Category Archives: worldview
Let me define “favorite” and “of 2014.”
By “favorite,” I just mean impactful. But there are other things I consider too: if it was well written, if the author was able to carry me from beginning to end, if the ideas and concepts in the book were cohesive and well-developed, and if the writer has something to say that is worth reading.
What I mean by “of 2014” is not published in 2014–some of the selections are a decade older. They are simply books I read in 2014. I’m such a latecomer to books!
As a side note, this list is not written in order of importance. I’m lining them up as a narrative. I hope that storyline pops out in the descriptions about what has been most formative for me this last year. Without further ado…
It’s about time I read this one. The late Dallas Willard is one of the greatest thinkers of our day. I hesitate to say “Christian” thinkers, because he can flex his philosophical muscles with the best secular intellectuals of the century. Willard’s books often mix his mastery of the human personality with a deep admiration for the believer’s union with Christ. The Divine Conspiracy is his magnum opus. And what a great work it is! Taking the Sermon on the Mount as his cue, Willard pokes holes in flimsy, modern assumptions of Christianity that leave the confessor void of transformation or commitment. His premise is that being a “Christian” is to live vastly different in every area of life, because of the indwelling life of Christ. What follows is a four-hundred page juggernaut to convince you. By the time I was half way through this tome, I wasn’t just convinced, I was desperately hungry for change in my own life. One that can only be described as discipleship.
Emotional Health is a discipleship issue. Unfortunately, a lot of “discipleship” in the church consists of teachings and other knowledge gathering, with a dash of volunteering. Essentially, read more, do more. Scazzero opens with stories peppered throughout (both Biblical and personal) of why that doesn’t work. He immediately follows with examples of emotionally unhealthy habits (in case you are tempted to drop the book and think, “I’m emotionally good-looking”), before he explains what an emotionally and spiritually healthy person looks like, and how they become so. I found myself hooked. Mostly because the person he was describing so well, was me. He ends the last half offering a way out of the nightmare of emotional and spiritual immaturity. His solution involves getting mystical and contemplative, in a non-creepy sort of way.
Here is a more extensive book review I wrote on EHS.
If Scazzero revealed how detrimental emotional immaturity can be to an individual, then Lencioni shows you how it can unravel a team, community, or even a simple group project. Lencioni is a fascinating writer who takes two seemingly opposite concepts–business and narrative–and combines them. What you have left is a masterfully told story that drives home principles of team health and dynamics. The storyline is so captivating that you never even know what hit you. In the final chapters of the book, Lencioni steps out of his storytelling role, to explain what just hit you. Even if you are not a leader, per se, so much in this short read will enlighten you to why things didn’t work very well on that project you were working on with so-and-so. It will also prepare you for how to work well with others. A necessary component in today’s world of team-oriented everything.
Contemplative spirituality and spiritual disciplines can sometimes scare Protestant evangelicals, because it reeks of a mystical nature. I really appreciated Calhoun’s ability to break these practices down with clarity and brevity, supporting them with Scripture, and showing the differences between Christian acts of spiritual discipline and the counterfeits offered by other world religions. Each discipline warrants no more than three pages, including an inspirational explanation, a tutorial, appropriate Scriptures, and a litany of ways said discipline can transform your life. As good as each of these are, the gold is in the introduction. Nowhere, in all of the titans of contemplative spirituality and disciplines, have I witnessed such an clear and enlightening vision for why a Christian should practice them, or how to practice them effectively. If you get this book (and you should), DO NOT READ IT WITHOUT FIRST READING THE INTRODUCTION. It is that good, and that necessary.
This is an introduction to Lectio Divina, one of my favorite contemplative disciplines. It is the ancient practice of praying and meditating on the Scriptures, in a way that allows the Word of God to permeate, not just the intellect, but the heart. It is a slow reading of Scripture. It allows the reader of the Word to be read by the Word. Casey is filled with deep reverence and knowledge of Lectio, and his admiration for God’s word catches fire to the reader. A word of caution, it is not a manual for practicing Lectio Divina; for that, refer to Calhoun’s book on Spiritual Disciplines mentioned above; Casey’s Sacred Reading is a glimpse into a lifestyle of communion with God through His Word. It is meant to captivate you to a different way of reading.
The favorite of the favorites?
My number one book of this last year was Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, by Scazzero. It’s affect on me was no doubt due to the journey I had been on at the time (which I talk about here). But as Scazzero points out, and as the experience of many other people I’ve talked to over the last couple months confirms, this is a topic that is as neglected by Christians as it is crucial for their maturity. This short read is a breathe of fresh air on a long pathway. So for all these reasons and more, this was the most impactful book on me in 2014.
What were your best reads of 2014, and why?
The pilgrims of Plymouth, MA, were almost decimated after the Winter of 1620 killed half their community.
The remaining colonists formed relationships with neighboring Wampanaug tribe who taught them to hunt, fish, and plant. Less than one year later, the colonists had collected enough food to feed the community through the coming Winter. They ended up joining the colonists for a three-day feast in honor of their bounty. This is what we celebrate today as “Thanksgiving.” (1)
Historically, Thanksgiving refers to a kind of absurd generosity.
A coming together against the current of the times to break bread and show gratitude. It moves beyond giving to a friend in need, or donating for a roundabout benefit, like tax write-offs. It extends to those who could be perceived as enemies–what Miroslav Volf referred to as the “other.” The Wampanaugs and the colonists had plenty of reason to hate each other. Had the tribe turned a blind eye, their inability to sustain themselves and lack of resilience would have wiped out the colonists. Instead, the Wampanaugs empowered the “other” to thrive. No wonder the colonists threw a three-day party to give thanks.
Thanksgiving comes from generosity.
But it comes out from another party’s generosity. The colonists were thankful after being shown tremendous compassion. It’s charming to me that between the fear-mongering of Halloween, the consumerism that surrounds Christmas, and the debauchery that accompanies New Year’s Eve, Thanksgiving, of all the holidays (with the ironic exception of Black Friday) is somewhat free from the madness. For many, it stands out as a reprieve. Yes, Christmas should too. But culturally speaking, Christmas is entrenched with a materialistic message. Thanksgiving is still “safe” as far as most people are concerned. I wonder if it’s because of the generosity associated with it. Even the most self-centered persons will take a break from their self-indulgence to be thankful for something, even if it’s being thankful for all their stuff. In other words, thankfulness is still culturally engrained in the holiday. And it’s historically tied to generosity. Of course, it all disappears the next day when the stores open! But if you want to see a longer-lasting generosity, one has only to search the Scriptures.
When Paul wrote his very emotional second letter to the Corinthians, he kept attributing the church’s thanksgiving to the generosity of Macedonians (2 Cor 9:11-12). Earlier, he described them as being “in a severe test of affliction,” and yet that “their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.” (2 Cor 8:1-2)! To rephrase, the poorest of the poor were the most generous, and it was “overflowing in many thanksgivings to God” (2 Cor 9:12). See that? Thanksgiving comes from generosity. But these people were very poor! Why did they give so much, when they had so little? And why, especially being poor, did their giving bring them so much joy?
Paul says that true thanksgiving comes not from our generosity, but from God’s.
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9, ESV).
This is the generosity that lasts the longest, and goes the deepest.
This isn’t to say people who don’t know God can’t be generous; we can all do acts of generosity—even self-sacrificial ones—without knowing God. Rather, the gospel changes our deepest motivations, and loosens us from our most prized resources. We loosen our grip on things that matter less. And as seen in the Macedonians, the gospel makes everything we own seem less important than it used to be.
Thanksgiving is born in people who have experienced life in Christ.
And these have the most to be thankful for this week. In fact, Paul states earlier, that the reason you are given anything at all is so that “you will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.”
So when you enjoy the food, the family, the solitude, the air you breath this week–let it be a constant and thrilling reminder of the wealth you’ve received from God in Christ.
I leave you with a prayer of intersession from John W. Doberstein’s prayer book,
O God, who givest daily bread without our prayer, even to all the wicked, we pray thee that thou wouldst give us to acknowledge these thy benefits, and enable us to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
1- History of Thanksgiving. (2013). The History Channel website. Retrieved 12:56, November 22, 2013, from http://www.history.comhttp://www.history.com/videos/history-of-the-thanksgiving-holiday.
This is a piece in the Atlantic, “Debating Dinosaurs With Creationists,” interviewing Ken Ham at his famous Creation museum in Kentucky.
I figured from the title that it probably wasn’t in the Creationists favor. Surprisingly, it was a cordial, lighthearted, and honest article—not loaded with vitriol as these often are. And there were even times I resonated with Jeffrey Goldberg. However, reading it still saddened me. And my issue is not with the author. I’m upset that Ken Ham’s view of cosmology is often the only one covered or presented by the media (I’m thinking back especially to the debate between Ham and Bill Nye). For those who are unaware, Ham is one of the biggest proponents of the Young Earth view of Creation (YEC), which means he believes the planet began around 6,000 years ago. Though I am not a YEC proponent myself, I don’t mind others who hold that view—many people I love, respect, work with, and learn from do. Again, it’s the sheer volume of exposure it gets.
Young Earth Creationism is the only Christian view of origins that seems to get discussed in popular culture.
It’s the Left Behind of cosmology. To be fair, I don’t think journalists, bloggers, and debate coordinators are necessarily to blame for this (though they are to some degree, as they do not invite Creationists with varying positions). I, respectfully, lay a bit of the blame also on Ken Ham. In his writings, in this interview, and in debates, I’ve seen his view of creation presented, not merely as a contending viewpoint for Christians, but as the only valid viewpoint for Christians to believe. See, I wouldn’t mind Ham’s views if he were a little more charitable towards Christians who disagree with it. But when you combine his staunch views on cosmology with what Goldberg described as “marketing genius…his ability to shape a conversation on his terms“–you soon end up with Ham’s quotes—and only his quotes—filling the blogosphere, twitterverse, and news channels, as seemingly the only representation of what Christians believe about the origin of the universe from the book of Genesis! But it is not. It’s not.
There are many scholars who have devoted their lives to studying the Book of Genesis, who believe in the authority of the Bible, and yet hold to an entirely different interpretation of the first two chapters of Genesis than Ham.
Great scholars like John Walton, Johnny Miller, and John Sailhamer have unearthed the backdrop of the ancient world against which the first book of the Bible was written. They provide contemporary readers with historic context, linguistic insight, and alternative interpretations that should be considered before developing any serious conclusions. Unlike Ham, they do this all without having to pit science against Scripture.
A common objection to this is,
“That’s letting modern science form your belief about the origin of the universe and not the Word of God.”
I suppose this could be rephrased in the reverse: “YEC’s let their cultural literalism form their belief about the origin of the universe and not the Word of God.” Objections like this tend to be unhelpful to the conversation; both sides in the Young/Old Earth debate believe in the authority of Scripture, and it brings a robust debate to a screeching halt to throw out elementary attacks like this.
“If science and Scripture seem to contradict each other, Scripture is right, and science is wrong.”
But this fails to take into account another variable: the reader! See, if science and Scripture appear to “contradict” each other, there’s still a chance that neither are “wrong.” Perhaps it’s your understanding that’s flawed. Science, after all, is the study of the natural world through observation and experiment. Creationists often (rightly) posit that the scientist-observer is wrong. But we shouldn’t stop there. You see, theology is also a field of study–the study of God. And this study also involves a certain amount of interpretation. So…perhaps Christian interpreters have gotten Genesis wrong? This is the basis for many of these OEC’s. Their overarching statements about understanding Genesis are based on the belief that Young Earth Creationism has a faulty hermeneutic, and is therefore, a wrong interpretation. Now, whether you agree with that assessment or not, can we at least agree that these other Creationists, who disagree with Ham’s Young Earth position, at least deserve a platform?
As a college pastor for four years, and a pastor of a “young” church–I’ve seen students walk away from their faith over these issues.
Christian college students are forced to bifurcate the Bible and science as if that were the only way to follow Christ. That’s the real issue that upsets me–they don’t have to do that. Of course, when YEC–or a caricature of it–creates a monopoly on hermeneutics, it’s only a matter of time before students feel a disconnect between their faith and real life. And each time, it seems like I can trace those stories back to a parochial, if not militant, view of Genesis 1 and 2 that teaches younger generations that they must choose between science and the Bible. Consider this red flag by the Barna Group:
One of the reasons young adults feel disconnected from church or from faith is the tension they feel between Christianity and science. The most common of the perceptions in this arena is “Christians are too confident they know all the answers” (35%). Three out of ten young adults with a Christian background feel that “churches are out of step with the scientific world we live in” (29%). Another one-quarter embrace the perception that “Christianity is anti-science” (25%). And nearly the same proportion (23%) said they have “been turned off by the creation-versus-evolution debate.” Furthermore, the research shows that many science-minded young Christians are struggling to find ways of staying faithful to their beliefs and to their professional calling in science-related industries (Barna)
I’m so thankful for the flood of authors, scholars, professors, and conversationalists who have expanded the conversation. I hope we can continue to cultivate humble, open dialog around these issues.
Some of the ones I already mentioned take, I think, a more honest exegetical approach to the texts in Genesis, and the results—surprise—never force one to choose between science and Scripture. Sadly, most people, if exposed to Creationism at all, will only hear slivers of a particular view that in turn gets filtered through a magazine, a TV documentary, or the unforgiving comment sections of social media. I’m not asking YEC to change their centuries-long view; I’m asking that other experts on the Biblical account of creation get the same amount of air time as Ham. I’m also asking that the rest of us listen to them as much as we have listened to Ham. He doesn’t represent us all.
Well…yes he does. Unfortunately.
What are your thoughts on Creation and science?
It’s not always easy to be single on Valentine’s Day. Maybe for some people it is, maybe it depends on the year and some are harder than others. It hasn’t always been easy for me to be without a significant other come February 14th. During those times, I’ve tried many different methods to make it seem like I’m fine with my singleness, knowing all the while I would have given a whole lot to be anything but alone on that day.
After being in the church for enough years, I know pretty much all the right answers about singleness, marriage, God, and the like. God can and will fulfill all my desires, a spouse won’t make me happy or make all my problems go away, singleness is a gift, I can be content in the Lord now…the list goes on. But what do I do when I still long for a man to spend my life with, and no amount of self-talk, no matter how biblical it is, makes that go away? When I still feel alone and inferior to those in relationships, even when I know that I am complete in Christ? All of these truths are indeed true, but the more I look at myself I see that there has been a part of my heart that those truths have not yet touched. Because the fact of the matter is that while I know that a husband will not fulfill me, there is part of me that is still living as though he will. It’s not in a way that would draw attention or would cause people to notice (most of the time I don’t even notice it!). But around the holidays, or on Valentine’s day, there is that twinge in my heart that romance tends to set off—my heart longs for what other people have, and a little part of it really does believe that when I have it, things will be better and more fulfilling than they are now.
So I’ve tried to make myself content. I have actually tried to convince myself that I am content, while being well aware that it is not the case. I picture it like trying to keep one of those floaties under water (you know the ones you wear on your arms when you’re learning to swim). As long my hands are holding contentment in my heart it stays down there, but as soon as the hands come off, it shoots right back up to the surface and back to head knowledge. I have been trying to force contentment from my head to my heart and it just hasn’t worked.
I’m tired of trying to do that. I’m tired of there being this part of my heart that has not been transformed by the truth of God and what He says about me, and namely what He says about Himself. I want my heart gripped by His truth, especially when it comes to singleness, relationships, and who I am in the midst of that.
Just the other day I read an article written by a married woman talking about things she wished she had known while she was still single. She had some great things to say about singleness, what can be learned from it and what can be developed during it if people use the time well. But more than any specific thing she said, and what really got my mind racing was a stream of thoughts that went something like this,
“What if I actually took this advice and started living according to it?”
“What if I, and this generation of those who aren’t yet married actually lay hold of the truths that are taught to us by those who want us to benefit from lessons they have learned?”
“Rather than doing it my own way and then finding out they were right all along (that a spouse really doesn’t make things all better), and then trying to preach the message to those still single and who can learn from my mistakes, why don’t I just trust and actively walk in what they say?”
What would happen? I think a few things. One, I think I would experience more of God than I ever dreamed of, both now while I’m single and in a future marriage. Two, I think it would honor Him greatly. It would let Him be God, and would demonstrate a submission to His plan amidst my lack of understanding with what He is doing. And I’m pretty sure He loves when His kids trust Him. But how can I do that?
I know I can’t force biblical truths into my heart. It has to be a work of God Himself. However, there have been a few things in particular that I have been meditating on and praying that God would minister to my heart regarding who I am, and who He is that I would like to share.
1) God’s character is the same in seasons of blessing and fulfillment of desires as it is in seasons of waiting and exercising patience.
God is a giver, He is generous, He is kind, He is all-knowing and all-wise; He knows what is best for us. Why is it that I can rejoice so easily in seasons of blessing and not in seasons of drought? Why is it that I can be so thankful when I am getting to walk in my dreams but can’t muster up the same fervency of thanksgiving when He is still calling me to wait?
I have found that when I dwell on His character, my perspective changes. God is intimately acquainted with all my ways (Ps. 139:1-3), He is sovereign over every detail of my life (Matthew 10:29-31), and He is working things for my good that I be conformed more and more to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:28-29). So if God is having me wait for something (even something that I really want), is it the best possible thing for me right now? It is because He is so loving that He is having me wait for it! If the God of the universe is working things in my life with my best interest in mind, why should I begrudgingly accept His “wait” rather than rejoice in it?
Consider this quote by Andrew Murray,
If we but saw our God in His love, if we but believed that He waits to be gracious, that He waits to be our life and to work all in us—how this waiting on God would become our highest joy…
I want that truth to mark my life. I can’t say it always does, but I want the knowledge of God’s character to change the way I view waiting for Him. Not only that, but He is using my very circumstances to form me into the woman I desire to become. Right now He is allowing me to grow into the woman that will, Lord willing, get to walk forward in desires of being a wife and a mother some day. Many of us have big dreams of who we will become and what we will do with God and for His Kingdom. We have desires, longings, and hopes (all with the best intentions) to be the best man or woman of God we can be, as well as the best future spouse we can be.
But I often forget that He is forming us into those people right now. He is uses the every day, the mundane, the not-so-exciting, to shape us in ways that quick blessings could not accomplish. That truth has given me so much freedom; I can look at the seemingly mundane and truly rejoice that He is growing me now into the woman that will get to walk forward in the dreams He has given me when He says it is time.
2) We are seen by the One on whom we wait.
You are not invisible to the one that you are waiting for. God sees every time you obey Him, every time you hurt and feel alone, every time you cry out to Him asking Him to meet you. Every time you sacrifice for Him, every time you trust Him. He sees all of it, and He LOVES when His kids look at Him. He loves catching our eye when we fix our gaze on Him, when we don’t understand but tell Him that we trust Him anyways. He loves when we really mean that. He sees us and we are safe exactly where we are.
3) God could never disappoint His people.
I often end up disappointed or unsure at where God has me in life. While I may be disappointed in a moment for not getting what I want or what I think is best for me, God continues to remind me that He is the best story-writer in all of creation. Each of us are getting to play a part in the greatest story ever written. And God is using our desires, passions, longings and dreams for a spouse, family, or anything else, to write that story. We, as His children, will not be disappointed by the ending.
4) God is ALWAYS good.
Similar to #1, God doesn’t change. He is always good, always faithful. I believe that we can experience that goodness even more when we wait for Him and trust Him. In that time we see Him as good simply because of who He is rather than what He gives us. How purifying is that! Andrew Murray writes on the goodness of God as we learn to wait,
At our first entrance into the school of waiting upon God, the heart is mainly set on the blessings with which we wait for. God graciously uses our needs and desires for help to educate us for something higher than we were thinking of. We were seeking gifts; He, the Giver, longs to give Himself and to satisfy the soul with His goodness. It is just for this reason that He often withholds the gifts and that the time of waiting is made so long. He is constantly seeking to win the heart of His child for Himself. He wishes that we would not only say, when He bestows the gift, “How good is God!” but that long before it comes, and if it never comes, we should all the time be experiencing: it is good that a man should quietly wait. The Lord is good to them that wait for Him. 
Which leads me to #5…
5) Every need and desire we have is and will be fulfilled in Christ.
A husband will not fulfill me. My dream-job will not fulfill me. The perfect family or home will not fulfill me. The perfect ministry opportunity will not fulfill me. Christ is the only one who can and ever will make me whole. I have to confess, it doesn’t always feel like that. But that is a truth I am going to lay hold of by faith…that is, until I live with the man that teaches me that he really doesn’t fulfill me ;) I want to trust that I have full access to God now by the power of the Holy Spirit; no less than I will when I am married, or walking in my passions, or in a dream job. And if He is the one who has created me for Himself, then He is the one I am going to run after, here and now. And when He calls me to run side by side with a man, what I am running after will not have changed: God is and will always be the goal.
Please run with me.
A blog’s name deserves an explanation.
This blog was ChristopherLazo.com (a URL that still directs here), but I changed the name to give it more focus.
I love describing how God’s Word intersects with and transforms our view of the world.
I’m fascinated by the passages that armchair theologians quibble over too; now, we owe a great debt to the work of Bible scholars, without which, we would still fall prey to ancient heresies; but theology does us no practical good unless we know what it means and how it affects our lives and our view of the world. We must study Scripture, yes, but we must also obey the Word of God. And the aligning of our worldview to the storyline of Scripture is God’s initial means of renewal (Rom 12:2).
So let your mind wander through the thickest truths, while scouring the sweetest simplicity! When the Word of God baffles your mind while drawing you to search for more, exegesis becomes very exciting!
What has this to do with the blog name? Well, none of the content I create is exclusively attached to who I am as a person. Any Christian can and should study the Word of God and conform their worldview to it in loving obedience. So calling my blog after my name doesn’t help anyone, nor does it further its purpose. So I changed it from ChristopherLazo.com to DoctrineOnTap.com.
I want to connect our lives with the doctrines of Scripture like a spigot does for liquid; to see doctrine made accessible, not by dilution, but by showing its practical application. Because at the end of the day, you don’t go into a tavern to discuss algorithms—you go to quench your thirst.
God, You are my God; I eagerly seek You. I thirst for You; my body faints for You in a land that is dry, desolate, and without water (Ps 63:1, HCSB).
In the book, The Millennials, Thomas and Jess Rainer give a detailed look at the priorities of this generation after surveying 1,200 young people, born between 1980 and 2000. They discovered that only 6 percent of these Millennials could affirm basic statements of Christian orthodoxy, such as believing in the divine origin of Scripture, salvation through grace alone, the sinlessness of Jesus, and the sovereignty of God (p.232). In other words:
94 percent of Millennials surveyed do not consider orthodoxy important.
Now, I know that statistics do not account for every Millennial on the planet. Or even in Santa Barbara for that matter. In fact, I feel as if that percentage increases for the best in the circle of college students I know. But that is not normative. Often good statistics can give us a bird’s-eye view of a generation’s spiritual condition. And the verdict is in: orthodoxy is out.
“America’s problem isn’t too much religion, or too little of it. It’s bad religion: the slow-motion collapse of traditional Christianity and the rise of a variety of destructive pseudo-Christianities in it’s place.”
This introductory remark encapsulates the main theme in Ross Douthat’s book, “Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics,” that the undermining of Christianity in America today is due to a deep chasm of cafeteria spirituality left over by mainline churches in decades past.
This thesis comes through two sections:
- Christianity in Crisis
- The Age of Heresy.
Introducing the first section, the New York Times columnist prepares a rather exciting taste of the Church’s glory days through the beginning of the twenty-first century before issuing a scathing diagnosis on mainline churches for botching everything up. Douthat argues that the church typically wavered between accommodation and resistance when faced with cultural difficulties. A single, albeit notorious, example of this were the tired arguments over biological evolution and the book of Genesis which helped excuse the church to the margins of the scientific community. Conservatives and Evangelicals came out swinging on a variety of similar issues, but left a lot to be desired. In the end, the fundamentalism that emerged from the fight was Read the rest of this entry
This quote is what we should pray for in the aftermath of the Kermit Gosnell trial.
My wife Sheryl and me. We were in the kitchen last night, preparing dinner, when we saw a short report of this story on the countertop TV. Both lifelong “pro-choice” people, after watching only seconds, we embarked in an immediate discussion of whether it was time to reconsider that view. (Didn’t human life really begin at the moment of conception? What other time?) Neither of us was comfortable as a “pro-choice” advocate in the face of these horrifying revelations. How could we be?