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Friday, February 16, 2018

Not Far Away


You can spread the word worldwide in a matter of clicks.

What's far off and not far away at the same time? 

(Far off the mark, that is.)

Click HERE.

If the link does not work, use:

https://issuu.com/christianoverman/docs/not_far_away__an_american_s_lament_

To share "Not Far Away: An American's Lament," simply open it to full screen [by clicking the small square in the lower RH corner of the black reading area], and then click "share" in the upper RH corner.

Easy!

Onward, upward, and outward.



Friday, February 9, 2018

Why The Church Has Remained So Silent


This "two-decker" pulpit rots in an abandoned chapel in Wales, Great Britain. Someone went to a lot of work to fashion this. Today, dogs sniff bird droppings from the rafters.

Photo by ceridwen [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

If the Bible is irrelevant to the most important things taught in school, then it will certainly be irrelevant to the most important things outside of school, too. This is the devilish outcome of dualism. In the end, we all lose. 

Is it any wonder the biblical foundations for law, civil government, economics and family that once provided accepted harbor lights for our society have been replaced? The incessant move toward the secularization of education and the privatization of Christianity has been enormously successful, being expedited greatly through elementary and secondary schools.

Is it any wonder our youth are disinterested in church today, since Christianity is deemed irrelevant to the majority of their waking hours?

By divorcing the Light of God’s Word from language, literature, science, history, civil government, the arts and sports, we have created a Sacred-Secular Divide that has spanned several generations. The free exercise of religion is now defined as freedom of worship, restricted to a building called “church.” 

What’s more, Christianity, being first secularized then privatized, is now being demonized. Christians are branded “intolerant,” “bigots” and “haters.”

What doesn’t make sense is why the Church has remained so silent about the secularization of education. Bible-believing pastors would never tolerate secularized Sunday Schools. Yet to what degree does the silence of their leaders account for the fact that 85-90 percent of Christian parents continue to send their children to secularizing schools that are indoctrinating yet another generation into a dualistic way of seeing life that will only shape their future for ill—and everyone else’s as well?

Sending children to such schools to be “lights in the world” sounds noble, until they come home thinking like their textbooks, making no connection between any academic subject and the bigger picture of God’s Word. In the end, they are quite comfortable thinking Christianity is for church, or one’s personal life, or for getting souls to heaven, but not for directing a business, designing software, or performing civil service in the here-and-now. They become practicing Monday-morning atheists, and think nothing of it.

Our culture is suffering greatly because of this.

As the United States continues its transition from a post-Christian to an anti-Christian culture, churches still stand in the center of town. The congregants are fewer these days, and (as with other Western nations) the virtual disappearance of biblical thought from the public square is not far away. 

Friday, February 2, 2018

When Dualism Reigns


Millions of children from Christian homes are indoctrinated daily in the tenets of Secularismby means of silence from two sides.

Blackcatuk at English Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Separating the Word of God from academics in school has spawned a debilitating yet popular mindset known as “SSD,” or the “Sacred-Secular Divide.” This dualism constricts the Light of Scripture to Sunday morning sermons, and does not apply it to business, law, medicine, art, civil governance or anything else outside the four walls of a church.

A secularized math class that never explores how numbers fit into God’s plan for humans to govern over all of creation, is as senseless as a secularized Sunday School. Once education becomes secularized, God’s Word can then be marginalized, privatized, and made solely personal. 

When dualism reigns, Christianity is not applicable to the public square, or to the daily workplace. It’s only good for Sunday morning services, and nothing beyond.

Regrettably, the secularization of academics can happen in Christian schools as well as state schools, because most Christian school teachers aren’t trained to teach academics in the Light of God’s Word. Few universities provide instruction in this acquired skill. Adding the trappings of chapel services, Bible verses on the wall, and “Spiritual Emphasis Week” will not fix the problem. It can actually magnify the problem, by reinforcing the Sacred-Secular Divide.

And if we think state education is religiously neutral, think again! Millions of children from Christian homes are indoctrinated daily in the tenets of Secularism while the Church remains silent. 

Indoctrinated is the correct word. Because it is indoctrination in the religion of Humanism, which, as John Dewey, the Father of so-called “Progressive Education” maintained, is a non-theistic faith. A man-centered religion.

So, if it is a religious position to teach—or to imply—that God’s Word is relevant to math, science, history and language, is it not also a religious position to teach—or to imply— that God’s Word is not relevant to these subjects? Both are religious positions, guided by one faith or another. 

A teacher does not have to stand in front of a class and say, “the Bible has nothing to do with our subject” to communicate the message that The Book is immaterial. All they need to do is never mention how any subject relates to the overarching Truth of God’s Word, and thus give students the impression that Secularism is true, by never saying otherwise. Are such teachers really being “neutral?"   

This is the underestimated power of silence! For schoolchildren, this silence is far more effective than speech.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Jesus Is Lord Of The Church, But Nothing More


The difficulty isn't obvious to most, and many who attend the church don't even realize there's a problem.

Photo by Batman007 (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

Not far away, in the center of town, stands a large church. The sermons are replete with Scripture, and the congregation has a reputation as “Bible-believing” people. This is why what I’m about to say is so hard to believe.

The difficulty isn’t obvious to most, and many who attend the church don’t even realize there’s a problem.   

It has to do with the Sunday School.

You see, the Sunday School teachers don’t teach the children and youth that the biblical truths taught in the sanctuary are actually true, and applicable to all of life. They don’t want to “impose” Christianity on the next generation, or sway the youth one way or another when it comes to the Bible.

There is no discussion about how the Bible relates to all of life, provides a standard for moral order, or brings meaning to all human endeavor. This sort of teaching is appropriate for the sanctuary, they say, but not for the Sunday School. The rule-of-thumb for Sunday School is, “neutrality in all.”

This matter is never addressed from the pulpit, lest Sunday School teachers take offense. Besides, the vast majority of parents don’t have a problem with the Sunday School. They figure if they do their job at home, there’s nothing to be concerned about.

Does such a Sunday School really exist? No Bible-believing church would tolerate such a program! Yet most churches, and the parents who attend them, see no problem with a Monday-through-Friday educational system that does the very same thing, five days a week, six hours a day.

Let me explain.

If it is not OK for 1 hour on Sunday to give young people the idea that God’s Word plays a “neutral” role in life, and does not provide the overarching Light and Truth by which all other things are to be understood and measured, why then is it OK to give them this message on Monday through Friday?

Why does the church in general see no problem with schools that provide instruction in academics divorced from God’s Word, where teachers make no connections whatsoever between the Lordship of Christ and math or history, or literature and biology, and where the Light by which all things are to be understood has been thoroughly put out?  

The outcome is not necessarily atheism, but surely dualism: the toxic notion that Jesus is Lord of the Church, but nothing more.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Viktor Frankl


Viktor Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist, and author of Man's Search for Meaning, as he appeared in 1964, which was 19 years after his liberation from a Nazi concentration camp. He died in 1997, at the age of 92.

Photo by Prof. Dr. Franz Vesely, CC BY-SA 3.0 de, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15153593

While I don't agree with all of his ideas, Viktor Frankl offers profound insights regarding meaning. 

Frankl maintained: "Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment which demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone's task is as unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it."

Frankl's opportunity to implement his "concrete assignment which demanded fulfillment" came in 4 Nazi concentration camps during World War II. These camps taught Frankl to focus on internal attitudes, since he was powerless to change his external circumstances. Frankl was able to bring great meaning to the most miserable conditions. Helping others to do this became his life-mission.  

"Woe to him who saw no more sense in his life, no aim, no purpose, and therefore no point in carrying on. He was soon lost...What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us." [Emphasis by Frankl]

As for "what life expected from us," Frankl meant the responsibilities we all have as co-participants in life. He later wrote: 

"Freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibilities. That is why I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by the Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast." [Emphasis by Frankl]

So great was Frankl's sense of responsibility that he sidestepped a plan to escape with a friend, so he could remain to help others. "I did not know what the following days would bring," he wrote, "but I had gained an inward peace that I had never experienced before."

Shortly after his liberation, Frankl walked for miles through the countryside. "I stopped, looked around, and up to the sky," he attested, "and then I went down on my knees." He had just one thought in mind: "I called to the Lord from my narrow prison and He answered me in the freedom of space." 

Frankl concluded his concentration camp account with: "The crowning experience of all, for the homecoming man, is the wonderful feeling that, after all he has suffered, there is nothing he need fear any more--except his God."

Friday, January 12, 2018

"Arbeit Macht Frei"



Viktor Frankl was a psychiatrist of Jewish descent who spent two-and-a-half years as a prisoner in 4 Nazi concentration camps, including the infamous Auschwitz. In his book, Man's Search for Meaning (which he wrote in 9 days), Frankl details his horrific experience. This book is not pleasant reading. Yet by the time of Frankl's death in 1997, Man's Search for Meaning had sold over 10 million copies, being translated into 27 languages. 

When he was asked how he felt about the book's success, Frankl replied: "I do not at all see in the bestseller status of my book an achievement and accomplishment on my part but rather an expression of the misery of our time: if hundreds of thousands of people reach out for a book whose very title promises to deal with the question of a meaning to life, it must be a question that burns under their fingernails."

Photo of a guard tower at Auschwitz-Birkenau by Jacomoman (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

"Arbeit Macht Frei" is German for Work Sets You Free. 

This statement greeted throngs of common people like you and me who, as though cattle, were transported in boxcars to concentration camps of Germany and Poland in the '40s. These were unimaginable camps of horror and slave labor. 

In the context of a Nazi concentration camp, the banner Arbeit Macht Frei was absurd. In these horrific places, prisoners knew they could only be set free through death. If the work did not kill them, the gas chambers would. 

In writing Man's Search forMeaning, Frankl said: "I had wanted simply to convey to the reader by way of a concrete example that life holds a potential meaning under any conditions, even the most miserable ones. And I thought that if the point were demonstrated in a situation as extreme as that in a concentration camp, my book might gain a hearing. I therefore felt responsible for writing down what I had gone through, for I thought it might be helpful to people who are prone to despair."

Is your job a pain in the...neck? Do some co-workers bug you, like lice? Is your boss a brute? Our circumstances pale in comparison to Frankl's. Our employers don't come close to S.S. guards, and our co-workers can't hold a candlestick to double-crossing prisoners known as "Capos." 

It's worth considering how one 37-year-old in a concentration camp, surrounded by disease, human dung and despair, discovered how to bring meaning to those circumstances over which he had no control.

Realizing he was powerless to change the external factors, Frankl worked on internal factors.

"Don't aim at success," advised Frankl, "the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one's dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one's surrender to a person other than oneself."

Dedication to a cause greater than oneself? 

Surrender to a person other than oneself? 

Was this the key to Frankl's survival?

It's Truth that sets people free. Not work.

Next week I'll share some of my favorite Frankl quotes. Because they're true.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Sounds Good, But...


I took this photo while in Indonesia about 10 years ago with a group of graduate students from Bakke Graduate University, led by Dr. Ray Bakke, author of A Theology As Big As The City. We went to the waterfront in Jakarta one morning (not the beach), where we received permission to board one of the sailing ships that was being unloaded. Yes, sailing ships. These ships functioned on wind power to get from island to island, with no engines. The particular ship pictured above was full of lumber being carried off the ship by men who worked 12-hour days, unloading beams by hand, carrying them on their shoulders down a plank to the dock, for $9 per day. This was a challenge to my theology of work. I had to ask myself, "Could I experience 'God's pleasure at work' doing this job?" Frankly, I don't think I could do this work for a single day. Maybe not a single hour.

Last week I cited a Gallup poll showing that 87% of workers worldwide are not engaged in their work. They don't like their jobs. I shared a statement from Bonnie Wurtzbacher, a follower of Christ who was serving as an executive with Coca-Cola at the time I interviewed her, who relayed something she heard from her pastor: "We don't find meaning in our work, we bring meaning to our work."

Sounds good. But...how would that statement go over with the man pictured above, doing his back-breaking work for 12 hours a day? Even though the pay these men were receiving was about twice the amount considered to be a "livable wage" in Indonesia, I suspect these men did not look forward to Monday mornings. 

If you have a job that doesn't really fit you, and you have the ability to find work that better matches your personal strengths and God-given gifts, I suggest you find it. Yet, many people around the globe don't have this luxury. If you do, see a trained [Christian] career counselor who can help you find a job that better matches your strengths, gifts and calling. 

But even if you are able to find a better job fit, bear in mind that no matter what sort of work you do, there will always be "chores" that are painful, unpleasant or downright loathsome. My friend Mark Warren, a professional "calling coach" in Bellingham, Washington, once told me that if people have a job that "energizes" them 60% of the time, they are very blessed indeed. It's the exception, not the rule. 

We all have unpleasant "chores" connected with our work. This is the reality of labor in a fallen, broken world. Whether these "chores" occupy 95% of the workday, 5%, or somewhere in-between, will vary from person to person. 

One of the great things about the biblical worldview is that it does not shield us from such difficulties, nor does it tell us to imagine these difficulties do not exist. We do not deny that the pain exists, nor do we call the pain something it is not, but by God's grace, we bring meaning and purpose to the pain, in the middle of it--head on--as Christ did on the cross. The biblical worldview does not provide a way around the pains associated with work, but through them. 

More next week. Hang on. 



Friday, December 29, 2017

Take It From A High School Student Who Knows


For a turn-around year, get some turn-around ideas. 

According to Gallup's World Poll, 87% of workers around the world are not engaged in their work. 

News flash: Most people don't like their jobs! 

Are you shocked? Probably not. Maybe you're among the 87% yourself! If you are, there's good news for those willing to take the time to understand God's purpose and design for work itself: You don't have to change your job to become engaged in your work

That's because we don't find meaning in our work, we bring meaning to our work!

But how?


The answer to that question is why the God's Pleasure At Work course was created.  


Though written for high school students, the God's Pleasure At Work e-course is fitting for adults of all ages. One student wrote: "I learned so much more than I could've imagined...I learned so much personally that I cannot wait to use in the future and share with others. I believe all Christians should read this book and soak in all the goodness just like our class did over the course of this year."  


Take it from a high school student who knows: this course is for you.


John Beckett, Chairman of The Beckett Corporation (the North American market leader in combustion products used in heating and cleaning equipment, found in 50 million US homes), calls God's Pleasure At Work "the finest and most practically helpful publication ever produced on this subject."

We're humbled by Dr. Beckett's endorsement. But decide for yourself! Take a free "test drive" today, right here.

For an independent review, click here

If you're among the 87% not engaged in your work, this can be your turn-around year. But to "negotiate the curve," you'll need some turn-around ideas!  

The complete God's Pleasure At Work course comes in a Curriculum Pack with a 180-page e-text, more than 50 video clips, a 48-page full color Participant Guide, a 54-page "extra" called, The Lost Purpose for Learning, plus a step-by-step Facilitator's Guide, if you want to take a group (or your own sons and daughters) through the course.

To purchase, click here. 

This course is worth the effort even if you are engaged in your work. You can always be more engaged!

If you have any questions about this course, or how it might be used in your context, contact Worldview Matters® here.

View the 90-second video below. If it does not play, click https://youtu.be/4CJt_CxbaYo




Friday, December 22, 2017

Far As The Curse Is Found


Today's post first appeared 8 years ago. It has been my tradition ever since, to post it on the Friday before Christmas.

Photo by Jeff Weese (Flickr: Nativity) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The dynamic Christmas carol Joy To The World, by Isaac Watts, was based largely upon Psalm 98: "Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth, break forth in song...for He is coming to judge the earth, with righteousness He shall judge the world, and the peoples with equity." 

Because of this, some say the song is not about Christ's birth in Bethlehem, but about Christ's second coming, and the future joy which will occur when He comes to set all things finally straight, in that full expression of His Kingship.

While I look forward to the second coming, Joy To The World makes sense to me as a celebration of Christ's first coming, too. While anticipating that full expression of His Kingdom-yet-to-come, we can celebrate His Kingdom-already-here. 

Even prior to Bethlehem, I Chronicles 29:11 declared: "...all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and You are exalted as head over all." Today? Psalm 103:19 says: "The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all." Now? Acts 10:36 puts it in the present tense: "He is Lord of all." 

Christ's Kingdom is not fully expressed on earth right now, that's for sure. There are weeds in His field, which He did not plant (Matthew 13). But the domain over which Christ is King (that is, His "King-domain"), includes both heaven and earth, right now. The whole field is His. The fact that not every human heart has received Him as King doesn't alter the fact that He is.

This is the world's greatest Christmas gift: that Christ came in human form “to make His blessings flow, far as the curse is found.” These blessings are flowing through redeemed people today who are reconciled to God, and reconciling all things to Him, including the things of earth, right now, far as the curse is found.  

So by God's grace, let's occupy until He comes again, by pulling up bramble bushes and planting redwood trees before the second coming arrives, shall we? It's our essential occupation.

Maybe Joy To The World is one of those "both-and" songs, celebrating His first and second comings.

Joy to the Earth! The Savior reigns. Let men their songs employ, while fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains, repeat the sounding joy! 

Far as the curse is found. 

Friday, December 15, 2017

Viewing Their Work As "Imitators Of God"


George Swinnock, a Puritan pastor (1627-1673) declared, "The pious tradesman will know that his shop as well as his chapel is holy ground." How? Why? When?

Revolutionary approaches to education were developed in the 17th century on the heels of the Reformation, through such early "Noah Websters" as John Comenius (the "Father of Modern Education"), John Alstead, William Ames and Alexander Richardson, who stood on the shoulders of Luther and Calvin. These 17th century schoolmasters wedded the reformational idea of "calling" (or "vocation") with schooling, and changed the course of history. But their revolutionary ideas have now fallen on hard times.  

The wedding of calling with schooling can be seen in the Puritan Circle of Knowledge, as summarized here:


Step #1: God, the Prime Creator, initiates through His creation of all things.

Step #2: Humans discover what God has initiated. This discovery is a big part of what education is about.

Step #3: Humans imitate God by making "secondary creations" out of God's primary creation. This imitation is based upon their discovery and understanding of "the book of God's works," as well as "the book of God's Word." 


Step #4: God is glorified through the imitation of Him in occupations of all kinds, from shoe-making to carpentry.

Imagine employees at The Boeing Company viewing their work as "imitators of God," making beautiful and functional “secondary creations” [airplanes] out of God’s primary creations [metals, carbon, electricity, etc.], for the purpose of engaging with God's laws of "lift," so people may be transported safely from point A to point B. The secondary creations [airplanes] serve the needs of people, and glorify the Prime Creatorbringing glory full circle from God back to God. And in the process, these biblically-minded employees are professing their faith by their work, in "imitating God" through the making of airplanes. It is their profession. 

Have I lost my mind? No. I think I've found it!

Imagine a banker, a lawyer and a businessman all glorifying God by "imitating Him" through serving the financial needs of people, maintaining justice in the world, and providing needed goods and services for the community. The legitimate needs of people are met, God is glorified, and these biblically-minded workers go to the office each day fulfilling the First Commission (Gen. 1:26-28) in professing their faith by their work. They are professionals, in the best sense of the word professional.  

If this isn't culture-transforming, I don't know what is. And if this doesn't bring meaning to education, nothing will. The Circle of Knowledge begs to be be revived. 

Dr. David Scott notes: “The emphasis on use [in the Circle of Knowledge] fit in nicely with the practicality of the Puritan mind, providing a philosophical foundation for the working vocations…The human being as an artisan can follow in the footsteps of the Divine Artist. Through this circular pattern of the created order, humanity can fulfill its cultural mandate (Gen. 1:26-28) and returns glory back to God.”

Read David Scott's full essay, "A Vision of Veritas: What Christian Scholarship Can Learn from the Puritan's 'Technology' of Integrating Truth"  here.