Justification by Orthodoxy

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“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds?” (James 2:14a)


“Did you hear about so-and-so?” “Yeah, he’s gone too far! We might as well say, ‘Farewell.'”

Too often, whether or not we want to admit it, we (Christians) function as though we believe that we are saved by what, in fact, we believe. We live as though our theology is what determines our salvation.

We are quick to say that we are not justified by our works. But the first person to question the doctrine of justification, in our honest opinion, is toeing the line of actually being a Christian. “Oh, it’s a slippery slope from there, friend,” we tell those individuals.

And with those that we agree, we talk about those “back-sliders,” saying, “Yeah, it’s sad; he’s going down that ‘Rob Bell-path.'” Or something similar.

We look at certain individuals as being less Christian, simply because they do not have the same theology as us. For some reason, we believe that our beliefs are the very beliefs that will secure our eschatalogical salvation.

We say, along with everybody else, “God told me that this is true.”

In the grand scheme of things, though, what matters? How we treated the man on the side of the road, or having the right doctrine? How we lived like Jesus, or nailed down our systematic theology? Are we justified by our faith, or by our theology?

Now, I am far from saying that we should not consider our own beliefs! Otherwise, I would not have pursued a Master of Divinity. Rather, I am suggesting that we should not be so quick to question other people’s salvation, simply because they don’t align with us theologically.

And no, neither am I’m saying that we should not discuss theology with those whom we disagree. But there is a time and a place for that. It should come from the heart. It should come through discussion, not through conceited bigotry.

We should be quick to love, not quick to judge. We are known for being judgmental to outsiders, yet we are just as judgmental to insiders.

May we sing along with Hillsong United, “So I won’t waste my breath, if it’s not for love.”

A Letter to My Son: Seek Sophia

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I recently took on Jeff Goins’ 500 Word Writing Challenge. My goal for this challenge was to write 500 words every day that relate to topics that I want to discuss on this blog. All that to say, one of the writing prompts was to write a letter to your child (or your younger self), and it is something that I want to share:

Dear Son,

Currently, you are just a few weeks older than 19 months. It’s incredible how quickly those 19 months have passed by. Every day, though, your mother and I have come to love you more and more. I pray that you never feel unloved or uncared for.

I also pray that you would seek a life that glorifies the God who created all things, including our little family. I pray that your life would be marked by loving God, loving others, and caring for the earth.

Below I offer some of the things that I have learned about wisdom throughout my 27 years of life. Although 27 years is not that long, I believe it is my duty as your father to share with you the things that I have learned, so that you may grow in wisdom too.

Wisdom, you see, comes as you grow; but growing does not guarantee wisdom. Gaining wisdom comes from intentionality. It is not something that simply falls into one’s lap unexpectedly or is available for purchase.

What is wisdom? What makes a man or woman wise?

To be wise is to be experienced, to be knowledgeable, and to be discerning.

Human beings have the opportunity to learn from different scenarios and situations every single day. We must, then, open our eyes to that reality: wisdom is all around us. Reflection is an important part of this process, whereby one is able to learn from their experiences.

I believe, in fact, that God created human beings to seek wisdom. Becoming wiser is to flourish. Becoming wiser is to become more human. Becoming wiser leads to loving God, loving others, and caring for the earth.

The opposite of wisdom is folly. To be unwise is to be unexperienced, foolish, thoughtless, reckless, stupid, irresponsible.

Folly is an easy prey; it is much easier to be foolish than to be wise. But like all good things in life, wisdom takes hard work and much intentionality. Our culture loves Immediate gratification. Don’t get caught up in that.

To seek folly over wisdom, you see, is to not flourish, to become less human, and to love that which is not God, others, or the earth.

Do not refrain from learning from people that are completely different than you. All human beings, created by the same God, have something to offer. If we are only listening to those who think just like us, we will never grow.

Lastly, remember that the world is not as black and white as some would make it seem; there are many grey areas. Consider both sides of the coin. “Why?” is the best question one can ask. Always seek to understand before making conclusions.

In the words of The Lumineers, “It’s a long road to wisdom. It’s a short one to being ignored.”

Love you, my son.

The Dumb iPhone Challenge

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Recently, I’ve come to recognize my overconsumption of technology. Of course, I am typing this on my computer, but what I am specifically referring to is my cell phone usage. My cell phone sits in my pocket or on the table beside me almost all day long, no matter where I am.

And, if you know anything about the Enneagram test, I am a 5. I am the type of person that wants to know everything about everything. If I come across something that I don’t know, I go straight for my cell phone, easily becoming engrossed and obsessive about understanding it, blocking out all that is around me. My wife is the one that usually has to point this out to me, saying something to the tune of: “Caleb, your obsessing. Be present.”

On top of this, we have an 18-month-old in our home, which leads me to realize, on a daily basis, that time truly is special. If we are not intentional with our time, we can quickly miss out on what actually is important. With every little beep, buzz, and vibration, we can become inundated by the tool that was made to help us, not control us. 

As I began to recognize this issue in my life, I ran across the Siempo Phone on Kickstarter. While I considered purchasing it, and still maybe will, I realized that I could probably set enough restrictions on my iPhone to somewhat mimic the Siempo Phone. So I began removing apps and changing the restriction settings, removing everything that I could spend a significant amount of time on.

Now, not everyone struggles with this. If you do not, then more power to you! But that is not me. And if you are like me, I want to challenge you to dumb down your smartphone, for at least one week.

As mentioned elsewhere, true minimalism is about minimizing the unimportant in order to maximize the important. Minimalism does not, and should not, stop with your possessions in your home. Our goal is to be intentional in all areas of life, in order to flourish as human beings.

The Dumb iPhone Challenge

For one week, refrain from using your cell phone to access social media, web browsers, or any other app that has a stream or feed. Personally, I went from nearly 100 apps to about 30. The only remaining apps that use data on my phone are basic apps that I am unable to spend a significant amount of time on.

What’s great about this challenge is that you can mold it to best fit your needs. Whatever the case, be sure to look at every single app, always asking, “Does this app help or hinder my effort to be intentional?” Really think about each one. Think about your relationships. Think about your goals. Think about your passions.

This will look different from person to person. For example, some people may find it easy to get sucked in to email, but personally, I only receive about 1 per day.

Challenge: Complete

After having completed this one-week challenge, I have decided to continue with it. Making my phone a Dumb iPhone has had numerous positive results. Here are five:

  1. More Time for Goals – I was really surprised by how much more time I had this week. Rather than browsing the internet or reading blogs in the evening, I was able to read books and write blogposts, which are, in fact, two of my goals for 2017.
  2. Be More Present – As this was one of my intentions with doing this challenge, I thought about it a lot. I was able to notice when I would normally turn to my phone, which reminded me that I desire to be remembered as someone who is not only physically present, but mentally and emotionally present as well.
  3. Better Relationships – Of course this was only a week-long test, but even during that amount of time, I was able to realize how much my phone hindered my relationships.
  4. Better Sleep – This is not a joke: I slept better this week than I have for a while! Rather than sitting in bed, researching ideas and topics on my phone or scrolling through my social media outlets, because “I wasn’t tired yet,” I went to sleep.
  5. Longer Battery Life – This was a welcomed surprise that I had not even considered. But during this entire week, I only charged my phone 3 times (as opposed to 7)!

In the end, I am extremely grateful that I tried this experiment. Let me know if it is helpful to you! Best of luck!

Clothing for Acceptance

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Why do you wear the clothes that you do?

Not that long ago, I realized that my style came not from what I love and enjoy, nor from what made me happy or made me feel comfortable, but from my desire to be accepted.

This acceptance-focused style was not a newly developed issue, either. In fact, I can remember when I was in middle school, and how I wanted Abercrombie & Fitch clothes, because that is what the “cool kids” wore. In high school, I tried to fit in with the “cool musicians.” In college, I tried to look like I didn’t really care what I wore. And in graduate school, I started dressing more formally.

However, while I was in graduate school, I remember coming to this question: Why? In fact, it was after an interaction with one of my mentors. I talked to him about the fact that everyone at this school dressed quite professionally. He responded, “Yeah, I would never do that. I’d be the only one wearing athletic shorts and a t-shirt.”

It was at that very point when I realized I was doing this out of fear. My mentor was not intending for me to come away thinking this; he was only acknowledging his hatred for dressing up. But that is what it did. I began to realize that I was dressing a certain way because I feared that others wouldn’t accept me for who I am. I feared that I wouldn’t fit in. I feared what people would think of me. 

Dressing a certain way to make friends is something only middle schoolers do, right? No, I think this is something that many of us struggle with, even if our conscience has hidden that reality from us.

Acceptance is a human craving. I think that some of us crave it more than others, probably due to the way that we were raised, or our current lifestyle, but it seems to be a very natural desire for all people. We want to be known. We want to be loved. We want to have friends. Community is needed for flourishing, but not at the expense of becoming someone you are not. Of course becoming someone you are not is not always a terrible thing (e.g., a thief who wants to become a benefit to society), but conformity and betterment are two different reasons that one changes; thus, one needs to realize why they are seeking to change. 

With all of that said, though, I do have some friends who see clothing in a different light. They do not see clothing as a response to their desire to be accepted. Clothing and style for them truly does bring them joy and adds value to their lives. Therefore, this is not an argument against style and nice clothes; rather, it is about the reason behind wearing the clothes that you wear.

Why do you wear what you do? Are you seeking the approval of others? Do you wear certain clothes to attract attention? Do your clothes actually add value to your life? Has your style changed with your needs or because of those that are around you? Has your desire for acceptance led to conformity?