Category Archives: Christian Living

Is God’s Love Reckless?

Since its rise to popularity, Cory Asbury’s worship ballad “Reckless Love” has earned Asbury multiple Dove awards, has well over one hundred million YouTube views, and has been a mainstay in the top 10 worship songs used in churches (according to CCLI). But it has not been without controversy, and rightly so.
The song gets its title from the opening line of the chorus, which says, “O, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God…”
According to Merriam-Webster, the word ‘reckless’ means…
 1 : marked by lack of proper caution : careless of consequences
 2 : irresponsible
Is this truly a word we want to associate with the love of God?
Synonyms include daredevil, foolhardy, hell-for-leather, and kamikaze.
These are not exactly positive associations for a word being used to describe what is commonly considered one of God’s premier attributes.
Through the centuries, English-speaking preachers and songwriters have used numerous adjectives to seek to describe the love of God… amazing, beautiful, captivating, enduring, great, indescribable, marvelous, pure, sanctifying, satisfying, wonderful, and so many more. But prior to this song, seeking to find a Christian use of the word reckless to describe God’s love is like trying to find a needle in a field full of haystacks.
In one of his more popular “Ask Pastor John” podcasts, pastor-theologian Dr. John Piper, himself no stranger to adjectives, tackled the question of whether a congregation should even sing “Reckless Love.” He points out that it is possible to import your own meaning on the surprising lyric so that it is acceptable, but he also makes a plea to songwriters to choose words that do not require that kind of work for the congregation.
I agree. There is no doubt whatsoever that God’s love is not reckless. God’s love is not marked by a lack of proper caution. God’s love is not careless of consequences. God’s love is not irresponsible.
That said, from a human perspective, God’s love can certainly appear to be reckless. When a lost sinner’s eyes are opened to the wretchedness of his own sin, when he sees how truly unworthy he is, and when he begins to think of himself as beyond redemption, at that point God’s love in action for him can seem to be a truly risky, and even reckless, endeavor. In this sense, one can begin to understand why someone might sing of God’s reckless love.
But what seems to be true is not always true. And that is certainly the case with the word reckless when it comes to God’s love.
The lyrics of “Reckless Love” are based upon the parable of the lost sheep, as recorded in the fifteenth chapter of Luke’s Gospel. In the chorus of the song, reference is made to how the shepherd is willing to leave the ninety-nine sheep to rescue the lost one. By associating the word reckless with this biblical parable, the songwriters seem to imply that it was an irresponsible act for the shepherd to leave the ninety-nine for the one lost sheep.
According to Luke 15:4, Jesus asks, “What man among you, who has a hundred sheep and loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open field and go after the lost one until he finds it?”
The songwriters of “Reckless Love” miss an important reality. According to verse four, Jesus does not portray the act of the leaving of the ninety-nine in pursuit of the one as irresponsible, but as an expected, normal action.
The shepherd is able to responsibly leave the flock of ninety-nine because they are already safe. His loving action for the lost one is beautiful and wonderful, but it is not irresponsible or reckless.
So why is this concept of God’s love being reckless so attractive? My theory is that it fits well into a modern romantic view of God’s love. There are a considerable number of Christians who like to think of God’s love much like they think about romantic love between a man and a woman. It is not uncommon for a woman to be attracted to the idea of a man being reckless and risky in pursuing her. The idea that a man would risk it all for a woman’s love is not in the least bit unfamiliar to love stories today.
But while there are certainly valid parallels in comparing the love of God toward us with the romantic love between a man and a woman, there are numerous ways in which one can contrast the differences as well. And this is such a case.
One might say, “But you are being too nit-picky! Lighten up. Just enjoy the song!” The problem with that is simply this… God is looking for those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:20-24).
Truth matters, especially when false teaching is threatening God’s people. One of the dangers of singing of God’s love as reckless is that such language about God’s love actually fits well with an aberrant theology that has become in vogue among some today. This particular false teaching places a heavy emphasis on the possibilities of the future in an effort to protect the doctrine of man’s free will. But in the process God’s omniscience, omnipotence, and sovereignty are diminished.
Based upon a careful examination of the rest of the lyrics of the song, it seems safe to assume that the writers of “Reckless Love” do not embrace the aforementioned bad theology. But by writing such a successful and popular song that uses the word reckless to describe God’s love, they might be unwittingly contributing to the idea that God truly is engaging in reckless behavior when He loves us. This is a consequence that reveals a lack of proper caution, and might even be considered careless, or irresponsible, songwriting.
It might even be safe to say that the choice of the word ‘reckless’ to describe God’s love is, pardon the repetition, reckless.

On Grief and Tears and Men Crying

I shed a few more tears this morning, but that’s okay. There is no doubt that I’ve cried more in 2019 than any year since my early childhood.
This morning it was prompted by reading the story of a couple losing their 15-year-old son earlier this month. As I was reading of their steadfast hope in the sovereignty of God over the lifespan of their precious boy, I was encouraged as I continue to process the passing of my Mom. When Mom was being formed in her own mother’s womb, God knew her birth date, and her death date, and every day in between. That comforts me.
But I recognize that more tears will come. They tend to show up at those dreaded firsts… first birthday without her (April), first Mother’s Day (May), her first birthday in Heaven (October), first Thanksgiving (November), and now, fast approaching, our first Christmas and New Year without her.
Yes, more tears will come.
It’s not that I’m an overly emotional guy. Truth be told, prior to this year, I may have had my eyes moisten on occasion during a touching scene in a movie or reading a heartbreaking story, but I would go months on end without actually shedding tears. In fact, I suspect there were many years beyond my early childhood that I probably didn’t cry at all.
Prior to this year, I had heard that the death of a mother, especially one as good as mine, can be devastatingly painful. Now that I’ve experienced it, I concur.
Some may wonder, “Why are you so public about your grief?” Or some may ask, “Isn’t it time to move on?” And still others may think, “Real men don’t cry. Suck it up. Man up.”
Permit me to briefly address each of these sentiments…
1. “Why are you so public about your grief?”
Two reasons:
(a) Because I am a extrovert, which means I process things outwardly, verbally. If you are an introvert, you process things inwardly and may have a hard time understanding those of us who need to process things in this way. But for the extrovert, processing our grief by discussing it publicly is part of our healing. Have patience with us.
(b) Because I am a pastor and my heart is to help others. By communicating my emotions, my disappointments, and my unrelenting hope in God, I am, perhaps, providing some ray of hope for others who are grieving, as well as reminding them that they are not alone.
2. “Isn’t it time to move on?”
No one has said this to me, so please don’t think I am reacting to anyone in particular’s insensitivity. But I have witnessed this attitude on occasion in regard to someone else’s grief, and I have, I confess, thought this myself before.
My Mom died in March. Here it is nine months later, and I am still speaking of, and in this case, writing about, my grief. Waves of grief, with accompanying tears, still come. At what point do I “move on”? Isn’t it time to move on?
Pardon my bluntness on this one, but the answer to the question is… NO. It’s not time to move on, and it never will be. Outside of God, Who is my Creator, my Savior, and my Lord, there are two people who have had the most influence in my life, my Mom and my Dad. To lose someone of this measure in one’s life is not something where one just flips a switch and is able to “move on.”
That said, grieving is for a season. And it is appropriate and healthy to desire and look to MOVE FORWARD from the season of grief and seek to return to a life characterized by peace and joy. It isn’t returning to “normal” but is learning to live by faith, with hope, in the “new normal” of life… a life in which a significant person is now absent.
3. “Real men don’t cry. Suck it up. Man up.”
Lies. The truth is that real men DO cry. There was never more of a man than the Lord Jesus Christ. Forget that milquetoast, weak, effeminate image of Jesus that has been falsely perpetuated in some environments. While on the earth, Jesus overturned massive, heavy tables in the Temple courts, boldly confronted hypocrites and abusive authorities, and today has eyes like flaming fire (Rev. 1.14). Yet, Jesus was not afraid to shed tears. Not out of fear or cowardice, but out of compassion and, at least once, at the death of a friend (John 11.35).
I don’t apologize for my tears. I’m not saying a man, or woman, should be weeping at the drop of a hat or in settings that would upset or unreasonably disturb others. Part of the fruit of a Spirit-filled life is self-control (Galatians 5.23). But to always hold back the tears is to potentially thwart one of God’s tools for healing of the heart.
Ladies, I don’t suspect you struggle with letting the tears flow as much as we men do. I remember twenty-five years ago, a good friend of mine, Angie (she now has an awesome podcast that you should check out HERE), told me she cried a few times a week. She told me that every few days most girls needed a good cry. I remember thinking, “What’s so good about crying?” Now I know.
So, guys, I’m talking to you. It’s okay. When in a season of grief, let the tears flow. Have a good cry. Healing will come.

 

Stay in Your Lane! (aka…What I Learned from Eating and Reviewing 20 Chicken Sandwiches)

I’ve picked up a new hobby: writing food reviews. Strange, I know. But I am enjoying it. Recently I’ve been reviewing chicken sandwiches. Currently, I have tried twenty different chicken sandwiches and have posted eighteen reviews, with the remaining two reviews coming soon.

Screen Shot 2019-11-27 at 11.44.42 AM.jpg
The new Classic Chicken Sandwich from Popeyes

My biggest takeaway so far? Stay in your lane!

What I mean by that is this… for the most part, if you want a really good chicken sandwich, you should go to a chicken restaurant, as opposed to a burger joint. While I am not going to reveal my chicken sandwich rankings just yet, I will say that of my top five, only one burger restaurant is among them.

What does this have to do with anything spiritual? Here’s some ways that wisdom applies to the Christian life:

If your primary spiritual gift is teaching, but you don’t have the gift of evangelism, while you should still seek to be a faithful witness for Christ, focus your energies in developing and deploying your teaching gift. And vice versa. Gifted evangelists should spend most of their time honing and exercising their gift.

If you are not an expert in a given area, think twice before correcting or criticizing someone who is an expert in that area.

For example, several years ago an aspiring young photographer approached my Dad (an accomplished photojournalist), asking him to take a look at her professional portfolio. He was glad to help, and prefaced his comments by telling her he would be honest with her, in order to best help her develop and improve her craft. As he was making recommendations, instead of gratefully making note of his counsel, she chose to argue with him about his critiques. She never made it as a photographer.

God has designed you and wired you in a magnificent way (see Psalm 139.13-16). He has a wonderful plan to use you for His glory. Don’t try to be somebody you are not. Discover your divine design. Once you discover how He has designed you and wired you and gifted you, be the best YOU God has created you to be. Stay in YOUR lane!

 

The Sin of Hiding Behind a Keyboard

Lately I’ve been noticing how easy it is for people to be negative and critical about others behind the safety of a keyboard (aka “the internet”). It’s a whole lot easier to say bad things about people you have never met, people who are only an image on a screen. Things are a lot different when you are face-to-face with them.

A few years ago, Jimmy Fallon and All-Star baseball player Robinson Cano set up a humorous prank that illustrates this reality. Please take four minutes to watch this…

What’s really sad is that there are a lot of Christians who are guilty of negatively judging others who they have never met. And far too often they don’t even have enough evidence before going public with their judgments, via blogs, Facebook, twitter, and other social media outlets.

For example, I recently came across a so-called “discernment ministry” website which had a long list of “false teachers.” While perhaps some of them are indeed false teachers, there were some pastors and evangelists listed that I would need to see some credible evidence to back up the charge. So I utilized the search feature on their website and found that these “discernment” bloggers provided no evidence to back up their charges against some of these men.

While falling short of the legal definition of slander, this kind of thing is definitely malice, and is sinful behavior.

So, here’s a challenge to all of us. Before we say something unkind to someone or about someone, let’s make sure we aren’t hiding behind the keyboard. Then, let’s make sure we have plenty of credible evidence to back up our charge. Finally, let’s only speak of them as if we were standing there in front of them, and the people who love them.

Reason #23

Back in 2008 I penned a blog post that has been, by far, the most popular one I’ve ever written (approaching 200,000 views). That blog post, “Should a Christian Drink Alcohol?, presents 21 reasons why I think it is wise to refrain from drinking alcohol.

A couple of years later I added, somewhat humorously, a 22nd reason.

Today I add a 23rd: You should avoid drinking alcohol in order to avoid increased mosquito attraction. Yes, you read that correctly. Mosquitoes are more likely to be attracted to you after you have consumed alcohol.

A team of researchers in Japan warn that “persons drinking alcohol should be careful about their increased risk to mosquito bites and therefore exposure to mosquito-borne diseases.”

So there’s that, too. 🙂