.” Psalm 102:13
  • “You are awesome, O God, in your sanctuary; the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people.” Psalm 68:35
  • “…no weapon formed against you shall prosper…” Isaiah 54:17

I feel new strength begin to arise in me. But it’s not my own strength, for that was exhausted long ago. This is something coming from outside myself, or more accurately, from a place deep within me yet is not me. It is the same strength that raised Jesus from the dead and the same strength that has protected the Jewish people for the last 4000 years. 

It is the Lord Himself.

And I remember that – like Israel - I am not alone in my battle. There is One who fights with me and for me. I have a God who is bigger than my enemies. He wants my soul to prosper and gain victory over the things with which I am contending.

But the story gets even better. My victories are not just for my benefit, and neither are Israel’s. They are a sign to the world that our God is big and powerful and faithful. They are an invitation for the whole world to get to know the God who saves. Indeed, at the cross all men – Palestinian and Israeli, Jew and Gentile - are invited to discover the salvation found in Jesus Christ, and in doing so to become one holy people.

What about you? Are you in the midst of a battle? Look to the promises written for you in God’s Word, and arise in new strength. Watch as the Lord makes you a sign of His faithfulness to those around you.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Conclusion: Talkin Bout My Generation

Well, hopefully you’ve enjoyed our tour of the generations. Every generation is unique, and it’s fun to see what makes each one tick.

Over the past few weeks, we identified how the spiritual climate has changed in America in the last three quarters of a century. Whereas two generations ago our country could be defined as a Christian nation, today we have completed a change that re-categorizes us as decidedly post-Christian.

So where does that leave us today?

I firmly believe that this is not the end of the story for the American church, for God is always superintending history to ensure the furtherance of the gospel. As I theorized in my post, “The 500-year Pattern of Reformation,” twice a millennium God endows His people with the unique purpose of re-forming the church.* If this is true, then the transition we are experiencing in our nation is no accident -- the time of reformation is now, and we are the people!
Icon by

In fact, all of us – from Silents to Millennials – have strongpoints that can be used as building blocks for the vibrant church of the future:

  • Millennials, it’s no coincidence that God has created you – a generation who wants nothing more than to transform the world around them – and placed you perfectly in history in a time of reformation. You have the vision and the drive to start movements that change lives. In fact, sociologists are calling you the Next Greatest Generation because you are exhibiting some of the same altruistic characteristics of the GI generation. We need you to lead us into this new era with your optimism and authenticity. 

  • Generation X, many of us are primed and ready for the reformation. Like Millennials, we are more concerned with organic relationships than institutional loyalty. We are tired of what we consider to be commercialization and programmatic thinking. We are ready to deepen our relationships with God and with other believers.

  • Boomers, since you love to reinvent everything in your path, experts are predicting that you will be at the forefront of ushering in this new movement. Many of you are becoming bored with the institutional church, and that itch to revolutionize is kicking in. What a perfect setup for you to help lead the way forward for the rest of us.

  • Silent Generation, you have the knowledge and wisdom that comes from having grown up in churches with solid Biblical doctrine that can be passed on to the younger generations. You understand the foundational truths of the gospel: the deity of Christ and the authority of Scripture. As the most Biblically literate generation, you have the opportunity to transmit these foundational truths to the rest of us. As I talk to Millennials, a theme I hear over and over is that they want to be discipled, and so you may be a perfect fit for that desire. 

Of course, I’m just scratching the surface as to what is possible. My hope is that an inter-generational dialogue will begin in our nation, one where we explore more fully what each of our contributions might be.

As generations partnering together, we are building the church of the next 500 years. It is time for change, and the change is worth celebrating. It’s an exciting time to be alive!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Talkin Bout My Generation: The GI Generation

This week we take a look at the final generation in our series, The GI Generation, born between 1901 and 1924. As their name implies, they were the brave men and women who served during World War II (GI stands for “Government Issue”) and prior to that struggled through the hardships of the Great Depression. Both of these events profoundly impacted them. The difficulties they experienced brought them together and gave them a collective outlook that said, “I’ve got your back and you’ve got mine.” They valued working toward the greater common good, even if it meant having to give up their personal comfort in the process. They viewed hard work as a privilege and were extremely loyal to their families and employers. Because of their incredible selflessness, Tom Brokaw famously dubbed them “the Greatest Generation.”

Under the GI’s strong leadership, post-war America was re-built into a gleaming modern superpower. It was the GI Generation that built the Empire State Building, the Hoover Dam, and the Golden Gate Bridge. They led the way in winning the Cold War and putting a man on the moon. They ushered in a time of unprecedented economic prosperity known as the Golden Age of Capitalism, which allowed for the security and comfort of the Silent Generation that we discussed last week.

Because they learned to sacrifice when it was necessary, the GI generation was grateful for their material possessions. “Waste not, want not” was a common adage, thus “frugal” might be an appropriate word to describe the GIs. For instance, when my husband’s grandmother was well into her nineties, she still had the mindset of wanting to stretch a dollar as far as it could go. I remember one day as she poured me a cup of coffee she proudly announced, “I made this pot of coffee on Monday, and I just keep reheating it!”  It was Thursday.

Photo credit:

The sense of commitment, sacrifice, and teamwork of the GI Generation extended to their religious life, as well. They were loyal to God and devout in their faith. Their profound need to be part of a collective whole manifested in their finding a place in a mainline denominational church. Church membership provided a link to the larger Christian-American society where they could maintain that sense of “oneness” with which they had been imprinted during the war. In fact, uniformity was so important to the GIs that they had often difficulty with changes made within the church. Writer James Nored explains:

This generation values being together so much because that is how they won World War II - by everyone doing this together. So, for instance, having multiple services is hard for them, as well as small groups…[GIs] equate unity with uniformity. So if people are doing different things at the same time, even if there is no dispute or disharmony, that to this group equals not being unified. *

Today, much of the GI Generation has passed on, but they live on as heroes in our hearts. They were our beloved parents and grandparents, teachers and leaders, and they left a legacy of faith for us to build upon. Regardless of where we go from here as a church and as a nation, we will be standing on the strong shoulders of the Greatest Generation.

Famous GIs: 

Jimmy Stewart
John Glenn
Billy Graham
President George Bush

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Talkin Bout My Generation: The Silent Generation

It was the 1950s. Teenagers slurped milkshakes at drive-in restaurants, and married couples on television shows slept in twin beds. The number one song on the Billboard charts was "At the Hop" by Danny & the Juniors. Poodle skirts and hula-hoops were all the rage. This was the Age of Innocence, the idyllic Eisenhower generation, and it was definitely hip to be square. These were the years that belonged to the Silent Generation.

(Watch Danny & the Juniors whip the girls into a frenzy here:

The Silent Generation was born between 1925 and 1945. Although most of them were too young to participate in World War II, they were on the scene in time to enjoy the peaceful post-war years. They came of age during the 1950s and early 1960s, a time of unprecedented stability in our nation. They married young, moved to the suburbs, worked for the same company for thirty years, and lived the traditional roles of husband, wife, and parent. Growing up they had been told, “Children should be seen and not heard,” and this attitude carried over to adulthood in the form of submission to authority. They respected their elders, their bosses, their country, and their God.

Because of their admirable respect for authority Silents had unwavering faith in the institutional church. In fact, the American church experienced an explosion of growth during the 1950s and 60s. In 1940 around 40% of Americans were affiliated with a church. By 1960 that number had rocketed to 69%. The result was a huge increase in church construction: in 1945 America spent $26 million on new churches; in 1950, $409 million; and in 1960, an astounding $1 billion. Judeo-Christian morality was decidedly “in.”

The Silent Generation held such a pervading Christian worldview that in 1954 the words “under God” were added to the Pledge of Allegiance, and in 1956 newly minted currency proclaimed, “In God We Trust.” Suddenly, “American” and “Christian” were one in the same. Thanks to the Silent Generation the church had achieved mainstream status, driving the cultural norms and setting the moral code. As a result their era as a whole could be characterized by a sense of relative peace, prosperity, security, and comfort. It seemed America was living out the words of Psalm 33:12, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.”  

Unfortunately this stability didn’t last forever, as we saw last week when we discussed how the Baby Boomers exploded onto the scene and began to question the very authorities and institutions the Silents venerated. It’s safe to say that the Silent Generation has lived through more change than the rest of us put together. They have watched our country go from the peaceful post-war growth of the 50s, to the cultural revolution of the 1960s, to the postmodernism of today.

Today, Silents are the ones holding down the fort in terms of the institutional church. Pew Forum reports that 53% attend church regularly, 71% pray daily, and 67% believe religion is “very important to their lives.” These numbers are the highest of all the generations.

Many Silents I know are lamenting the erosion of Christian morality in our nation, and rightly so. Perhaps for the Silent generation - more than any other - the possibility of spiritual renewal and church reformation offers a glimmer of hope and a chance that America might once again be that “shining city on a hill.”