Tag s | Theology

The World Rages

One hundred years ago this week, the Great War began. It was the war that was supposed to end all wars. The world decided it was about time to get all their anger out at once and then go back to living in peace.  Following the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria on June 28, 1914, Austria-Hungary and Serbia decided they had had enough of civility and started fighting.  A world war started a month later.

By the time it was all over in late 1918, about 18 million people (both soldiers and civilians) lay dead and another 20 million wounded across Europe and the world.  Disease killed millions, but not more than bullets and shrapnel.

Nineteenth century military tactics collided with twentieth century technology as military leaders sent swarms of soldiers attacking across open fields only to be confronted by clouds of mustard gas and the most deadly weapon invented to that point, the machine gun. Millions died needlessly as many military leaders knew of only one way to conduct war and could not adapt, presumably, with professional pride behind much of that reluctance to change.

It gets worse.

The Muslim Ottoman Empire, centered in present-day Turkey started genocide against anyone who disagreed with them, slaughtering two million Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks…mostly Orthodox Christians.

It was an awful time.

As the calendar turned to August, 1914 the news’ cycles started to overheat.

  1. Each day one country was declaring war on another.  (America declared itself neutral)
  2. Ellen Wilson, wife of the U.S. President died on August 6.
  3. The Panama Canal opened on August 15.
  4. The Pope died on August 20. (Pius X)

And in a dramatic act of stupidity on August 25, the German army burned down the library at the Catholic University in Leuven, Belgium. Hundreds of thousands of priceless books and manuscripts dating from the Renaissance were destroyed.

Jehovah’s Witnesses observed all this and predicted the end of the world by the end of 1914.

But we didn’t lack for culture, especially great writers.

Among the best-selling authors in 1914 were:

Winston Churchill (not THAT Winston Churchill)
H.G. Wells
Zane Grey
James Joyce
Arthur Conan Doyle
Rudyard Kipling
Hilaire Belloc
T.S. Eliot
L. Frank Baum
D.H. Lawrence
Sinclair Lewis
Carl Sandburg
Beatrix Potter

In addition, readers desiring a decidedly Christian worldview in their literature were enjoying:

Harold Bell Wright
Gene Stratton Porter
Grace Livingston Hill
G.K. Chesterton

And many more.

There was amazing literature and enduring stories from revered literary giants, many that we still love one hundred years later. They provided escape, entertainment, enlightenment, illumination and intrigue, but for four long years the people of the world still fought each other and when it was over in 1918, the stage was set for the Great Depression of the 1930’s, the rise of some of the most evil leaders who ever lived, followed by the most deadly war the world has ever seen.

Apparently, not all problems are solved by great literature.

As we publish Christian books, they are sent into a world where some people do wonderful things for humanity and others do terrible things to humanity.

There is an ongoing discussion whether art reflects life or visa versa. As in most complex philosophical discussions, a convincing case could be made for either side of the argument.

The Christian who writes differs from other writers in their worldview. Christian writers looking at a seething, heaving world seek to show there is another way to view everything.

Because a Christian worldview begins with “In the beginning, God…”, other perspectives that begin elsewhere never end up intersecting with the Christian view down the road somewhere. So if we don’t agree on Genesis 1:1, forget about trying to agree on the last chapters of the Bible.

When you write, you see relationships differently, you see difficulties differently and certainly you see the relationship between God and people a distinct way. You allow people to be redeemed. You rejoice at a changed life. Forgiveness is at the core. Grace and truth undergird what you build.

Nevertheless, some will turn their backs on what you write, no matter how well you do it. No matter how popular you get, there will be detractors. But that is not really a surprise, is it? In reality, there are people in every age that simply hate Jesus and anything associated with him.

You can push back against the dark, even light a candle, but only one thing will destroy the dark once and for all.

Waiting at the other end of the world’s timeline would be the nineteenth chapter of the last book of the Bible, Revelation. In it we see the armies of this world taking up arms to fight the return of the King of Kings.

The build-up to the last battle is more dramatic than the actual battle. In fact, it isn’t much of a battle at all.  Just a couple verses describe it. No struggle. Blink and it’s over.

Spoiler alert: God wins.

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Acquisitions Director: God

This subject has been covered before by smarter people at our agency, but I am hoping that Steve Laube considers imitation truly the greatest form of flattery! Every aspiring or experienced Christian author is alerted to avoid mentioning that “God told me to write this book” when speaking to an agent …

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God’s Map

“We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps” (Proverbs 16:9, NLT) This has significant implications for authors and book publishers. Over my career, I observe cases that prove that “your future is determined more by your successes than by your plans.” Anyone who knows me has probably …

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What Language Do You Speak?

Are you born again? Have you been slain in the Spirit? Have you walked the aisle to receive the baptism of the Saints? Are you washed in the blood, blessed by grace, favored for your labors? Have you testified, been sanctified, and placed a hedge of protection around yourself? Do …

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Grace is Amazing, But Hard to Explain

I am not a Bible theologian, so today’s blog is pushing me way out on the plank over the pitching seas of exegetical danger, so I apologize for offending those with seminary degrees and those who are infinitely better qualified to write on this subject.  As a friend stated in …

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Editing the Bible

I always thought it was interesting that Christian publishers employed Bible editors.  Of course, they are not there to edit the Bible text, but to work on the extra-Bible notes and additional material that might end up in a study or devotional Bible.

It got me thinking that there is a lot of stuff in the Bible that is just downright disturbing if you want to maintain a simplistic easy-to-accept view of God.  So, if I set out to edit the Bible text, what material could I personally do without?  Here are some things I would rather not have in the Bible: (There are others, but these just come to mind)

Cain killing Abel episode in Genesis 4 Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 Numbers 14:26-33 – Moses and Aaron are not allowed to enter the promised land. Isaiah 55:8 – My thoughts are not your thoughts… Matthew 6:12, Matthew 6:14-15 – If you don’t forgive others, then I won’t forgive you. Matthew 7 – Judge not Luke 12: 49-53 – Jesus causes division. Acts 5 – Ananias and Sapphira If you do all things well, but not love, the truth is not in you (1 Cor. 13:1-3) And the toughest passage in the Bible…”I never knew you” in Matthew 7:23

Of course, this is tongue-in-cheek, but I have always felt that one of the facts that validate the authenticity of Scripture is that it contains real life.  Let’s face it, most of Scripture is the story of sinful people doing sinful things and God responding, with the ultimate response (so far) in the atoning work of Jesus Christ.

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The Painful Side of Publishing

We’ll get back to focus next week, but something has been weighing heavy on my heart and I want to share it with you.

We all know that publishing is a tough gig. It was proven yet again by what happened last week with the B&H Publishing Group’s fiction division (see Steve’s blog about it). It’s easy to commiserate with the authors impacted by this sudden change, to pray for them and encourage them. But I saw something happening in a number of blogs and author loops, and I confess it troubles me. What I saw was people making caustic comments about the publisher and about the people who work at the publishing house. Even to the point of questioning their faith. As in “How can they call themselves a Christian publisher and do something like this?”

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Does God Need a Makeover?

I have had some interesting conversations over the last few weeks with several different authors about the fact that God often doesn’t do things the way we expect. In fact, there are times when God’s ways—and the ways of those He used–seem…

Strange.

Unfair.

Even–dare I say it?–wrong.

Think about it.

The person who came to work in the field just before the day ended got paid the same as the folks who’d worked all day.

God hardened Pharaoh’s heart so he wouldn’t let the Israelites go.

God promised Abram and Isaac that their descendants would be more than the sands on the beach…and gave them wives who were barren.

God gave a prophecy to Rebekah about Jacob, which she “helped along” by some of the most blatant favoritism found in Scripture.

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Think Before You Read

by Steve Laube

I collect books. I graze through them like I’m at an all-you-can-eat buffet. I sample this tidbit and that. Eventually I get enough to eat or have found the right morsel to consume until it is finished.

It helps make me an eclectic sort. But there are days, even weeks, where I must discipline myself to become immersed in extraordinary writing. It is there where the soul can be fed and nourished.

I came across a quote from the great Charles Bridges, a well respected pastor in the Church of England whose Exposition of Psalm 119 (published 1827) is a masterpiece. A couple years later he wrote a book directed at those in the ministry. But I thought it applicable to everyone who reads. Especially in our modern era of content consumption without digestion.

Ardent minds wish, and seem almost to expect, to gain all at once. There is here, as in religion, “a zeal not according to knowledge.”— There is too great haste in decision, and too little time for weighing, for storing, or for wisely working out the treasure. Hence arises that most injurious habit of skimming over books, rather than perusing them. The mind has only hovered upon the surface, and gained but a confused remembrance of passing matter, and an acquaintance with first principles far too imperfect for practical utility. The ore of knowledge is purchased in the lump, but never separated, or applied to important objects.

Some again need discretion in the direction of their study. They study books more than themselves. They lose themselves in the multiplicity of books; and find to their cost, that in reading as well as “making books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” Bishop Wilkins observes, “There is as much art and benefit in the right choice of such books, with which we should be most familiar, as there is in the election of other friends or acquaintances, with whom we may most profitably converse.” No man can read everything; nor would our real store be increased by the capacity to do so. The digestive powers would be overloaded for want of time to act, and uncontrolled confusion would reign within. It is far more easy to furnish our library than our understanding.

May you be inspired to think about what you are reading and why you are reading it.

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Ready, Set…WAIT!

Ah, New Year’s. When hearts soar with best intentions and resolutions tumble around us like snow-melt waterfalls. Our hearts and minds surge with all we want to be, all we hope to accomplish, all we regret and want to change…

Okay, now, show of hands: How many of you make New Year’s Resolutions?

Again, show of hands: How many of you KEEP them??

If you were here, watching me, you’d notice my hand is down. I’ve made hundreds of resolutions over the years, and I’ve broken almost every one. It took me a lot of years to understand that this fact doesn’t make me bad or weak-willed or a failure. It took me several more years to realize that the new year isn’t, for me, about resolutions. It isn’t about saying what I will and won’t do.

It’s about listening.

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