On this weekend when we honor workers and celebrate the rewards of our work, I am reminded of a scripture passage that encourages us to work out our own salvation: Philippians 2:12-13.  It says, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to work for his good please.”

At first hearing, these two verse may cause panic in the protestant mind: “I thought we were saved by grace.” “I thought it was impossible to work our way to heaven.”  “How can Paul possibly say, ‘work out your own salvation’?”  “Do we really need fear and tremble?”

I think our initial reaction to this verse may be a result of our tendency to view salvation as escape, rather than as an empowerment. Many of us tend to see salvation as something God gives us so that one day in the future we may escape our bodies and earthly situation.  And if we’re not careful, we end up ignoring God’s call  for the present time and in the material world.   In the Bible, salvation is God’s actions to deliver his people.  This deliverance is not for their relaxation, but for their restoration. This restoration begins here and now, as the kingdom of God breaks in upon this world , and accomplishes God’s will on earth, just as it is in heaven.  As God’s restores us through his saving power, he equips us to be his agents of healing in the world.   This is why Paul finishes the verse by saying, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

Our salvation isn’t merely for our own pleasure in the sky hereafter. It is for God’s pleasure now and in the future as he works in us and through us to redeem the world.  As his agents on earth, we our called to make sure that we are working out this salvation. We are encourage to hold fast to the word of life, to persevere in the race, confident that it is God himself who is energizing us and working through us.  And one day, we will gladly enter into our eternal reward.


I was in the car quite a bit this week, so I had the chance to listen to a good chunk of the book Quiet by Susan Cain.  I haven’t finished it yet, but I listened with great interest as Cain’s work on introversion has much to say to many spheres of our lives – including education.

 In the first part of the book, Cain discusses how in the early 1900s, culture shifted from being concern with character – something that anyone can work to improve – to being obsessed with performance, appearance, and personality. This perceived importance of  personality developed as society began transitioning from working on the farm with family and neighbors to working in urban areas with strangers. To get along and succeed they were encouraged to improve their personality – to be more outgoing, friendly, and appealing.  Dale Carnegie, who grew up as a shy farm boy, discovered that those with great speaking ability were often successful. He began to study speaking at College, became very good at it and went on to teach it to others. Eventually writing the famous book “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”  The modern obsession with personality continued. Young men and women were encourage to develop charismatic personalities to attract a husband or wife. Now the strength of character was replaced with a bubbly personality.
Further, schools began enforcing this line of thinking. Introverted kids were labeled as a problem and were encouraged to be more outgoing. According the new thinking, to be successful in business and in life, kids would need to break out of their shell and be more outgoing.  So schools began to warn parents when students spent some time alone, instead of with their fun-loving peers, apparently concerned that they would be socially awkward and not able to survive the social demands of the new economy.  Although Cain didn’t mention the home school movement,  I think this is particularly interesting as a homeschooling dad. Why? Perhaps the number one argument against homeschooling is that kids will struggle socially.

The “social argument” regarding homeschooling seems to be predicated on the same basis as the personality emphasis of the early 20th century:  In this new age, you need an outgoing personality to succeed. Character matters little.  Never mind the fact that some of the greatest contributions of our age were from introverts as Susan Cain points out in her book (think Einstein, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, etc.) It is also interesting that many older people in our culture lament the lack of respect and manners in the youth of today.  Are these not social issues?  Yet these social problems persist even though the vast majority of the student population attends public school.  (Just for the record, I’m not saying all public school kids turn out to be disrespectful. Nor am I saying that homeschooling is for every family)

Kids indeed can learn social skills in homeschooling – they can learn manners and respect for all people, regardless of age or what they look like. These character traits are the old virtues that all children used to be taught.  You don’t need an outgoing personality to show respect. You just need character and some good habits.  An outgoing personally does not guarantee success, nor is it the mark of genuine godliness.  And if God created a child to be naturally introverted, then what business do we have to try and force him to become more “outgoing”? Perhaps the “social argument” regarding homeschooling is really about our culture’s bias toward the extroverted  and gregarious.

Regardless of whether a family chooses home school, private school or public school, parents need to ensure that their children have social skills. Is is possible that home-schooled children don’t get enough social interaction? Yes, its possible in some cases, but this concern is overstated.  Sometimes, we act as if the traditional school is  the only place in society where children can encounter other children.   Is it possible that traditional schools can be harmful to children socially when there is pressure for them to be more outgoing, more friendly and to do whatever possible to fit in with the crowd?  In another words, if a child is a born introvert, parents need to ensure that their child’s educational environment is developing the strengths that often go along with introversion – deep intellectual abilities, independence, and creativity.  In many cases, education environments may be working against these strengths, and in fact label them as weaknesses.

Many children are able to perform well, especially in front kids who are their own age.  But this is exactly what it is: a performance.  Wouldn’t it be better if our children were educated and nourished as the individuals that God created them to be –  whether introverted or extroverted – instead of pressured to conform to the personalities of their more bubbly peers?

It is true: Our children’s social skills are very important, especially from a Christian perspective.  But what kind of social skills? Regardless of educational choice, perhaps we need to stop, be silent, and think: Do we want our children to grow up and be performers in front of peers,  or men and women of character, treating everyone with respect?

“We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States…”

The first lines of the last paragraph of the Declaration of Independence.

Although the declaration was in the name  and the authority of the people, it was understood that the entire process was under the ultimate authority of God. In the founding document of our nation, our Fathers acknowledged  the “Supreme Judge” of all nations.  The states were to be independent of the British Crown, not independent of the Creator.

Easter People

St. Augustine once said, “We are Easter people and alleluia is our song!”

A few weeks after the Boston bombing, the Texas explosion, the horrific Gosnell trial, and whatever else has tried us in the last few days, it becomes easy to forget about Easter that we celebrated a few weeks ago. When tragedy strikes, we often watch the news anxiously for the next detail to come to light: who was it? why did they do it? are they going to catch them?  As we continue to watch the coverage, we begin to despair over the condition of our world. We believe that things are falling apart, that the end may be near.

Things may be falling apart, and the end could be near. Or it could be another 10,000 years.  Either way, our job as Christians  live everyday in light of the Resurrection. To live as though Jesus really did rise from the dead. Our God has brought Jesus through the worst pain that the world has to offer, through death, and then to new life again.

We don’t stick our heads in the sand and pretend nothing is wrong. Nor do we throw our hands in air, giving in to the world’s message of gloom and despair. No, we must call to mind once again, that Christ has risen from the dead, and we are raised with him. And as people of the new creation, God has place us here to live out the resurrection life.

God has not given us the Spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind.  Often what is reported in the media doesn’t affect us directly, and we cannot change what happens in the world around us. But we can change how we interact with the people we come in contact with. We can help our neighbors. We can encourage our families. We can teach our children the gospel, and the Jesus inspired morality the springs from it, including the sanctity of every human life.  We can live new life through power of the resurrection.

This is the Easter season, and we are the Easter people! Alleluia is our Song!

Its been nearly two weeks since Resurrection Sunday, but according to the traditional church calendar, it is only the second week of a seven week Easter Season. This season is a time to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, new life, and new creation. It is no coincidence that this period on the Church calendar occurs during the time of the year where we see nature come to life.  Just this week, we have seen beautiful sunny skies, the Dogwood and Bradford pear trees bloom and the grass getting greener – and taller.

It is Spring. The cold gives way to warmth.  The ground is broken up and readied for planting. Dormant seeds come alive.
And Christ is risen. Alleluia! The Lord is Risen Indeed!

Galatians 3:13 says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree – so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles…..”

What is this curse of the law the writer is talking about? Back in Deuteronomy chapter 28 Moses tells Israel that they will receive blessings for obeying the law, and curse for disobeying the law.  For obeying the law, God would bring blessings of fruitful labor, prosperity, and peace.  The first fourteen verse of the chapter is a picture of human flourishing: blessings of children, livestock, and land.

The next fifty-three verses of curses is a dark portrait of human anguishing. God would curse their labor and their livestock, and cause them to be defeated by their enemies. They would “grope at noonday, as the blind grope in darkness”. They would become a “horror, a proverb, and a byword” among the peoples of the earth. In other words, they would become an object of ridicule and scorn.  Verses 65 – 67 sum it up: “The Lord will give you a trembling heart and failing eyes and a languishing soul. Your life shall hang in doubt before you. Night and day you shall be in dread and have no assurance of your life. In the morning you shall say, ‘if only it were evening!’ and at evening you shall say, ‘if only it were morning!’  because of the dread that your heart shall feel, and the sights that your eyes shall see.”

This is the curse of the law. The curse that Israel deserved, because they did not obey the law. The same law which Jesus said could be summed up in two commands: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  We also have failed to obey this law.  And as a result, we deserve the curses. When we fail to love God, our very source of life, we no longer deserve to flourish as living human beings. We deserve the anguish any living being goes through when it is cut off from its source of life.

Yet, Christ become a curse for Israel and for us on that Friday long ago. He was cursed. His labor of love and healing was rejected by the people. He was tortured by his enemies and nailed to a tree (a curse in and of itself according to Jewish law – see the Galatians verse above).  He became an object of ridicule among both the Jews and Gentiles.  He bore the curse, so that we might receive the blessing.

In his Image

Our sin is bad not so much because we break a list of rules, but because we misrepresent our Creator. As humans we were created to bear the image of God and to take dominion over the earth for God (Genesis 1:26). As image bearers of our creator, we are called to reflect God’s goodness to the rest of creation.  As dominion takers, we are given the job of maintaining and cultivating planet earth for the glory of God.

However, we were not content to be God’s image bearers. We often want to bear our own image – to glorify ourselves. This is known as pride. And instead of taking dominion for God, we tend to take dominion for ourselves. This is the scandal of our sin: We created to bear God’s image, and we have tarnished that image. Because of our sin, we misrepresent God’s goodness. Further, we were created to be stewards of his creation as dominion takers for God,  and we have twisted this calling to be dominion takers for ourselves.

Fortunately God came to earth to restore us to be his image bearers. The New Testament says that Jesus is the image of the invisible God. Christ came to be what we could not be: the perfect image bearer of God. And through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ – and the power of the Holy Spirit – God is making us into the image of his Son (Romans 8:29). In Christ, we are restored to be the image bearers of God.