A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion at an event in Boston. I had never been to the city and was hoping to do a little sight seeing while there. Unfortunately the rainy weather and my tight schedule eliminated the opportunity to visit Fenway Park. That was a big disappointment. I was pleased when I had a couple of open hours that happened to correspond to a relatively nice afternoon. The hotel was within walking distance of Boston Common, so I set off on foot hoping to take in a few of the sites along the Freedom Trail.

North Church, Boston, MA
North Church, Boston, MA

After spending some time enjoying the area and soaking up the history, I turned back in the direction of my hotel. I didn’t have any definite objective and was just walking and praying. I turned a corner and there was Old North Church, a reminder of our history that is dwarfed by the modern downtown that has grown up around it.

At the time of the American Revolution, the 190 foot tall steeple was easily the tallest structure in Boston and was visible all around the city and across the Charles River in Charlestown. In April of 1775 the British had over 4000 soldiers stationed in Boston with the intent of capturing stockpiles of weapons and ammunition in the neighboring countryside. Colonial spies were able to discover that two regiments would be sent to Concord where a particularly large cache of munitions was hidden. What they did not know was when the British would leave or which route they would travel.

The Colonial plan was to send riders ahead of the advancing British to Lexington, half way to Concord, where they would warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams. Unsure if he would be able to escape Boston to give the warning, Paul Revere came up with the now well known plan to warn his allies on the other side of the river of the British advance. Riders stood by each night in Charlestown, ordered to watch the steeple of North Church for the signal. If they saw a single lantern the British would head out on the longer land route. Two lanterns signaled the army would row across the river in the more direct path to Concord.

When British forces started putting their boats into the river on the night of April 18th, Revere sent trusted accomplices to North Church to display two lanterns. An hour later when he reached Charlestown on the far side of the river, Revere discovered riders had seen the signal and already left for Lexington. The next morning when the unsuspecting British reached Lexington they found an armed and ready militia rather than the sleepy village they anticipated. It was in this encounter that a shot rang out, the “shot heard around the world” and the revolution was underway.

The events that transformed the nation had their beginning in light shining forth from the church. Today, culture is in need of transformation. We are the light of the world. We have been tasked with shining forth the light of His glory, the very essence of who He is. It is us reflecting Him that will illuminate the marketplace, the campus, the studio, or the neighborhood. It is His glory, hidden in our earthen vessels, that is needed to bring about the revival we long to see. Wherever you go today, be an influence for Him.

Getting Traction

My wife Jean recently commented how long it has been since we had our television on. We spend a lot of free time reading our Bibles and studying different topics. This is true, for two reasons. First is our enjoyment of studying God’s Word and second is the lack of quality television programming today. When I was young there was a selection of high quality, intellectually stimulating programs that I never missed. A prime example is The Dukes of Hazzard. (That was a test to see how well my dry sarcastic humor translates from speaking to writing.)

One thing that always stood out to me about the Duke boys and their General Lee was the amazing ability of the Dodge Charger to squeal its tires on gravel roads. I grew up on a farm and know for a fact no other vehicle can accomplish this feat. I’ve tried. The problem with big V8 engines generating massive torque on gravel is traction.

Sometimes in life it seems like we don’t have much traction. Christians have access to plenty of power, the problem arises where the rubber meets the road so to speak. Do you find a disconnect between your spiritual engine revving and your forward progress? I was reading Deuteronomy 28 and wondered about the connection between traction and obedience, specifically diligent obedience. It is rather obvious what the Lord expected of the nation of Israel in order to walk in His promised blessing. Take a look at the first two verses.

Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the LORD your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the LORD your God. [NASB]

I can’t count how many times I have heard a Christian reference “the head and not the tail, above only and not beneath” found in verse 13. I also can’t recall anyone who quoted the rest of the verse. There is a pesky “if” statement which means the good stuff doesn’t apply without meeting the criteria.

The LORD will make you the head and not the tail, and you only will be above, and you will not be underneath, if you listen to the commandments of the LORD your God, which I charge you today, to observe [them] carefully, and do not turn aside from any of the words which I command you today, to the right or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them. [NASB]

I see a couple of not so popular phrases that require diligent obedience and careful observation of God’s commandments. Is there something He is telling you to do but you are hesitant? Maybe you know of something that you need to set aside but haven’t. Are you carefully observing His commandments by reading your Bible consistently and applying what you read? Are you diligent to attend church as a contributing member, not a hearer only? We can all improve in these practical areas, it is a matter of choice. Each correct choice is an increase in traction propelling us forward.

When is the last time you pondered the theological implications of life in Hazzard County?

Grace Economics

Without a doubt I believe that when God created me, He put in me a curiosity about stepping back from the detail of things to see the larger picture. When I look at one single component, my first thought is usually not about the component itself but rather how it fits into the larger system. When in college I earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Economics, so that is obviously a topic that interests me. If you find the idea of studying Economics rather far down on your list of things to do, maybe near getting a cavity filled or visiting the nice man from the IRS, don’t worry I’m not writing about the discipline itself. I’m actually discussing the origin of the word “Economics”. (Remember I like to step back and see where things came from.)

We get our word from the Greek word οἰκονομία (oikonomos) which comes from the word for household (oikos) and the word for law or rule (nomos). In other words, in its Greek origin, economics is about rules for a household. In this sense, it stems from managing the finances of a household. Every house, even Warren Buffet’s, has some finite amount of resources at its disposal. Economics determines how much the household is willing to spend on various goods and services, how it allocates its resources. Resource allocation is a big part of studying economics.

This Greek word appears ten times in the New Testament and is usually translated “steward”, it is also translated “manager”, or “treasurer”. Whenever you see the word “steward” in the Bible, think economics. One such occurrence of “steward” is 1 Peter 4:10.

As each one has received a [special] gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. (NASB)

The term steward is typically associated with the person in the household charged with allocating financial resources on behalf of the head of the house. Peter is applying the term to each of us. We Christians are supposed to allocate resources on behalf of God, the head of our household. What resource are we to allocate? We are entrusted with His grace and asked to allocate it where needed.

Grace is one of those words often heard but infrequently really understood. The Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias has said, “The marvelous story of the Gospel is spelled out in one word: grace.” If we are the stewards of this grace, perhaps we should spend more time understanding it. If you detect a lack of God’s grace in your surroundings, ask yourself how well you are allocating this resource as its official steward.

Stewards entrusted with financial responsibility have to be frugal and shrewd in how they allocate the money since it is a finite resource. Stewards of grace have no such restriction, we have the awesome task of stewarding a limitless supply. It’s time for some grace allocation.