True Education

John Wesley used to exhort the early Methodist circuit riders to “Read, or get out of the ministry.”  Severe?  Perhaps, but I’m convinced that reading is an absolute essential to discipleship.  We are called, after all, to be lifelong learners; disciples of the Kingdom never master the curriculum.  There will always be more. 

Francis Schaeffer says “True education requires thinking across the various disciplines, and not just being qualified in one particular field”. Evangelicals are the worst at this.  We are often “experts” in evangelicalism and ignorant of history, philosophy, art, culture and government. Thus, one of the greatest failures of today’s church is our abandonment of the Christian mind.  “My people are destroyed through lack of knowledge.”  (Hosea 4:6). Because we have abandoned the call to love God with our minds, we have stalled the advance of the Kingdom, and fallen into cultural damage-control.  We’ve become mental midgets facing the end of the world as we know it. 

The apostle Paul, with his sterling credentials asked Timothy to “bring the books” when he came.  (2 Timothy 4:13).  What books?  We don’t know, but we do know from reading his epistles that the apostle had a thorough grasp of history, law, culture, philosophy, and poetry.  “All things are Thy servants”, David wrote in Psalm 119.  “All things”.  If we have discerning hearts, we will see God’s truth embedded everywhere, from nature, mathematics, and beauty, to stories, literature, and poetry.

Saint Athanasius reminded the fourth century believers, “You will not see anyone who is truly striving after spiritual advancement who is not given to spiritual reading.”  If I could encourage young disciples of Jesus with one discipline, it would be to read! (Well… to read, and to PRAY!!)  We ought to read broadly, read critically, read with discernment, and read with humility. 

Here’s a link to a cross-section of books which have shaped my worldview and my walk with Jesus.    Perhaps you have your own favorites you could share in the comments section.  A good book recommendation can change a life and open a whole new world! 

Never in trouble

I just noticed an uptick in views here at Dispatches, and I’m wondering if perhaps people are looking for some perspective on the simultaneous crises happening around us. Certainly the world is looking more dangerous and chaotic than at any time in the immediate past.

Dallas Willard reminds us, “The Kingdom is never in trouble. And you are a part of the Kingdom. So you are not in trouble.” My YWAM friends in Kiev, (where I was scheduled to speak in five weeks time), surely feel like they’re in trouble. They’re sheltering in the basement and praying, while missiles fly overhead, and explosions rock the city. This is reality: life is a battlefield, but Jesus is at our side.

In every great, triumphant story there are battles. Without great battles there can be no great victories. Jesus promised us several things in life: peace, power, and trouble in this world, “but take courage… I have overcome the world.” His Kingdom is secure. It is not in trouble. And besides, He reminds us that “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.”

If I were a prognosticator I would say that for those of us who live in the West, things will likely get worse before they get better. We will need to learn that we cannot trust in the idols of people and politics. Many of us have become complacent and hopeful that the next election might save the day. We will need to repent from those idols and return to the King and the Kingdom as our only hope.

In the meantime, we must learn to pray and intercede, not casual prayers, nor prayers “on the run”, but focused prayers in agreement with others around us. We must gather for prayer. These are extraordinary times that call for extraordinary, life-interrupting action.

Then I believe we will begin to see great changes and great victories around us.


Several years back I went into a local restaurant with an old and dear friend in Hawaii. Taking our seats, I pulled my cell phone from my pocket and placed it, screen-down, on the table in front of me. Within moments the waiter appeared, looked me in the eye, and informed me, “I’m sorry, sir, but in this restaurant, we don’t allow cell phones to be seen. You’ll have to put that away.” Ha! Busted! It was a momentary embarrassment, but a beautiful policy and lesson!

Two nights ago, in another restaurant I walked past a table of eight diners. Six of them were staring at cell phones. How sad and demeaning to think that the image-bearers of God can sit face to face with each other and find more interest in screens and pixels.

We disciples of Jesus must do better; we must establish a higher, more beautiful culture. One of the very first names given to God in the Old Testament is El Roi, “The God who sees.” (Genesis 16:13). Certainly He sees all things, but he is clearly captivated by the sight of His own image in the face of his sons and daughters. “Turning toward the woman, Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do you SEE this woman?’” (Luke 7:44). I like that. Fussy, distracted Simon saw only an embarrassment at his dinner party, but Jesus was utterly enchanted by the street woman in front of him.

Often it’s the small things that set the disciples of Jesus apart as a “city on a hill”: our priorities, our focus, and the things that take our attention. At this moment, and the next, the most important thing in the world is that person standing right in front of me. Jesus sees her. Do I? Do you?

Shock Therapy

Are we getting it yet?  Because if we don’t, this nightmare can get exponentially worse.  Two possibilities compete for the future of the human race: godless totalitarianism, or the Kingdom of God.  We cannot return to where we were.  We cannot go back to our failed nationalisms and idolatries.  We are experiencing shock therapy, and with very good reason.   Even our churches have missed it by miles, and that is a huge part of this crisis.

Everything around us is being shaken “so that those things which cannot be shaken will remain.”  (Hebrews 12:27).  God’s purpose on planet earth is not to install a livable “global order”, or to “build back better”.  And it certainly isn’t to establish world peace through godless human effort and mutually assured destruction.  Globalism is doomed before it leaves the gate because it is but one more futile brainchild of fallen humanity.  Neither Mark Zuckerberg, George Soros, Anthony Fauci nor Davos can save us.   


  • “Politics will save us”  NO!  ZAP!!  That’s delusional, you fools! 
  • “Clever science will save us!”  WRONG!  Frankensteinian!  Zzzzt! 
  • “Religion will save us and take us to heaven”.  BOOM!  Zzzt!  FOOLS!  Jesus is not a lifeboat for a doomed planet, He is the Redeemer of all things!
  • Globalism will save us!”  Zzzt!  Zzzzzt!  Not a chance!
  • “Vaccines will save us!”  BOOM!  ZAP!  No! They won’t! 
  • “Critical theory, gender studies, ANTIFA, BLM and elections will save us!”   BAM!  Zzzt!  BOOM!  These shocks will stop the moment you forsake your delusion!          

There is ONE man and ONE plan that will save us!   The man, Jesus, and the only thing he ever called the “Good News”!  The Kingdom of God; the untested promise of the ages!    

We must turn to the Lord, and to the reality HE has spoken into existence, to HIS ways, HIS grace,  and HIS plan!  Let us choose HIS plan and see what glory will descend upon us; what beauty, abundance, order, compassion, and justice!  To continue on our present road will only invite more shock to our fragile lives.  “Here is the most radical idea ever presented to the mind of man. It means nothing less than replacing man’s order with God’s order.”   – H.G. Wells


While we were busy poking fun at the silliness of political correctness, it quietly grew into a Marxist monster called the “Woke” movement. We flirted with it for decades, rightfully eager to become more sensitive to people, movements, and minorities. But the more we fed it, the bigger it grew until it gathered a gang of political-corporate thugs and began terrorizing the playground. And even worse, the teachers and school principle have sided against the skinny kids.

“Woke-ness” divides. It’s a form of Marxism that focuses on race, gender, language and power. Energized by outrage, it separates neighbor from neighbor, blacks from whites, men from women, gays from straights, and natives from immigrants. It rewrites history, topples statues, bans books, cancels dissidence, redefines words, and crushes freedom. And it has been creeping into our churches for decades.

On Easter Sunday I rode past a church in East Texas which proudly declared “We are a Social Justice – Black Lives Matter Church”. It felt both ominous and odd. While most were celebrating the resurrection, our misguided brethren were declaring a political gospel and standing boldly against whiteness. To our well-intentioned friends, activism has replaced evangelism, conversion has given way to “woke-ness”, and the “Enemy” has become the person next door who refuses to play along with the game.

I’ve already experienced the rage of the mob, unfriended for my lack of outrage, condemned for my want of “nuance”, and shunned for refusing to denounce people based on their skin color, or the uniform they wear. Make no mistake, the woke movement is as far from the heart of Jesus as the Pharisees of old.

Please, my friends, hold fast to the beauty of the Gospel: Sin infects us all, the cure is in Christ, true power is expressed in humility, and hope is found in God’s Kingdom. “There is a way which seems right to a man, But it’s end is the way of death.” Proverbs 16:25

Live not by lies

We are living in times of dangerous upheaval; times which demand more from us than we have been used to giving. These are days for standing boldly for truth, and not giving in to intimidation, cultural pressure, and the ubiquitous deceit thrown at us by politicians and news anchors.

I’ve recently been reading some of the works of the Soviet Dissident, Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, who spent eight years imprisoned in the Russian Gulags for criticizing Josef Stalin in a private letter. The day he was arrested in 1974 he released “Live Not by Lies” to the Soviet people. The short essay seems especially appropriate for Christians in the 21st century. Below are a few teaser quotes from the piece, with a link to the entire article for further reading.

“Violence has nothing to cover itself with but lies, and lies can only persist through violence… And therein we find… the simplest and most accessible key to our liberation: a personal non-participation in lies. Even if all is covered by lies, even if all is under their rule… let their rule hold not through me… For when people renounce lies, lies simply cease to exist. Like parasites, they can only exist when attached to a person.”

“We are not called to step out into the square and shout out our truth; to say out loud what we think – this is scary, and we are not ready. But let us at least say what we do not think… Our way must be: Never support lies.”

“The more of us set out together, the thicker our ranks, the easier and shorter this path will be for all. If we become thousands, they will not cope, they will be unable to touch us. If we grow to tens of thousands – we will not recognize our country.”


Truth and love

Just about a month ago I posted a comment on Facebook, that my two greatest fears were that I might abandon love, or that I might abandon truth. “Either would be catastrophic”, I said. It seems to have resonated with a number of friends, and I received an unusual amount of feedback. I meant it, too, and I’m determined to stand by my commitment as long as grace enables me..

Love and truth are like the proverbial two sides of a coin. Just as you cannot have “up” without “down”, or “front” without “back”, you cannot have love without truth because they are both revealed to us in Jesus. If you have him, you will honor both:

Love without truth is not love.
And truth without love is not truth.

By extension, those who love most will see most, and understand the most. But the opposite is also true: Those who hate are blinded, and can never really know truth. “… anyone who hates his brother or sister is living and walking in darkness. Such a person does not know the way to go, having been blinded by the darkness.” (1 John 2:11).

Christian author, Francis Schaeffer, taught that “true truth” is tantamount, and yet it is cold and cruel without love. “The local church or Christian group should be right, but it should also be beautiful.”

Here is my point in sharing this Kingdom principle: Serious disciples of Jesus ought to be deeply interested in knowing the truth about the events unfolding before us, from Covid, to politics to free speech. And though many seem ready to argue, accuse and offend, it seems few are interested in love, without which we can never begin to truly know truth.

Do you want to understand the truth about the world? Then looking through the lens of love will clear your heart and bring clear focus.

Judging a tree

“No one is so deceived as the person who believes
he has everything figured out.”

“Every tree will be known by its fruit.” (Matthew 12:33). Recounting his personal journey towards the end of his life, the brilliant British philosopher Sir Roger Scruton told of strolling through London as a young man in the turbulent sixties, and stumbling into an angry mob of demonstrators: “I saw a group of radicals destroying and throwing stones at policemen, and I said ‘Whatever these people are for, I am against.” That inflection point set Scruton on the path towards becoming one of England’s premier thinkers and cultural influencers. Sir Roger looked at a “tree” and judged it by its fruit.

Those who are serious about apprenticeship to Jesus take truth seriously; we want to stand squarely on the side of integrity. So it follows that faithful disciples will always live welcome correction, repentance and the opportunity to change our minds when necessary. (No one is so dangerous or deceived as the person who believes he has everything figured out). But when we live in a culture of contradicting narratives, censorship, disinformation, and media-shaming, it can sometimes be difficult to know which narrative is “truly” true.

I believe one reliable indicator of truth is the fruit test: Does this group, this news organization, or this ideology promote peace and order, or violence and chaos? Does it build-up, or tear-down? Does it produce anger and bitterness, or gentleness and love? Can I see in these people a humble hope in God, or the pride of arrogance? Even a child can tell good fruit from rotten.

Undeniably, two worldviews are locked in a brutal competition for the future of the world. It’s a terrifying sight. But the disciples of Jesus will remember that we are called to be a “tree of righteousness”, a tree whose fruit will be given for the healing of the nations.

“… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindheartedness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” -Galatians 5:22-23

(A good introduction to Sir Roger Scruton is his timeless documentary, “Why Beauty Matters”)

The End of days?

A few friends have asked me to share my thoughts about the situation we’re currently facing. The honest truth is that I probably wrestle as much as anyone else. I do have a fundamentally optimistic view of history: that all things will be redeemed, and the Kingdom will grow like a mustard seed until the earth is filled with goodness, justice, and beauty. So perhaps I can share from that perspective.

Clearly these are perilous times, but are they, indeed, the final days? Perhaps. But in the way of perspective, let me tell you about the year 536 AD. For eighteen months the deadliest volcanic eruption ever recorded was spreading ash into the atmosphere and darkening the entire earth. Catastrophic crop failures triggered a worldwide famine, which along with the Bubonic plague wiped-out one half of the Roman Empire. One half!! Snow was falling in China during the summer months, and raging floods devastated South America.

So things have been bad before.

But today we are undoubtedly closer than ever to the return of our King. And if Covid, anarchy, idolatry, and godlessness is the prelude to that glorious moment, how, then shall we live? Hebrews tells us, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for God is a consuming fire”. (Hebrews 12: 26-29). Whatever may come, God’s Kingdom will remain solid. And we are citizens of that Kingdom!

These are my little pea-brained recommendations:

Let’s use these times of “Covid slow-down” to prepare our hearts, de-clutter our lives, and focus on Jesus. Perhaps this time is God’s gift for us in the same way He used the enslavement of Israel to refine a people who would be fit to become His nation.

Be encouraged! Jesus has promised, “I will be with you always”. Whatever comes, we will never be alone. So bring it on! Who would trade the stability of nations for the precious gift of God’s presence?

Pray “Let Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven” with greater expectancy and faith than ever before.

Let’s guard our hearts from fear. “Fear not, for I am with you!!” (Isaiah 41:10). In the end we know that God’s glory will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.

“And above all, we ought to love one another deeply.” (1 Peter 4:8). In case you haven’t noticed, hatred and division is outpacing the spread of Covid by a long shot. Let’s not allow ourselves to be swept away with the spirit of the age. Instead, lets draw near to the One who is Love.

Having done these things, I believe we will stand.

Discernment in confusing times.

I recently polled my Facebook friends on whether or not they believed the mainstream narrative about the Coronavirus.  The results were revealing, with a vast majority answering “No”, a few in the affirmative, and another handful admitting they don’t know what to believe.  People are confused.  While some embrace hair-on-fire conspiracies, others are happily acquiescing to the approved experts who inform of ever-changing models and protocols, and warn us to stay put.  

Several have asked about my take on the situation, which is probably worth about as much as a gum-wrapper.  But if turning my thoughts into words might help us look a little less like the Keystone cops, I’m happy to give it a try.

I think we’re facing a double-headed crisis.  On the one hand is an unpredictable and dangerous pandemic, and on the other is a great uncertainty of what to believe about the pandemic.  In a world of so many story lines, we’re all wondering what truth remains when the computer and television screens are switched off. 

Up front, I’m not a conspiracy person.  Conspiracies distract me from the simplicity of Jesus and his Kingdom.  God told Isaiah, “Don’t call everything a conspiracy, like they do, and don’t live in dread of what frightens them.”  (Isaiah 8:12) Alarmism is being peddled from every direction, from the fear-mongering of the left leaning media, to the fear-mongering of right-leaning conspiracies. That’s not to say there’s no truth in any of it; both sides may indeed contain elements of truth, but fear should never lead the way.  Love is to lead. And as it does, fear will be cast out.   (1 John 4:18)

We Christians believe that the world is a battleground of good and evil, where our enemy strains to enslave and destroy the human race.  On top of that, we also believe that in the last days, (which, according to Acts 2:17 and Hebrews 1:2 began with the ascension of Jesus), “perilous times will come”, with deceptions, plagues and persecutions.  But these warnings are only footnotes to the good news, not the good news itself.  Disciples of Jesus ought to focus on the main attraction, and not the footnotes.    

My hope is that the church will seize this moment with wisdom and courage, and offer hope to those around us. Nobody knows for certain where this plague will go.  So lets take a deep breath and seek God diligently for discernment as we move forward.  After centuries of shooting ourselves in the foot with our dire prognostications, lets avoid making that mistake one more time around.

Of all the spiritual gifts, I believe discernment is God’s gift for this hour.  Over the years I’ve made a steady habit of praying, “Lord, give me discernment; show me the truth.  Don’t let me fall into conspiracies, empty rumors and foolishness.  Give me clear eyes and insight into the truth.” 

Here are a few humble suggestions I’d put forward:

  • Focus on the good news of Jesus and His Kingdom.
  • Avoid gloom and doom.  (That is certainly not the good news).
  • Cry out daily for discernment, truth, and understanding.
  • Steep yourself in scripture.
  • Cultivate humility, inviting God to challenge and correct your ideas and opinions as needed.
  • Stay prayerfully informed from a variety of news sources, both liberal and conservative, checking them carefully for facts.
  • Honor the Truth, whose name is Jesus, remembering He lives in you.  
  • Let love, not fear, lead the way.
%d bloggers like this: