Throughout history, during some of the most vicious wars, a “ceasefire” was observed on this day, Christmas? One such example was one of the history most powerful yet forgotten Christmas stories. Nearing the Christmas of 1914, in the fifth month of World War I, which had claimed hundreds of thousands of killed, wounded, and missing, but sometimes the greatest beauty emerges from deep tragedy. The Christmas Truce was one of histories most beautiful moments, made all the more beautiful in light of the carnage that followed it.

The Christmas Truce

It began on Christmas Eve, when many German and British troops fighting in World War I sang Christmas carols to each other across the bloody line of death. It is said that when the German soldiers lit and placed candles on their trenches and on small Christmas trees, the British, French, Belgian, and German troops continued the celebration by singing Christmas carols to each other, and at certain points, the Allied soldiers even heard brass bands joining the Germans in their joyous singing. Extraordinary, but not as extraordinary as what followed next. 

At the first light of dawn on Christmas Day, some German soldiers emerged from their trenched and approached the Allied lines across “no-man’s-land”, calling out “Merry Christmas” in their enemies’ native tongues. At first, the Allied soldiers feared it was a trick, but seeing the Germans unarmed, they climbed out of their trenches and shook hands with the enemy soldiers. The men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings and sang carols and songs. There was even a documented case of soldiers from opposing sides playing a soccer game. 

They were naively hoping that the war would be short-lived; the truce lasted through Christmas night, continuing until New Year’s Day. Until angry superiors ordered them to recommence the shooting, many men aimed harmlessly high overhead. This reminds me of Charles Yale Harrison who authored an anti-war novella from first-hand experience as a young soldier who fought in World War I. In his book, Generals Die in Bed, Harrison helps us realise that war is a game of strategy fought between generals, and soldiers are the ones who suffer. 

The Christmas Spirit of Peace

Man has argued about the ethics of war for generations. For instance, the “Just War Theory” is a tradition going back to St. Augustine in the 5th Century and St. Thomas in the 13th Century. In stark contrast to the Old Testament, the New Testament –the Christian ideal is total elimination of war and brotherly love among all people. The Christmas spirit hinges on this spirit, the spirit of peace and not war that prevailed over those soldiers of World War I.  

To quote British soldier, Murdoch M. Wood, speaking in 1930: “I then came to the conclusion that I have held very firmly ever since, that if we had been left to ourselves there would never have been another shot fired.”

During World War One, the soldiers didn’t expect to celebrate on the battlefield, but not even a world war could destroy the Christmas spirit.

MERRY CHRISTMAS! 

We must be cautious about following in their footsteps and avoiding pitfalls and compromises in our witness. That’s because there is a cosmic gravitational pull away from the authority of God’s Word, and it’s as old as the third chapter of Genesis. Apologists are not immune to this temptation. I admire Professor John Lennox’s integrity; regardless of how far philosophically or scientific the debate excels, he faithfully grounds it back in the simplicity of the Gospel.  

Indeed, apologetics is often the proving ground for someone’s position on Scripture. The point of contact, where our gospel ministry interacts with the lives of those far from Jesus, is where our commitment to biblical authority is tested and tried. Every generation of the church must fight the allure of locating the center of our faith to something other than Scripture. One influential pastor and author recently said, “The foundation of our faith isn’t the Bible. The foundation of our faith is an event, the resurrection.” Another Christian leader said, “Christians often start as the basis of their faith with the Bible …. I think that’s idolatry. I think the foundation of our faith is supposed to be Jesus.”

Something about these statements sounds obvious, virtuous, and even true. But any move away from biblical authority is dangerous. The emphasis on the resurrection apart from Scripture is really a call to focus on the historical evidences for the resurrection.

Our blinding bias

Evidence doesn’t interpret itself. There is indeed a great amount of evidence for the resurrection. However, it is naïve to conclude that the evidence alone can establish the miraculous event of Jesus rising from the dead. Evidence must be interpreted. And the person making the interpretation brings a bias to the evidence that will determine their conclusion.

Philosopher Roy Clouser gives a compelling case for the impossibility of a bias-free approach to evidence in his book The Myth of Religious Neutrality. He argues that all persons bring a view of ultimate reality that sets the parameters for what interpretations will be considered plausible.

One interesting, though sad, example of a person who carefully considered the evidence for the resurrection yet denied it is the late philosopher Antony Flew. Flew was one of the most prolific atheistic authors of his generation. Yet, at the end of his life he re-examined his worldview and concluded that the evidence of the universe is best explained by divine creation. As a deist, Flew overturned his entire life’s work of atheistic philosophy. It could be a

Take this course now

Take this course now

rgued that he had little to lose by going one step further and accepting the truth of a particular religious tradition, especially if he found the evidence compelling. One of his final debates was with Christian apologist Gary Habermaas on the topic of the resurrection. Flew concluded that the evidence for the resurrection was superior in both quality and quantity to any other religious miracle claim. Though he found it compelling, he ultimately did not find it convincing. He died as a deist who denied God’s interaction in human history, in spite of his respect for the historical case for the resurrection.

Scripture interprets history

In order to properly interpret the facts of the resurrection, we need God’s revelation of Himself. We need God to explain Himself to us. That

‘s what the Bible claims to do. And this is how the very first disciples made sense of resurrection. They explained the resurrection of Jesus according to the authority of the Scripture.

In fact, the first and shortest Christian creed is recorded in 1 Corinthians 15, “That Christ died … according to the Scriptures … and was raised … according to the Scriptures.” This early creed, included in inspired Scripture, demonstrates the early disciple’s dependence upon Scripture in order to understand the resurrection of Jesus. They were interpreting the historical events surrounding Jesus through the framework of what God had revealed about himself in the Old Testament.

Some will think I am here disparaging the use of historical evidence in apologetics. I am not. It is my aim to demonstrate that evidence is not self-interpreting and that the way we make sense of the claims of the Gospel, including the resurrection, is through Scripture.

We cannot, we should not divorce the resurrection from Scripture or pit evidence for the resurrection against Scripture. The first disciples didn’t. We shouldn’t either. The Bible is the foundation of our faith and our apologetics.

Introduction

Once more civilization finds herself resurfacing into the bigotry culture of relativism absent from moral objectivity, hence the intention of this blog is an attempt to answer the question, how did the Church of Jesus Christ, the custodians of God’s revelation of reality, allow this to happen on Her watch? As we reflect upon the purpose stated in Kevin G. Smith’s book, A Practical Guide to Biblical Ethics, undoubtedly a valuable book written to address several important factors, for instance, the reasons for the moral dilemma in the world and a Church that behaves accordingly (Smith 2012). Smith, specifically focuses on challenging Christians and pastors to reconsider the philosophical necessity of having a sound biblical worldview. Which he argues is Her answer to internal cohesion and relevance and for believers to make sense out of reality (Smith 2012).  Another object is to consider that even with the exponential growth of evangelical Christianity, one would think by now we’d be experiencing a cultural revolution and that secular values would be diminishing in its influence? Our endless prayer meetings, countless responses to our modern-day Charles Finney styled “alter calls” and still the question we asking despite the presence and growth of evangelical Christianity, why have we hardly caused a ripple in secular culture (David 1993, 295)?  Could the “miles wide but an inch deep” reality of the Church’s intellectual inability to make sense out of reality be hindering the Church’s witness?

1.   Truths To Consider

In this section, I’d like to discuss three truths I’ve learnt in Smith’s book,  A Practical Guide to Biblical Ethics and explore why I believe these truths are most expedient for the Church to yield to.

Worldviews shape behaviour

There is no question that (your) mentality determines (your) reality (Proverbs 23:7), on top of this, Smith points out that reality determines morality (Smith 2012).  That is to say that how we behave is determined by what we believe or think.  If we ask the question, what is reality? We may answer that reality is the lens we use by which we make sense of life or existence. This lens is important because we’ve learnt that it defines our worldview. Our worldview is important because it shapes our behaviour (Smith 2012).

Component of a worldview

We’ve learnt that whether people realise it or not, everyone has a worldview, yet, not everyone’s worldview is sound.  Adopting the matrix of what makes for a sound worldview by both Ronald Nash and Glen Martin, I’ve learnt that whatever your religious presuppositions may be, one cannot merely assume what one believes about reality is true.  A sound worldview must answer or argue with a statement and premise, concluding in a truth claim which best argues (Isa 1:18) the facts at hand (Moreland 2017, 168), based in the following basic questions of: Origin – the origin, nature, role and destiny of both universe and mankind; Ethics – how life is structured; and Knowledge – how do we know what we know (Smith 2012).

Three main ways Christians use to gain knowledge

I’ve learnt that we all are entitled to our viewpoint but every viewpoint must be substantiated by the simple question “how did you come to that conclusion”?  How do we warrant what we believe or disbelieve (Moreland 2017, 175)? There are three ways Christians learn.  In order of importance, they are Revelation, Reason and Experience (Smith 2012).  Of course, the Atheist deifies reason while rejecting revelation, the seen above the unseen, the free above the pre-determined (Moreland 2017, 435).    The Biblical Christian understands that God Himself is the source of truth and reality, the seen and the unseen (2 Cor 4:18, cf. Heb 9:11).

 

Would Jesus Get the Jab? READ NOW!

2.   Questions I Have

We’ve uncovered the shocking reality of precisely how few Christians have a biblical worldview, as Smith mentions, as he further cites Barna’s shocking states which say that only 50 per cent of pastors and only nine per cent of Christians living in America live their lives consistent with the “why” the Bible describes. Evangelical Christianity is growing, yet when this impact is measured against social transformation indicators and cultural impact, the Church has not even caused a ripple.   The question then begs: even if only half of pastors or one-tenth of Christians hold a biblical worldview, how is it possible for the same to still maintain a liberal worldview? How can one hold a biblical worldview and still vote for a political party that has endorsed nonbiblical values?  How is it that we host national prayer meetings, large evangelical crusades, extend endless altar calls, pray for God’s will to prevail, invite the lost to forsake the kingdom of darkness for the Kingdom of light but still, vote for the values of darkness or live like the world? A recent example that illustrates this is the Trump and Biden elections which caused much division within the Church.  Trump may not have been diplomatic and perfect but his political views were closer to biblical values than Biden’s, whose endorsed abortion and same-sex marriage.  In South Africa, it is not uncommon for the Church to stand with political parties who have anti-biblical agendas.  One could ask, how are such double standards possible and where do we begin to fix this?

3.   Changed My Thinking

The ultimate goal of the Scriptures is to equip us for good works (Eph 2:10).   If God is the source ( 2 Pet 1:21) and the four functions serve to guide us in our decisions and in helping us decide right from wrong (2 Tim 3:16-17), then Scriptures provide us with an authoritative source about reality. God tells us what is true.  He then shows us how to live.  Paul used the same approach in his letters to the Colossians and Ephesians.  He first focuses on theology and then on practice.  Again one observes that. what one believes determines how one behaves (Smith 2012).

Conclusion

Due to the compromise of the inability to define reality within the Church, we are seeing the cultural re-emergence of first-century Roman-Greco beliefs intensify its opposing views and ridicule Christian values.  We are seeing the Bride oscillate between the impact of seventeenth-century intellectual liberalism (Enlightenment) and Her centuries of old and distasteful dogmatism and legalism as she grows deeper and deeper, decade after decade, in irrelevance and weakens in unity, mainly due to the absence of unified biblical worldviews.  We sense the urgency for Christians and pastors to reconsider the question of “what is reality”, using the Bible as the only lens of interpretation.

 

Works Cited

  1. David F. Wells 1993. No Place for Truth: Or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology?  United States: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.  
  2. Moreland JP., and William L. Craig, eds. 2017. Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview. Illinois: IVP Academic Intervarsity Press.
  3. Smith, G Kevin. 2014. A Practical Guide to Biblical Ethics. South Africa: South African Theological Seminary.

 

 

Fundamentally, most people in leadership fail to enjoy the fruit of what effective leadership can produce. The reason for this is pretty simple. Andy Crouch (Crouch, A. 2016, pn 112.) stated that when a leader is more concerned about himself, his comfort, security, and needs, both the people and the organisation suffers. Oh boy, how much time do you have, because I can give you a list of names that will keep you here until thy kingdom come! 

   Spiritual leadership does not begin with a title, position or privileges. It makes no difference where you are called to lead, in ministry or the marketplace. The greater the impact you want in your family, church or workplace, the greater your ability to influence others needs to be.

  Leadership is a risky business! You can invest your life into a team of men and women only to be rewarded with betrayal and denial. But not developing any leaders is an even greater risk. While we have all experienced incompetent or unhelpful leaders, we have also experienced mature, generous, and compassionate leaders —the kind of leaders we want to emulate, Jesus Christ! 

Thankfully, having a good understanding of what you are looking for in a leader can help you minimise risk to your Church. So, wherein the haystack can one start?  

Where to Start 

As you consider who is ready for leadership training, begin by reminding yourself of the goal (the Jethro and Ephesian 4, principles): you are not aiming to do all the ministry yourself; you are equipping the saints for ministry. Be prepared to entrust ministry to others —and to let go of it yourself. And as you get started, often pray that God will bring the right people to mind at the right time. God usually wakes me up between three and 5 am, showing me the faces of the people He wants me to pray for. Don’t ignore these moments or fail to act upon these divine instructions. 

As you remember Andy Crouch’s definition of leadership at the beginning of this blog, ask yourself who is already leading in your Church? Then, look over your list of current volunteers. Who is already serving faithfully?

 Those who are faithful with little will probably be faithful with more (Luke 16:10) –but don’t count on it! Also, look at people on the margins with the potential to serve. Maybe there is a new couple that previously led in the ministry. Or perhaps a teacher wants to start a special ministry for the youth. Sometimes the right people can also be found outside of your Church. So you have to be intentionally relying on the Holy Spit to show you who they are. 

If you think these folks have the right heart to become leaders in your Church, you can give them a trial run by asking them to help with specific short-term projects. Test their heart. I could be wrong, but one or two the most will leadership material for every ten that you ask. 

 If they have proven they can follow through, you can start tapping them for leadership development and other ministry opportunities. 

Qualities of a Leader 

As you think about potential leaders, certain things should always be true of the people you tap for leadership. Look for people with these qualities: 

Conviction 

The reformer Martin Luther stood before the intimidating court of religious authorities that had put him on trial and declared these words, “Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise, God help me.” This is convictional leadership.  

That is the kind of conviction that makes all the difference. Sadly, far too many of today’s leaders seem to have little idea what they believe, or they appear to be driven by no clear and discernible convictions. How many of today’s leaders are known for the convictions for which they are willing to die—or even to live?

You can divide all leaders into those who merely hold an office or position and those who hold great convictions. Life is too short to give much attention to leaders who stand for little or nothing, leaders who need to be followed up, looking for the next program, riding the latest leadership trend, trying on idea after idea, but driven by no deep convictions. 

So, look for men and women who understand or are willing to learn that the starting point for Christian leadership is not the leader but the eternal truths that God has revealed to us. This is the heart of convictional leadership. When thinking of people who will have leadership responsibility at your Church, you want to ensure also they agree with the main points of your theology and ministry philosophy. They probably would not need to argue the finer points of your Church’s doctrine, and you can train anything they should know. But you will want to make sure they are walking closely with God, growing in their faith, and loving the people in your community. 

Character

Perhaps the most widely misused biblical passage in our culture today is Matthew 7:1: “Judge not, that you be not judged.” Even people who do not know the content of Scripture very well are apt to quote Jesus whenever they are criticised for their behaviour. Such persons are looking to excuse their actions as if He would have us refrain from making judgments altogether.

Still, in grooming, but with great potential, our second in charge vocal leader was confronted for not pitching on a Sunday and not informing his leaders. The guy took offence, left the Church with “immediate effect”.   

It is so sad that so many people place talent above character. In today’s Church, you don’t; have to be ethical to be leadership material. While it may not be esteemed among man, character matters to God, and so it does in every thriving Church. 

 So look for people who are the same during the week as they are on Sundays, who earn your respect, and who deal fairly and generously with others without watering down truth.  

Competency 

We are not talking about being perfect. If you want to lead a miserable life, pursue perfectionism.  

But it is a no-brainer: do not ask her to sing if she cannot keep a note, don’t ask him to be the greeter if he has no teeth, do not put your super artsy, left-brained thinker in charge of finances and spreadsheets. You want the right people in charge of the right things because that is where they will thrive. As Romans 12:6 teaches, God has given each person different gifts all for the same purpose: to make the body of Christ flourish. Matching each person’s gifts to essential ministry is not only vital; it is the leader’s job!

Look for people who go beyond words. They can plan it and do it in a way that instils confidence in others who will follow them.

Chemistry 

No, we not talking about science. We are talking about leadership chemistry. You will, if not already be pressured by a very talented person, either because they have an exceptional management gift or a musical ability. Yet, if they do not have the other C’s I have mentioned, and you bent under pressure to give them some underserved title, you will pay a dear price! 

I remember him, well say his name was Joe. For some strange reason, Joe craved my recognition and wanted access to high-level leadership. Well, to save you all the detail, Joe left, and he left ugly. Real ugly! But it only confirmed that my judgement was spot on! I have burnt my fingers many years back and learnt this valuable lesson, talent does not triumph character!  

When considering someone for leadership, think about how that person will fit in with your existing leaders. Do they bring something new to the table? Do their gifts complement the gifts of others on the team? Are they enjoyable to work with? What is the motivation in their heart? 

I am convinced that the devil sends more of his people to Church to destroy it than God’s people will obey Him and walk through the doors.

So be on your guard and test every spirit! 

 

Here’s the irony, it seems as if the debate today is not about salvation but vaccination. One side of the Church says we must always obey the government, and the other side says we must obey God. But don’t you find it ironic that the Church hasn’t approached the issue of salvation and holiness with the same enthusiasm and zeal that it does about the vaccination and masks?

Would Jesus Get The Jab

Maybe you don’t see the irony, but I do. I often wonder what society would have been like if the Church treated the matter of salvation and holiness with the same enthusiasm and zeal as he vaccine and masks mandate? Heres’ why I believe Jesus or the Apostle Paul would have most likely taken the jab or worn the mask. No, it was not because of travel restrictions But for the same reason, Paul advised young Timothy to administer medication for his sickness (1 Tim 5:2) and for the same reason Jesus endorsed medical doctors (Matt 9:12).  So was Timothy perhaps trying to act super spiritual? If you’re Christian –thou shalt not take painkillers! Surely as a cultural norm, Tim understood the wine’s medicinal properties? So why did he need Paul to nurse him? I’m pointing out that God is not against doctors or medication, and therefore anyone who argues the contrary is unscriptural.  

A Church Caught In Civilian Affairs   

I’m intentional about not sounding conspiratorial, “vac is the mark of the beast” it may very well be the stage, but this is not the point of this blog.  The point of this blog is to illustrate the effects on society we would have had if we as the Church had focused our passionate feelings about vaccines and masks toward the unsaved,  including those who are not growing in their Christ-likeness within the ranks and respecting each other (2Tim 2:4), especially spiritual leaders. Imagine how different things have been? 

Stop Barking

Instead, one side barks off Romans 13:1–2, and I would need to quote it as stated in the Bible because I believe it is misused. For instance, Romans 13:1–2 says, 

 “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” By doing so we are free from the fear of punishment (13:3–4), our consciences are clear (13:5), and workers [i.e., government officials] are worthy of their wages (13:6; cf. 1 Tim 5:18).

Sure enough, all this is true, and we should obey these commands but make sure that if you are on this side of the argument, make sure that you are also keeping the speed limit. Ensure that you are coming to a complete stop at a stop sign and indicating when changing a lane. Don’t also forget to declare the income from your garage sale and to love your wife or respect your husband. 

The first part of the problem is when people stress one part of the scriptures but neglect the rest at the cost of hurting the relationship and disparaging the wisdom of God. (Insane!) 

The second part of the problem is when one finds themselves on the other side of the argument. “We should obey God and not Nero!” Loosely quoting verses such as Acts 4:19–20. When the ruling Jewish authorities demanded that they stop preaching Jesus, Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”  This side also quotes Acts 5:29. “We must obey God rather than human beings!” and argues that biblically mandated worship is impossible with masks. Or we cannot worship and obey God if we can’t meet in a building! Others even go to such an extreme by saying,  all those that are vaccinated are deceived and therefore not true believers. (What!?)    

But think about this… Do you obey God ALL the time? If you speak about people who are not present, you are a gossiper, which means you don’t obey God all the time.  Do you give generously to your Church (2 Cor 8:7) since workers are deserving of their wages? Do you detest what is evil and cling to what is good (Rom 12:9)?  So why do so many Christians speak in absolutes when so many brothers and sisters hold the opposite position?

It’s Despicable

Here is a deep concern happening right now in the Church. I don’t know how much longer pastors will stand for the hypocrisy and graceless behaviour among their flocks? The issues of the vaccine and masks mandates are tearing churches apart. Pastors are doing their best to serve God and His people as they are led –in the building or outside of a building. Yet, people are leaving their local churches, walking away from decades of God forged and extended fellowship and friendship. Giving members stop giving, serving leadership stopped serving, and pastors are walking away from the ministry in unprecedented numbers. Where is the Grace? (I think it’s despicable!)

God Outweighs Nero

I think the basic principle is clear: obey your governing rulers, even if that ruler is Nero, as in Paul’s day. But when the government tells you to do something that is contrary to God’s laws, then we cannot obey the government. (I know that I wouldn’t!) God outweighs Nero. But are vaccine mandates or mask mandates contrary to God’s laws — I’m still looking for that verse — or are they a violation of my personal freedom? (Maybe you can help me better understand?)

If you read Romans 14, and if you permit me the freedom to change the text a little, you’ll see what I am getting at.  The words in italics are mine (Shan), not Paul’s. The difficulty of this passage is determining which theological position is “weak” and which is “strong,” so I will paraphrase the passage two different ways.

Paul starts with his general principle. 

“Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarrelling over disputable matters. “

And then he continues:

“One person’s faith requires them to get the jab or wear masks, but another, whose faith is weak, does not get the jab or wear masks. The one who gets the jab or wears a mask must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not get the jab or wear a mask must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them.” (Get it?)

Now to switch the weak and strong:

“One person’s faith requires them not to get the jab or wear masks, but another, whose faith is weak, gets the jab or wears masks (I’m not suggesting if one medicates or wears an N95, one is weak in faith). The one who does not get the jab or wear a mask must not treat with contempt the one who does get the jab or wear a mask, and the one who does not get the jab or wear a mask must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them.” (Get it?)

This principle suggests that love triumphs over knowledge and Christian liberty, as also suggested in 1 Cor 8:12.  (Get this right and even the devil may change his mind about us.)

Don’t Shoot The Messenger

Before you start guessing what I believe about the vaccine or masks, be assured that you probably don’t! So please don’t shoot the messenger. Please don’t send me resignation letters or bombard my inbox with conspiracies. 

But one thing that I know for sure, I am convinced that the Covid-19 pandemic has given Christians the greatest platform we have had in years –to show our neighbours that we are different and that our hope is not in this world, (vaccines or masks) but in Christ Jesus. 

And I am convinced that when we split or leave our Churches, ditch God’s kingdom responsibilities we have failed.