SKOPOS is the Greek word for focus, to view, or to aim. In this editorial, Brett will take topics of leadership, morality, growth, life, etc., focus in on them and hope to provide some insight, or at minimum, thought provoking opinion. We hope you enjoy and are challenged!
I’ve been holding my tongue (keyboard) lately. I have seen several bloggers and so-called internet-theologians (save that for another day) write about the recent happenings regarding ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
Quite frankly, some of what has been written in the name of “a Christian response” really bothers me. I really have a hard time even writing about how much it bothers me without a whole smorgasbord of frustration coming out at once. In an effort to keep this brief, I’ll only come at this from two points. First, the theological:
In recent months, too many have posted pseudo high-minded articles about how we are supposed to “love our enemies”, “not seek vengeance”, “love as Jesus loved” and a whole host of misplaced anecdotal themes. The article would go something like: it’s easy for us to hope for vengeance and be angry, but as Christians, we are called to love our enemies… and on and on it goes.
I think the bible draws a clear difference between personal responsibility to “love our enemies” and governmental responsibility to enact justice (Romans 13:1-5). The two are very different.. On the personal side, “loving” your enemies, doesn’t mean you let them commit absolutely disgusting and despicable acts while something can be done about it. “Loving them” means that you grieve for their souls, but support removing them from this earth so that they can no longer rape, torture people, and kill babies; that justice sure does seem like a righteous act to me! All throughout the bible, God calls on governments as the arms of His justice. We need to be careful not to apply our personal Christian responsibility to what God has ordained as His method of justice here on earth.
Secondly, as mentioned above, I’m weary of the pseudo-theology that is permeating social media. If you’ve taken a few classes or self-studied and think you’ve got it all figured out, think again. 2,000 years of church history…and you’re the one that’s finally figured it out? Nope. (And, I’m not either). This topic could go on forever, so I’ll leave it at that for now.
The reality is the issue of military action, governments, terrorism, fighting back against terror, etc., is enormously complex…both from a governmental point of view and from a personal-biblical perspective. I find it odd that the very same Christians who always champion being relevant to culture, totally make themselves irrelevant by not showing righteous anger at horrible injustices. I guess maybe it comes from trying to be “edgy” by being anti-establishment or hipster, but to normal, everyday-people, it appears arrogant, removed, and unreal. How can any human being with a moral conscience not want justice to be brought upon ISIS?
Sometimes, I wish I’d never heard of Facebook… but, I guess iron sharpens iron.
Finally, if you’re reading this and you don’t call yourself a Christian (Christ-follower), I’m sorry you had to sit in on a family debate. However, know that Jesus loves you, we love you and the one thing we all agree on…is that God wants to know you through His son, Jesus. Email WDCX for more info…
Have you ever been worn out? I’m not talking about the kind of tired that comes after a good workout. And, I’m not talking about when work or school has you tired from a crazy a week. I’m referring to more of a deep, just about had it, kind of feeling. One where you feel like you just need about a month to go to the woods and just walk, think, and decompress.
To be transparent, that happens to me at times. To be even more transparent, working in Christian work/ministry can be really tough. It is so easy to get discouraged and frustrated with our brothers and sisters in the Church. I have the unfortunate pleasure of seeing the ugly side of Christian organizations from time to time. Yes, there is an ugly side to every organization or ministry. They are run by people and people -this side of heaven- are nowhere near perfect and this translates through every organization, Christian or not.
If we (I) are not careful, we can quickly become cynical, disengaged, disinterested, and negative about Christian ministry and work. When that creeps in, we begin looking at people rather than God…when really we should be looking at people THROUGH God. God loves all of us enough to provide unlimited grace and ultimate and instant forgiveness for all of our faults…past, present, and future! When we look through His lens of grace, we begin to have empathy for others, rather than disdain.
I’ve been struggling with this issue lately and this morning Oswald Chamber’s “My Utmost” really helped me renew my spirit. It discussed the significance of clouds and their association with God. Clouds represent our sorrows, struggles, bad circumstances, frustration, frustrating people, etc. Those situations in our lives that seem to contradict God. Yet, it is through those clouds that God is teaching us how to walk by faith. In the Bible, clouds are often associated with God’s presence. The clouds come along with Him, but he always appeared through them and then the clouds seemed to vanish or blur out and the focus then turned to Him.
It’s not that God wants to teach us something through the clouds or our trials; it’s that He wants us to unlearn something. That is, He wants to simplify our relationship with Him and bring us back to that child-like faith where all that matters is Him and the rest of the “noise” is ignored.
So, whatever clouds are in your life today, look for God in them, and then focus on Him. The clouds will blur out and your perspective will change.
A changed perspective often leads to a changed circumstance.
Sweeter As The Days Go By
By: Brett Larson
The news has spread far and wide that little Ben Sauer is "petting Lions" in heaven, as his little brother, Jack, puts it.
This morning, I told our boys that little Ben, whom we prayed for at every meal and every bedtime (and many other times) was now with Jesus. I wondered what questions they would have and if it would make them insecure about their own mortality. They took it as fact and wondered more about what animals he could pet and if bees could sting in heaven. Yup, bees, it's been a frequent topic in our house.
I've experienced this several times with kids and dealing with earthly death. It's very factual and in their hearts, there exist little doubt that Ben is in heaven and with Jesus. It seems this is what Jesus referred to when He talked about a "child-like" faith. (Matt 18:2-4).
How often we over-complicate and distort the simple truth. We try to add our human wisdom and reason to a miraculous God. We all prayed for a miracle here on earth, we desperately wanted Ben to recover, to miraculously beat cancer and we would be able to show the world who God is, what He can do. I caught myself thinking that at times, almost bargaining with the God of the universe that He should heal this little guy so that we can point to Him and show His goodness, even that He's real, He loves. Then I'd catch myself, He's God of the universe, the great I Am, the Beginning and the End; who am I to think that he needs to hit a home run in the bottom of the ninth to prove Himself. He's God. His ways are higher than ours. Without faith, this would be a point of frustration, that God is in control and yet would let this happen. To me, it's a point of comfort. I rest in the fact that He knows better, He has the big picture in view and He is sovereign. I take comfort, realizing He is not subject to mankind's desires, but rather, has eternity- past, present and future, in mind. Who knows what Ben's short life did in terms of Eternity? God knows. Ben is in the best place ever imaginable, perhaps being rewarded for helping more people enjoy paradise in God's presence through his story.
When my brother died suddenly, I remember the sadness, but even more, I remember the sense of certainty it gave me about heaven. Eternity with our loving Creator became more real and a bit sweeter. And now, it has yet again... As time on earth passes, the more tragedy we face causes heaven to get sweeter as the days go by.
But, right now, we mourn the earthly end of a sweet little boy. We cry for the Sauer family and the pain that they have, and will, face. We give latitude and grace for them to question, to cry out, to have any range of emotion they need.
And, we rejoice with Ben. Amazingly, he's the winner, he's having the best time ever and in heaven's time, it'll take less than one day for all of his loved ones to join him! (2 Peter 3:8)
I Thessalonians 4:13
Weak or Strong
By: Brett Larson
It's funny how trends work. They are temporary, but in the moment they seem like eternal necessities. Mom, I HAVE to have those certain sneakers...or clothing.
To keep this short, recently I've noticed a huge trend on leading through your weaknesses or being so open as to let people know your insecurities and fears, etc. While I really do see the value of being honest and transparent with the people following you, I think leaders need to be wise in what and how they share.
For instance, if William Wallace (Braveheart) said something like "follow me into battle...but, I'm not really strong and not really good at holding this sword and make sure you all get around me because I really can't do this..." I'm pretty sure things turn out a little different. Let's take a biblical example, David. David was strong, even when he was a scrawny kid. He was confident in his relationship with God, he was confident in his abilities to fight with a sling, he knew God would watch over him, he didn't waiver. He didn't say, "I'm not real big, I'm not real strong, so if you all think it's a good idea, I'm gonna try to get this mean giant guy." No, it was more like "show me this big goon, so I can kick his tail in the name of God."
Lesson: no one wants to follow someone who's unsure of their abilities or justification for being in a position of leadership. People want to know that you've got the wheel, it's going to be ok and that you're strong enough to complete the task and win. If you're leading a ministry, they want to know that you have the chops to lead them and that you have the relationship with God that will allow you to draw on His strength for success.
So, yes, be transparent, let them know how you will lean on God, let them know where you need them to help you...what areas you're not as good in and what you're working on. BUT, also let them feel that you are strong enough, capable enough, dedicated enough and brave enough to lead them through and help them win.
In God's strength, lead with confidence.
By: Brett Larson
First, I need to apologize as I have neglected SKOPOS for awhile now. It’s not that it isn’t on my mind, it’s just that we’ve experienced a very busy season at WDCX and when I did have time to write, I really didn’t feel like I had much to say that was unique.
Well, unfortunately, now I do. This is going to be an honest post; fair warning has been issued. In my humanity, sometimes I just don’t like what God allows. Let me explain; right now, there is a little 4 yr old boy we know that, barring a miracle, has weeks to live. Brain cancer has attacked him and within literal weeks, he’s in a really bad situation. 4 YEARS OLD!? I barely slept last night, thinking of my own boys and what an absolute nightmare for his parents, devastating, sad, doesn’t even come close to describing the pain. I also found out one of my best friends just lost his brother to a heart attack, at 42 yrs old. He has kids. And, a lady in our church is in very bad shape due to surgery complications.
Ok, getting real here, I really can’t trace God’s hand here. I find myself saying “c’mon God, this is ridiculous, a 4 yr old boy, 4 YEARS OLD!” I find myself a little rocked, feeling a bit like God’s hands are off the wheel.
When my brother died suddenly 11 years ago, I remember asking God “why,” I remember telling Him that I just don’t understand. It didn’t really rock my faith at all, in fact, it strengthened it. And, even now, thinking about that 4 yr old, my faith remains strong, but boy oh boy am I having a hard time seeing anything but destruction toward a godly, strong, sweet family. It’s so hard with only part of the story, so hard with our finite minds. So scary.
I consider myself a pretty tough guy. I’m a country boy, an outdoorsman, I exercise, run tough mudders, etc. There is not much that scares me, physically speaking. But, I admit, I’m scared. I catch myself thinking that God is going to allow another tragedy and then another and pretty soon it’ll be my family’s turn…what’s lurking in our future? I know we are supposed to trust Him…but this family trusted Him and look at the monstrous pain they are going through.
I pray, “Lord, help me, give me a glimpse…I believe, help my unbelief.” I sooooo bad want God to come through with a miracle on this one. I want this so bad for that little boy and family. I am praying without ceasing on this one. Please join me.
Well, before I close, I want you to know that I DO trust God, I trust His plan and I trust his heart. His Word is true, His plan is bigger than our discomfort. He is God, and we are not.
“God is too good to be unkind. He is too wise to be confused. If I cannot trace His hand, I can always trust His heart.”
Even writing this and reading God’s Word, I feel better about trusting that He has this situation in His hand too. From our perspective, we don’t like what’s happening one bit, but the problem is, that’s only our perspective. God’s Word says His ways are higher than our ways…it also asks rhetorically in 1 Corinthians “who can know the mind of God?”
Well, I admit it Lord, I don’t trace Your hand on this one and I don’t know Your mind…but I trust Your heart, and I’m trying to rest in that.
Probably the most hotly contested issue in the US, especially in NY State, is that of the constitution and freedom, with highlights on the second amendment. While I am very pro-Second Amendment, I want to table the “gun issue” itself and dig deeper into the philosophical trade-off of Freedom and Security.
Those who dreamt of America where not fool-hearty or too utopian in their thinking to not understand the risks and insecurity that freedom would bring. With freedom would come the insecurity of not having England’s army to protect them, England’s economy to bolster them, the organizational structure and support, etc. They realized that significant risk was being taken, but that the reward outweighed the risk.
I fear that we Americans no longer have the guts or fortitude to take on the risk, the insecurity, that is inherent with a free society. “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.” You can’t have a risk free, totally secure (physically and financially) society without risk, perhaps significant risk, it just doesn’t happen. Our personal lives are a microcosm testament to that. Take a young person who desires to be a doctor. Doctors make lots of money (typically), so it’s a rewarding profession. Trouble is, you have to take on a lot of risk. Med-school is very expensive, takes a long time, is exhausting. The loans alone are scary and daunting, insurance and a host of other expenses. But, if you can make it through the risk, the reward is great.
Our American society is much the same. Bad things happen…sometimes bad things happen because we are free, less-regulated and more capable. However, overall, our country is still the greatest in the world! We take on considerable INsecurity in order to be a free people. As we continue to lose our determination to be free and no longer accept that insecurity, our freedoms suffer. Bad things happen, then we want new and more laws and freedom erodes. The more we depend on outside entities (gov’t) for our security, success, etc., the more we will lose our freedoms and the reward will diminish. Less Risk, Less Reward…that’s just the way it is.
How about you…how “risky” are you willing to live for your Country? More importantly, how “risky” are you willing to live for God? Are you willing to jump into His care, trust him, risk it all for Him…the reward is great, but the “risk” has to be taken.