5 Questions to Analyze Any Worldview

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Have you ever tried to put a puzzle together without looking at the picture on the box? It’s a losing proposition. Is that red and orange puzzle piece in your hand part of a tree, a barn, a bonfire – or have your kids mixed the puzzle pieces again? Without some overarching vision for what the whole puzzle looks like, the individual pieces make little sense.

Think of a worldview as your “picture on the box” for life. How do all the pieces of life fit together? Do they even fit together? Your worldview is the way in which, sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously, you answer questions like these.

But there’s a problem: that “unconscious” part in the last paragraph. Too often the way we interpret the world goes by us unnoticed. We act out of unexamined beliefs. We hope in things or people without questioning if they are worthy objects of our hope. We need to slow down and ask ourselves the why question: why did that bother me so much? Why am I convinced I should be treated that way? Why does that outcome excite (or disappoint) me so much? Here are five questions that will help us examine a worldview, ours or anyone else’s.

1) Who is God?

We could expand the question to include even an atheistic worldview: who is in ultimate control? The best way to answer this question is with this thought experiment. Think of all the verbs the Bible uses to describe our relationship to God. Love. Serve. Worship. Trust. Obey. Sacrifice for. Devote yourself to. Seek. Fear. Find refuge in. Now consider: which of those verbs applies to something other than God in your life? Of course for each of these there is a secondary sense in which they might apply to something or someone else. It’s appropriate to love your spouse, to serve your coworkers, or to sacrifice for your family – but only if the loving, serving, and sacrificing is done with God in the picture. These verbs all describe the way humans are intended to relate to their Creator and Redeemer. Idolatry happens when anything else takes God’s place. So ask yourself: who or what is my functional god?

It’s impossible to give a short version of the biblical answer to this question, but here are three categories. God is Creator – your Creator, my Creator, and the Creator of all that is. Moreover, God is Redeemer – through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, God is redeeming all what sin has ruined. Finally, God is Triune – one God, three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

2) Who am I?

Hint: we’re after more here than the information on your Social Security Card. What’s your identity? What’s most true, most significant, about you? Is it your genes? Is it your past sins, or past experiences of being sinned against? Your looks? Age? Job? Resume? Skills? Relationship status? Are you your sexuality?

None of these is a sufficient description of who we are – and yet all of them are potential false answers, wrong answers that will lead to wrong actions. If your looks or youth is your identity, then aging will destroy you. If your career is your identity, losing your job will ruin your life.

The Bible gives a different answer than any of these. Who are you? First and foremost, you are a man or woman made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27). Second, you are a sinner. I know, that sounds harsh – but it’s true. But think about this: if you’re defined by your genetics, your past, or your looks, the only way to deal with your problems is medication, therapy, or Botox. If your problem is sin, there’s a remedy. His name is Jesus. And if you’ve encountered him, there’s a third thing that’s true about you: you are in Christ, joined to him by his Spirit in you, and nothing can break that union.

3) What’s the problem?

Everyone believes there’s something wrong with the world. Even the most laid-back, hippie flower child you’ll ever meet thinks the problem with the world is that people are too uptight about their problems. All of us instinctively recognize something is rotten in Denmark. What is it? Is it a lack of education? Income inequality? The wrong political party in office? Or maybe it’s smaller scale: no spouse. The wrong spouse. A loser boss. Disobedient kids. Not enough time off. Not enough money. What is it that’s wrong in your world, or the world at large?

The Bible’s answer is sin. Sin, God’s curse upon it, and all that flows from that curse is what is wrong with this world. Every human woe, every tear, every groan, can be traced back to our rebellion against God. Give a wrong answer to this question, and you will fail to deal with the ultimate problem. Which leads us to the question four.

4) What’s the solution?

These two questions are inextricably linked. Identifying the problem will naturally lead you to identifying the solution. Is the problem poor health? Then fitness, or a natural diet, or medical experts will be your saviors. Is the problem no spouse? Then the guy who asked you out becomes not just a first date but a potential redeemer from all that’s wrong with your life.

But false redeemers always disappoint. Only Jesus is capable of delivering us from what’s truly wrong with us. He works from the inside out: total cleansing from our guilt and shame, ongoing transformation into who we were meant to be, life beyond the grave, and one day a new resurrected body in which we will enjoy a new heavens and earth. And that leads us to the last question.

5) Where are we going?

What’s in the last chapter of your story? Is it a white picket fence and happily ever after? Retirement at the beach condo? Enough money to never worry about bills again? What do you dream of before you fall asleep at night? What do you hope you’ll one day, finally, achieve? What exactly would arriving look like? We can answer those questions on a personal level, and we can answer them on a grand, humanity-wide level. What’s the trajectory of human life? Where is humanity headed: utopia? Heaven on earth? The collapse of civilization and a Dark Ages remix?

The Bible’s final answer is clear. The last chapter of history is the completion of God’s great work of redemption. Jesus Christ will return and bodily raise every human being who has ever lived. We will all face his judgment: eternal life for those who have believed the gospel, and eternal judgment for those who reject it (John 5:28-29; 2 Thess. 1:5-10). Then the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Hab. 2:14). Then every tear will be wiped away (Rev. 21:4). Then we will enter into the joy of our master (Matt. 5:21, 23). Then, in a renewed heavens and renewed earth, we will experience all that God intended for his creation. That’s where we’re going – and no one but King Jesus can take us there.

Scripture doesn’t answer all our questions – but its answers to these five questions do give us the big picture necessary to fit all the pieces of the puzzle together. And only these answers are a sufficient foundation for life in God’s world.

Photo by Kevin Dooley

The Beauty and Brutality Of Adoption

The Kluck Family

The Kluck Family

This post was written by my friend, Ted Kluck. Ted is the award-winning author of several books, including “Hello, I Love You: Adventures in Adoptive Fatherhood” (Moody Publishing) and “Household Gods: Freed From the Worship of Family to Delight in the Glory of God” (NavPress).

“The safest place to be is in the center of God’s will.”

We packed our bags, emptied our bank accounts, went into what would later become crippling debt, and took off for Kiev, Ukraine, with the above piece of questionable theology rattling around in our young, idealistic heads. God was going to put out for us, because we were putting out for God. It sounded like a pretty good deal to me and is pretty much the functional centerpiece of many man-centered, Arminian, “prosperity” theological schools of thought. How could God hurt such great people who would willingly volunteer to adopt abroad before even trying to have biological kids? We were middle-class heroes!

With stacks of hundreds strapped around my waist, I disembarked on Ukrainian soil, where I would, as it turned out, disembark several more times before my adoption of our oldest son Tristan was a done deal. Our agency referred to it as “the toughest” adoption in the history of the Ukraine program…shortly before closing the Ukraine program.

I felt like Rocky getting off the plane in Siberia, just before his fight with Drago in “Rocky IV.” I felt the cold air, the cold stares, and the pervasive gray skies and lack of sunshine. People were decidedly unfriendly, about which I remember thinking, “Don’t they know what a great thing it is that we’re doing?” And also, “Why isn’t God making this easier?”

Before returning to American soil with Tristan we would, in no particular order:

  • Be held at gunpoint by Ukrainian cops.
  • Be told that our paperwork was wrong just before being told that we could alleviate this “problem” by purchasing a new printer for the office of a government official.
  • Become violently ill the morning that the adoption was supposed to be finalized, resulting in me vomiting all over our facilitator’s new Mercedes (poetic justice for the printer scam above?) and then again all over the steps of the American embassy in Kiev.
  • Buy medicine for his entire orphanage in an attempt to stave off the pneumonia that was sweeping through the facility.
  • Dance to a Busta Rhymes song in a Ukrainian bar.
  • Ride a bus for 18 straight hours sitting in front of a gigantic Ukrainian man with a walrus moustache snoring behind us the whole way.
  • Not kill the aforementioned guy.
  • Be so sick that I took a shot in the backside in a dark alley in Kiev – a shot which immediately made me feel better and that, to this day, I still don’t know the contents of. Right before the shot, our facilitator did the thing with the syringe where she expressed a little bit of the fluid out the top and then flicked it a couple of times with her finger. It was just like the movies.
  • Be driven overnight to Poland by a guy who looked just like Patrick Swayzee in “Roadhouse.”

All of that to say, international adoption is not always like the Facebook pictures make it out to be, meaning that it’s not just you surrounded by a bunch of smiling little orphans – all of whom will be taken home by you, and all of whom will love you forever.

So what happened to the “center of God’s will being the safest place to be?” Truth be told, if we believe scripture to be true (and we do), it was probably (at least in the world’s economy) never a real safe place to be. See: Peter (hung upside-down on a cross) and James (beheaded). See: Stephen (stoned to death). See: Paul, who while writing half the New Testament also endured all manner of hardship and trial.

What we were beginning to learn in Ukraine, but wouldn’t fully learn until much later, was this: A life of humble and broken obedience to a loving, trustworthy, and sovereign Lord won’t be without trial and pain, but also won’t be random, arbitrary and meaningless.

Moses was in the “center of God’s will,” but his people needed to keep learning these lessons the hard way. I would much rather be in that position than in Pharoah’s, who was having his heart hardened by the trials that God sent his way (through Moses).

Much of what happened to us seemed random, arbitrary and meaningless. But it was for the twofold greater purpose of a.) getting Tristan home with us and b.) making us into the kind of people who could have a shot at not ruining Tristan in the long run. God (and our kids) needed us to be humble and broken before Him. He needed us to stop complaining and start trusting. He needed us to see beyond the pain of our immediate circumstances and see His faithfulness.

Chosen To Be Self-Sacrificing Lovers


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Years ago, I thought I chose Jesus.

I chose him to be my Savior and free me from the enslaving power and guilt of my sins. I chose to call out to him. Little did I know that ultimately it was Jesus who chose me for his own purpose. And what was that purpose? Jesus chose me to make me bear lasting fruit:

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. JN 15.16

If Jesus saved you, ultimately it was because he chose you, not that you chose him. And he chose you not merely for salvation, but to make you a fruit bearer. I always looked at the “fruit” in this verse as the varied fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. And that may be part of it.  But look at the context of verse 16:

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants,a for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.” (12-17)

In context, the fruit Jesus chose and appointed us to bear abundantly is sacrificial love.

The self-sacrificing love of Jesus who laid down his life for his friends. Verse 12 begins with the command to love others as he loved us. And in verse 17 he again commands us to love one another. So the lasting fruit that Jesus appointed us to go and bear is the fruit of loving others sacrificially, laying down our lives for others. And we bear this fruit as we abide in Jesus, for he said a few verses earlier:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (JN 15:5).

So let’s tie this together: Ultimately we didn’t choose Jesus; he chose us. And he chose us with a purpose: that we might bear lasting fruit. That fruit is to love others sacrificially by laying down our lives for them. This happens as we abide in Jesus, continually seeking him and obeying his word.

Who can you lay down your life for today?

Maybe it’s your wife or children. Maybe it’s a needy brother in another country, or a sister who needs a ride.  Our self-sacrifice doesn’t always need to be monumental. It can be a trip to the store so your wife can rest, having your elderly mom over for dinner or texting a friend telling him you’re praying for him.  If you believe in Jesus, then he has chosen you to bear abundant, lasting fruit – the fruit of self-sacrificing love. As you imitate him, Jesus will be glorified in you.

What “Love Your Neighbor As Yourself” Does Not Mean

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“Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus gave us this as the second of the two greatest commandments. Paul described it as the summation or fulfillment of the whole law. No complicated explanations, lists of caveats, or endless parsing – just “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

And we westerners have taken it to heart. Sort of. It’s more accurate to say that we have taken it and fit it to our hearts.

It has morphed from “Love your neighbor as yourself” to “Love your neighbor because you love yourself” to “Love yourself so you can love your neighbor.” Instead of reflecting the one who gave the command it has been, to create a term, Gollum-ized into a twisted, nasty, self-focused, inverted mantra. We have made ourselves the focus of the love.

Watch reality TV some time. It could be American Idol, The Biggest Loser, The Bachelor, or something else. But no matter which show it is there is good chance that you will hear something to the effect of “you know, you just have to love yourself before you can love anyone else.” It’s the American mantra of self-love that we claim leads to real love but really offers no love at all.

The claim of increasing one’s self-love in order to love others more is rubbish. Increased self-love impedes love of others; it is an obstacle. It’s not even real love, more like idolatry. And it is not what Jesus intended and it is not the kind love about which Paul wrote.

Jesus knew the reality of human nature, that we value ourselves above anyone else. So he used the human commitment to our own well-being and comfort to set the bar for love of others. In one simple phrase Jesus called us out of ourselves and into an others-focused life. The reality of self-love ought to be a constant reminder of the need for real others-love.

As Christians, we know that the origin of genuine love does not come from within. And, in fact, the reality of self-love is a twisted, idolatrous worship. We love others because we are loved, because God loved us first, because from him comes our worth. We love ourselves because we make ourselves better than others and seek to be our own god.

When we seek to love our neighbors as ourselves we are not to idolize self. No, we are to be aware of our propensity for self-care and self-comfort and transfer it willingly to others to care for and comfort them instead. We are to love them as we love ourselves not because we love ourselves.

This column originally appeared at WORLD News Group’s website (wng.org). Reprinted with permission. Copyright © 2012 WORLD News Group. All rights reserved.