What Others Say

Mr. Tinsley, thank you for your well-written and insightful article about Luther.
I shared it with my children during family worship. It lifted us up.
Warmly, Kari.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Faith and Democracy

One of the themes in the current Presidential race is the need to “make America great again.”  The focus seems to be on military might, economic policies and immigration reform.  But one historic element appears to be missing in the midst of the rhetoric.  In our rush to separate church and state at every level of life, we have dismissed the importance of faith and moral values for the success of democracy and free enterprise.

Thomas Jefferson’s comment on the subject is inscribed in the Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC:  “Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever.”

In 1831, Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville visited the United States trying to find out the secret of its success.  After traveling throughout the young nation, de Tocqueville made the following observation: “I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers – and it was not there . . . in her fertile fields and boundless forests and it was not there . . . in her rich mines and her vast world commerce – and it was not there . . . in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution – and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.”

A few years ago a noted Chinese economist, Zhao Xiao, conducted a similar study of the United States in search of applications for China.  Here are his conclusions: “The key to America’s commercial success is not its natural resources, its financial system or its technology but its churches.  ... The market economy is efficient because it discourages idleness, but it can also encourage people to lie and injure others.  It thus needs a moral underpinning. ... without awe, China will not succeed.  ‘Only through awe can we be saved. Only through faith can the market economy have a soul.”


When we look for America’s greatness, we are tempted to look where other nations have looked in the past, and failed.  Perhaps we are best served when we look within ourselves.  The real factor that will determine our future is moral and spiritual. And the battleground for victory is found in each individual heart.  The Bible says, “Righteousness exalts a nation but sin is a disgrace to any people.” (Proverbs 14:34). “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Monday, January 18, 2016

Risk Tolerance and Faith

Investors talk about “risk” and “risk tolerance.”  A few years ago, even the most conservative of investors could expect to receive a return of 5% percent, or more, by simply placing their money in CDs or savings accounts.  But times have changed.  Those kinds of risk free investments have disappeared. Savings Accounts usually earn 1 percent or less.  Certificates of Deposit do little better. 

     
 Those who want to invest for the future, including retirement funds, are left with higher risk options.  But for many of us, risk leaves our stomachs queasy.  Our introduction to 2016 has been gut wrenching.  The Dow Jones industrial average recorded its worst ever open to a new year. Losses overall totaled more than $3 trillion in the first two weeks of January.

Stocks, investments and economics have always confused me. I have never been able to figure it out.  I guess that is why I find Jesus’ story in Luke 19 confusing.  He told of a wealthy owner who left his servants in charge of his money while he was gone.  To each he gave the same amount.  Let’s say he gave each $1,000.  When he returned one servant had invested and multiplied the $1,000 into $10,000.  Another had invested and multiplied it into $5,000.  But the third was afraid of losing the $1,000.  Maybe he wrapped it in some newspaper and hid it under his mattress. 

The wealthy owner commended the first two, but he was furious with the third.  “You should have at least put it in the bank so it could earn interest,” he said.  He then took the $1,000 from the last one and gave it to the one who had $10,000.  He said, “I tell you that to everyone who has, more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.” (Luke 19:11-27).

As with all of Jesus’ stories, there are many applications to be made and much to learn. Of course, I don’t think Jesus was all that concerned about money. After all, when he died all he had were the clothes on his back. But he clearly understood how the world works. And he clearly understood how life works.

So, what was his point?  It seems to me that Jesus wants his followers to learn to take risk for the Kingdom's sake. Whenever we grow fearful and withdraw into ourselves, we shrivel up. What little we have is taken away from us. I have watched people do this.  I have even seen churches do this, pinching pennies and worried that they will not make budget. 

But when we lay it all on the line, when we give our lives away for others, we experience pleasure and joy unspeakable.  This is why he said, “Give and it shall be given unto you, good measure, shaken together and running over.”  And, again, “He that will save his life shall lose it, but he who will lose his life for my sake and the gospel shall find it.” 

Jesus’ early followers clearly understood this.  There is no evidence that any of them became wealthy. But there is abundant evidence that they were willing to risk everything to serve God and help others. 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

When We Are Wounded

We have a rocking horse in our attic that we bought for our son on his first birthday, 36 years ago.  It is simple and sturdy, made of unfinished wood.  Although it still raises its head proudly, the tail droops between its legs.  I am sure we intended to paint it someday, but that day never came.  Instead our son decorated it with crayons, pens and markers.  We passed it down to his little sister, born eight years later, and then to our grandchildren.  It is covered with scratches and scribbles, dents and dings.

The little rocking horse sits silently in our attic, ready to give rides to a generation yet to be born. It has little value.  But it is priceless to us because of the scratches, dents, dings and scribbled drawings left behind by our children and grandchildren.  We treasure it because of its scars.

Life is much like that.  We start out youthful and unblemished, unmarred by the world. But, over time, we become scarred with age.   Cuts, abrasions and burns leave their marks on our bodies. And, at a deeper level, the setbacks and disappointments, the sorrows of separation and loss add up.  We find ourselves scarred and wounded. 

But, like our little wooden horse, those scars make us all the more precious in our Father’s eyes.   

Imagine how precious the scars that Jesus endured appear to the Father.  The nail prints in His hands, the sword riven side and the lashings upon His back are the marks of his sacrifice and love.  Isaiah says, “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5). And, again Peter says, “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. (1 Peter 2:24).

Few have suffered as many hardships as the Apostle Paul.  Of these he wrote, “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, ... I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. ... But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor. 11:24-27, 12:9-10).

In like manner, we also suffer, just as Peter tells us: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:12-13)

Monday, January 4, 2016

A Healthy Heart

This week we start our New Year’s resolutions, and many of us are focused on a “healthy heart.”  It apparently is making a difference.  According to the American Heart Association, “The epidemic increase in heart disease mortality ended in the 1960s or 1970s.” Deaths from heart disease have fallen dramatically over the last 50 years. Heart-healthy alternatives are produced in almost every food category. Restaurants include heart-healthy menus. Smoking has been banned in most public places. Physicians and non-profits promote diet-and-exercise.

I first read Dr. Kenneth Cooper’s book, Aerobics, in 1982. It was a groundbreaking book that opened the eyes of millions to the benefits of aerobic exercise and healthy diet for a healthy heart. When I visited Brazil I was fascinated to find hundreds of Brazilians walking and jogging every morning to get in their “Cooper.” The doctor’s name had found its way into Portuguese as a synonym for heart-healthy aerobic exercise.

When I followed Cooper’s regimen, I experienced the benefits: lost weight, increased strength and stamina. Unfortunately, I have not always followed those disciplines, and it shows. Developing a healthy heart requires more than knowledge.

As important as it is to maintain a healthy heart physically, it is even more important for us to develop a healthy heart spiritually. The Bible clearly sets forth the disciplines and characteristics of a healthy spiritual heart. They include gratitude, hope, forgiveness and love. If we discipline ourselves to be grateful every day for what God has done, if we hope when things look hopeless, if we forgive those who injure us, if we love our enemies instead of just loving those who love us, we will have a healthy heart.

But, like our physical heart, having a spiritually healthy heart requires more than knowledge. We may know that we need to be grateful, hopeful, forgiving and loving. But how do you create heartfelt gratitude, hope, forgiveness and love?

In the spiritual realm, this requires a spiritual heart transplant. God has to create a new heart within us, something that He is more than willing to do. We are all born with spiritual heart disease. Jeremiah says, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9). But later he writes, “I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the Lord; and they will be My people, and I will be their God.” (Jer. 24:7). And in Ezekiel He says, “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh.” (Ez. 36:26).

God sent His son Jesus so that He might create in us a healthy heart that is full of gratitude, hope, forgiveness and love. He changes the heart that has grown callous, bitter and resentful into one that overflows in gratitude. Someday our physical heart will beat its last beat and our bodies will die. But the spiritually healthy heart that God creates will live forever.