The Naivete of Bill Cosby

Posted: January 26, 2011 in Uncategorized

Unless you’re Amish you’ve become quite acquainted with Dr. Cosby’s rant on race that he gave several years ago.  His remarks broke the agreement we African-American’s made with each other long ago to never air our dirty laundry in public.  His breach of confidence ignited a fierce debate within the black community, and set off a chain of emails that could’ve easily been entitled, “I Told You So,” amongst our white brothers and sisters.  But I’m not here to talk about race…at least not this time.  Instead I want to focus in on his comments regarding poverty.  In case you forgot, here’s an excerpt from a speech he gave on May 17th, 2004 in Washington, D.C.’s Constitution Hall:

 

“They’re homeless people.  All they know how to do is beg.  And you give it to them, trying to win their friendship.  And what are they good for?  When you walk around the neighborhood and you see this stuff, that stuff’s not funny.  These people are not funny anymore. And that’s not my brother.  And that’s not my sister.  They’re faking and they’re dragging me way down.  Because the state, the city and all these people have to pick up the tab on them, because they don’t want to accept that they have to study to get an education.”

 

Specifically, Bill Cosby’s remarks target the urban poor, where he recommends merely exerting more effort through the educational process, and if they simply try hard enough they will make it, just like he did.  In many regards, what Dr. Cosby is saying is nothing new.  He’s advocating personal responsibility, and here’s where we run into a bit of a problem, because any sociologist will tell you that the issues of poverty are not that neat.  In fact, to use sociological lingo, there are at least three avenues that lead to poverty: 1) individualistic; 2) structural and 3) fatalistic.  In the first scenario, a person has found themselves in poverty by their own doing- they are primarily to blame due to a bad decision, or a series of bad decisions on their part.  This is different from the third option, because here the cause of poverty is not something that the person has done, but rather something that has happened to them, you know just being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  In a down economy we understand this, where being laid off from a job leads to a chain of events that dead ends someone into poverty.  Classic fatalism.  The second is really difficult for many middle to upper-middle class to accept, and that is there are certain structure in our society that promote poverty.

 

If you’ve read enough of my blogs, you know that I never am satisfied with merely a sociological or cultural perspective of things, we must return to the Scriptures and use them as the lens through which we interpret such events and statements as Bill Cosby’s.  What would Jesus say here?  In Matthew 26:11, Jesus says that we will always have the poor with us.  One of the implications of this statement is that poverty is not simple, if it was it could be eradicated, well, simply.  Poverty, on a global scale is complex.  God knows this, that’s why if you study those passages in the Old Testament where He is giving instructions to Moses on setting up Israel’s government you will come to an interesting conclusion when it comes to how God sees, and therefore chooses to engage poverty.  Consider such passages as Leviticus 25 and Deuteronomy 15 where God mandates the care of the poor.  This was both a theocratic and governmental decree (since their form of government was not a democracy nor a monarchy at the time, but a theocracy where God rules).  In other words, and here’s the key, God chose to combat poverty systemically by establishing a righteous structure.  The Lord knew that poverty is not just personal, but structural as well.

 

Are there plenty of cases in the Scriptures where we see poverty come upon people according to the three fold sociological grid?  Absolutely.  The story of the unmerciful servant, and how his poor decision placed him back into poverty is an example of the individualist cause of poverty.  In the cultures of the Bible when one nation would defeat another, the losing country would have its property and possessions plundered, and in many cases become slaves- the structural.  And when we look at the life of Jesus, as he engages paralytics and lepers (amongst  a host of others) we encounter the fatalistic- people who fell into poverty through no fault of their own.

 

Jesus was not as “sophisticated” in his approach to poverty as many of the Christians I encounter.  Looking out on the hungry mass of humanity there had to have been many there who were starving because of bad choices on their part, but nonetheless he feeds them, without asking any questions.  Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that Jesus was anti responsibility- the parable of the wise or shrewd manager debunks that notion.  What I am saying is that Jesus was no Monday morning quarterback who was content in joining the “experts,” in diagnosing the problem.  He simply rolled up His sleeves and engaged the poor, all the while knowing that He would never eliminate poverty during His tenure on earth.

 

In Acts chapters two and four we see the church, like Jesus, encountering the poor.  And like Jesus we don’t see them holding conferences about the problem, instead we see them getting their hands dirty by offering real solutions.  Specifically, they pulled their resources together into a “common purse,” and took care of the needs of those who were among them.  Any historian whose specialized in the first couple of centuries of the early church will tell you that even among pagan governments like Rome, these “Galileans,” had an embarrassing reputation of taking better care of society’s poor than the government.

 

I guess if there’s a point I’m trying to make here it’s that poverty is not simple, but complex, and like Jesus said, we’ll always have the poor with us.  So enough with all the conferences and talk and questions about wanting to make the “best investment” of one’s money.  Do something.  The fear of being taken advantage of actually runs counter to the gospel.  Was not Jesus taken advantage of? Statistically speaking it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that there were probably several in the crowd that day who were starving that turned around some time later and petitioned for his crucifixion.  But he still feeds them..Isn’t that something.

 

Back to old Heathcliff Huxtable, or Dr. Cosby as I should call him.  He actually has an earned doctorate, where his dissertation centered around Fat Albert, and this is quite interesting.  Bill Cosby, Ed.D never finished college, but was given a degree because of “life experience.” I don’t think it’s any coincidence that this degree was conferred on him after he was a celebrated actor in “I Spy”.  With this degree in hand he was able to go on and work on a doctorate, and here again we see privilege coming into view.  Those who sat on his dissertation panel complained that he rarely went to class, and again chose for a dissertation a television show that he was a part of.  In other words, Dr. Cosby is the product of privilege.  Take away the fame and who knows where he ends up.  Maybe the same street corners that the ghetto poor he so condemned occupy.

 

Bill Cosby happens to be on the other side of life’s glass window.  Anyone in Hollywood will tell you that becoming a well known actor is not so much a testament to talent as it is to just being at the right place at the right time.  While this cuts against my calvinistic leanings, I do find it ironic that one of the very tributaries that leads some to poverty, has also lead Dr. Cosby to wealth and prosperity- fatalism.

Flies in Horseradish

Posted: January 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

What is culture?  Before you’re quick to answer that, know that every expert that I’ve studied has at least admitted to there being historical confusion when it comes to pinpointing a definition for the term (my doctoral studies involve me engaging in extensive research over the subject).  I’m actually relieved that the experts are confused, because I’ve personally been ambiguous to the whole matter as well.  Malcolm Gladwell, acclaimed writer, points out that there’s an old yiddish expression that says to a fly in horseradish the whole world is horseradish.  The same could be said of a fish in water, and of each of us as individuals.  Culture is just so much a part of who we are that it’s really the house we live in.  So trying to define culture is like asking the fly to define horseradish. 

As people who don’t live in horseradish or water we can describe these two entities quite well, but why?  Don’t dismiss the question so fast, because it’s our ability to answer this question that we can begin to at least thoughtfully engage the culture question.  We can accurately discuss the properties of water, and it’s uniqueness, pointing out its strengths and weaknesses because we have experienced it’s counterpart- land.  To a fly who knows nothing other than horseradish, we can point out its bitter properties, because we’ve experienced other things, sweet things.  In each of these cases, what allows a person to speak intelligently about another person’s culture, is having experienced both their “culture,” along with a different one.  When the fly never ventures out of horseradish, and the fish remains in water, they not only are blinded to the culture of others, they are blinded to themselves.

A recent study reveals that the majority of African-American’s still believe that race is a huge issue in our society, while the majority of whites do not think that race is a significant factor.  I’m not here to affirm or dispute the report, but at the very least, what these findings reveal is the continued chasm that exists between these two ethnicities.  What’s more is that I posted this on my facebook page and the responses were interesting.  Many of the white respondents suggested that race and culture is being made too much of, while many of the blacks said that it’s still an issue.  Ironically, the comments to my facebook status supported the findings of the report. 

All of the white people I know who have genuine, authentic friendships with minorities will tell you that race is still very much a factor in this country.  And all of the whites that I know who push back, or bristle at such a statement don’t have genuine friendships with minorities.  The difference?  One of horseradish.  Those who confine themselves to their own culture, and never come out to richly taste and engage in others will unfortunately remain completely unaware to life’s not so sweet realities, and in the process will become unaware of themselves.

What’s true for one ethnic group, is true of another.  Too many of the blacks that I know who are of your Public Enemy, rage agaisnt the machine, Malcolm X types, who speak in broad suspicious generalizations of whites don’t have truly authentic white friendships.  While those who have compassion for our white brothers and sisters, have had the bitter edges buffed off of them only by the joyful sweet experience of coming out of their own personal horseradish to do life with whites, and in the process of engagement they’ve not only come to appreciate another culture, but themselves more fully as well.

Culture only has meaning in relation to other cultures.  God understood this profoundly, and that is why Jesus came not to eradicate culture, but to establish a “Master Culture” if you will, called the body of Christ.  This new “Master Culture” does not demolish my human culture, it simply redefines it.  Horseradish should never be eaten by itself, but when a touch of it is applied to such meats as Lamb, now it takes on a whole new meaning.  Likewise, Paul’s sentiments in Galatians 3 when he says that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile, he is not advocating the dismissal of culture, how could he?  After all this was the man who was called to the Gentiles, planted multi-ethnic churches, had one of his disciples submit to the cultural act of bodily circumcision, continue to engage personally in Jewish cultural customs, and boldly proclaimed to the Corinthians that to the Jew he became a Jew.  Any suggestion that Paul was anti-human culture is at best biblically naieve and irresponsible. 

What Paul understood is that culture by itself is as meaningless as being served a plate of horseradish for dinner, with nothing else.  Culture only finds meaning when submitted to Jesus Christ, as I take part in the new master race called the body of Christ.  When culture is un-tethered from the cross and made a lone entity, I’ve just committed the sin of idolatry. 

Come out of your horseradish.  Engage others who look and think different from you, but do so to the glory of God.  Don’t be ashamed of your culture, but don’t revel in it either- let God sanctify and redeem it.  In the process what you’ll discover is a greater affection for Christ, others, and a greater awareness of who He’s created you to be.

When I first came to Memphis to help plant our church life was pretty simple, I mean after all we had twenty-six people meeting on Sunday night’s in a living room, it just doesn’t get any simpler than that.  However, as the years have gone by and the church has grown from a living room to three services across two locations (and in the midst of opening up a third location), the pace of life has sped up drastically.  This in addition to a demanding travel schedule, and a family who needs to be lead and cared for, caused me to desperately seek someone who would help me to manage my life well.  In other words, I hired an executive assistant.

I’ll never forget my first meeting with her.  I thought she was going to laugh out loud when I opened up by telling her that I’m pretty much an idiot.  Sure I can do some things well, complex things like preaching and leading, but pretty much that’s the extent of my “range”.  Just the other day I called my wife who happened to be out of town sharing a hotel room with my mother, begging her for directions on how to operate the coffee machine.  I had poured the coffee grounds directly into the “whatever you call it,” without a filter, and didn’t add enough water.  Korie and my mother laughed so hard I think I got offended.  So it wasn’t hyperbole when I told my soon to be executive assistant during the interview that I really am an idiot.  And once she got over the shock of such vulnerability, and started working with me she discovered, like every person who really is close to me, that I actually am!

In one of our meetings when she first began working with me we were discussing an upcoming preaching trip that I was taking.  She was anxious to hear exactly what information she needed to provide for me since this is a pretty regular part of my life.  I told her that the only thing I need to be able to focus on is preaching the gospel, everything else from what airline, to who drops me back off at the airport (and everything in between) she needs to provide.  I’ll be in England soon, and she knows that I will even need walking directions from where the public transportation will drop me off, to my dorm room (which by the way she told me is a 2 1/2 block walk).  She’s turned out to be quite the pro at helping me.

See, anyone with an assistant, and gosh I don’t say this to demean anyone in that position, will tell you that they exist to simplify our lives.  They book flights, schedule meetings and handle correspondence so that we can focus on what we need to do.  Boil an admin’s job description down and it’s to make life easy and simple for their employer.

I think I can sometimes treat God as if He’s my executive assistant.  Life gets a little complicated and God hears from me.  Find yourself in a jam, like I did the other day when I missed my connection in Salt Lake City, and God gets a “telephone call” with us asking Him to simplify our lives by bailing us out. Is there anything wrong in praying to God when I’m in a pinch?  Not at all, there’s example after example of this in the Bible of godly men and women doing this, just read the Psalms.

But the problem comes when God exists to facilitate your agenda and not the other way around.  See, my assistant really only hears from me when I need her to do something for me (and rightly so when you’re dealing with a male/female dynamic).  While she’s a vital part of a segment of my life, she’s hardly the center.  And if anyone has an assistant who fails to help them meet their agenda you may want to think about finding a new one.

Ever found yourself frustrated with God?  Close to giving up on Him?  Is it because you see Him as an executive assistant, and when He fails to meet your agenda you look to exchange God for someone or something else?  Needless to say God doesn’t work for us, we work for Him.  He’s not interested in assisting us.  He wants to instead work His agenda through us as we assist Him.

Tim Keller has a line in his latest book, Generous Justice, that continues to mess with me: “The strong must disadvantage themselves for the weak, the majority for the minority, or the community frays and the fabric breaks.” As an American I don’t like this quote for multiple reasons, namely because it calls me to come out of my individualism, and also because it challenges me to establish radically new paradigms in how I view and steward the possessions that God has entrusted to me.

Yet this whole notion of the strong, “the have’s,” if you will, disadvantaging themselves for the “have nots” is an ancient notion that various cultures across the stage of world history depended on to establish and entrench their communities. One of the most moving biblical example of a person disadvantaging themselves for the sake of others is the little boy who offered up his few loaves of bread, and pieces of fish when he was moved by the hunger of the community. It wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that this little boy was not from a wealthy family, so for him to give up the meal that he had for the sake of others was no small task. But growing up in a society that esteemed community and connectedness, he understood the importance of disadvantaging himself for the sake of others. Because of his sacrifice the community was nourished and strengthened, and he probably went home with a lot more than what he brought considering all of the leftovers!

The early church understood the necessity of community, and the strong becoming weak for the sake of others. Several sources have indicated that a common practice of the early church when they encountered a member of the community who did not have the means to eat, that they would fast, giving their food to the individual, thus becoming weak that the other would become strong. Acts two illustrates this beautifully as the “haves” disadvantaged themselves for the “have nots” through the selling of their possessions, so that the community could be built up.

I recently heard a pastor who had planted a church telling the story of how their Christian community began. Seven families had decided to move far away from home to a new city that was significantly more expensive to live in than their own. For some this posed a real challenge, especially because there were personal debts that they had accrued. What were they to do? Inspired by the early believers in Acts 2, the seven families decided to sell their possessions, establish a common fund and pay off each others debts. They decided to disadvantage themselves for the sake of others.

Of course, Jesus himself is the ultimate example of this, is he not? No one has more strength than He, being God Himself, Jesus is the pillar of strength. Yet his work on the cross in taking on the sins of the world is the supreme example of the strong disadvantaging themselves for the weak. You and I could not experience life with Him unless Jesus died/lived this! The same Jesus who taught and lived the necessity of the strong disadvantaging themselves for the weak, is the same Jesus who beckons us to follow in His footsteps and do likewise.

Korie and I have been turning this over in our minds a lot lately, wondering how we can put ourselves out for the sake of others? How we can welcome dis-ease into our lives and home for the comfort and strength of others? The following are some things we’re doing to follow Jesus in disadvantaging ourselves for others:

1. Having people live with us in our home. Over the years Korie and I have continually welcomed people who were transitioning, or had just found themselves on hard times to come and live with us. Obviously there’s some inconvenience involved. We can’t talk as freely as we like. We need to pay careful attention to what we’re wearing. We have to deal with the idiosyncrasies of our guests (one liked to pick their feet at the dinner table!), however annoying they may be. But we’ve found the upside to be far better than any potential downsides. In every case we’ve counted it sheer joy to put ourselves out for others.

2. Money. When the Bible pictures the strong, in many cases there is an inference to wealth, or financial stability. In our culture the same is true- the “haves” in most cases are those with the economic ability to do many things that the “have nots” can’t. So disadvantaging yourself for others has a financial undercurrent to it.

Tim Keller again proves helpful: “Therefore, if you have been assigned the goods of this world by God and you don’t share them with others, it isn’t just stinginess, it is injustice”.

I used to think financial prosperity would bring relief, but that’s not the case. I actually have found that it brings an incredible burden. As God has blessed Korie and I over the years financially, I have found the Holy Spirit turning up the volume in my soul, summoning us to disadvantage ourselves more and more for the sake of others. By this I’m not talking about the tithe, that’s the bare minimum. But going beyond the tithe and asking how can we use the financial resources God has given us to stand up for the orphan, fight cancer, care for the poor and so on. Not one time have Korie and I written a check, disadvantaging ourselves, that we’ve regretted it. In fact, we only want to disadvantage ourselves some more!

3. Foster Care/Adoption

As I write these words Korie and I are wrestling with our role in foster care and adoption. Prayerfully, we’re trying to figure out if we engage in foster care, adopt and/or resource others who want to be advocates for one of societies ultimate expressions of the weak- orphans. Our question is not should we be involved, but what is our specific role? We’re excited about being put out for the orphan.

And what about you? When was the last time you wrote a check, or did some act of service that seriously put you out and disadvantaged you for the advantage of others?

2010′s Top Ten

Posted: December 27, 2010 in Uncategorized

Reading has gone from an acquired taste, to a personal passion. Those who know me, even casually, know that I can’t get enough of books. Because of this, I’m constantly asked two questions when it comes to reading: 1) Why do I read so much; and 2) What am I reading? Let me address both of these in this blog, spending the bulk of my time on the second question.

Why do I read so much? Because I have to as a matter of professional survival, and also because I absolutely enjoy it. Someone once said that preaching can be compared to cutting the grass every week. A sermon (especially a good one) is like a freshly mowed lawn, you can only pause and enjoy it for so long, until it’s time to think about cutting the grass again next week. Preaching week to week is both an incredible joy, and an incredible burden, and I’ve found that reading widely and regularly deepens the well that God can pull from for illustrations, analogies, and other tid-bits to help illumine His timeless truth for His people. Now don’t misunderstand me, if you’ve heard my preaching you know that illustrations and quotes are never substitutes for the meat of the Word, instead they serve as spices and quick dashes of seasoning to flavor the message in such a way that it becomes palatable to the hearers.

Not only does reading help me in my quest for illustrations, but the right kind of reading stretches my mind and thinking, making me a better intellectual steward and student of God’s Word. Preaching is leading. When I preach the Word of God I am leading a people in a certain direction. Leadership necessitates being ahead of the people, and reading helps me with this. One of the most tragic things is to see a preacher/leader whose congregation has outgrown him intellectually (among other areas). This always happens because the preacher has stopped learning and growing and reading. You can always spot a preacher who is not a good steward of his mind. Reading helps me to steward the mind that God has entrusted to me well, that’s why I read. If you have any aspirations of preaching the Word of God, you must, by way of survival, become a slave to books. Spurgeon read six books a week. Wesley was an avid reader who chastised young preachers for not reading. Scholar and preacher, Al Mohler, boasts a personal library of over 40,000 books in which he claims to have read them all. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones could be found high up on the ladder in some secluded England bookstore adding to his collection of books. I’ve never read of a preacher whom God used mightily who was not a reader.

So, what books did I read in 2010 that moved me? Here are my top 10 books of 2010, I recommend them highly:

10. The Great Influenza, John M. Barry

I am a student of history. It’s a love of mine, and I found Barry’s book on the flu pandemic of the early 20th century to be both well written and extremely insightful. Pure enjoyment. I also gleaned some illustrations from it as well, like how something so small can be so devastating (ie, sin).

9. The Case for the Real Jesus, Lee Strobel

Since reading the Case for Christ, I’ve become a huge Lee Strobel fan. I love both his investigative approach as a former journalist, along with the apologetic emphasis of the series. Apologetics tends to be my weakness, so I need to constantly read in this area to learn more, and Strobel is helpful, especially for a novice like myself who needs apologetics served to him in very small portions!

8. The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher, Derby Applegate

Every year I make sure to read biographies on preachers. Of course I should, and so should you if you’re a preacher. More than that, you should read on anyone who occupies the same profession you do. Enough of that. Beecher was the brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe (Uncle Tom’s Cabin), and the son of the great preacher Lyman Beecher. Henry was a wildly successful pastor in Brooklyn, and abolitionist. However, he was a heretic who denied the reality of hell, and was also an adulterer, preying on women in his church. This book is fascinating, boiling on the “tabloidish” during the scandal years. What Beecher’s life illustrates is the connection between heresy and sin in the life of the preacher. Fail to preach truth and you’ll inevitably live in falsehood (See my blog on him for more).

7. Generous Justice, Tim Keller

Not his best book, but nonetheless a great one. In this book on “social justice,” Keller reminds us about the mandate on believers to care for the poor, and the disadvantaged. One of my favorite lines in the book, and I paraphrase, is that the righteous person in the Bible is defined as that person who disadvantages himself personally, for the advantage of others/community. That line still messes with me! There are certain books that as I read them my soul is stirred…warmed. This was one of them.

6. The American Plague, Molly Caldwell Crosby

I read two books this year that deal specifically with Memphis, that I wish I would have read before I got here. This one deals with the plague of yellow fever which devastated my city in the 1870′s, and whose effects can still be felt today. Prior to the plague, Memphis was on a par with Atlanta and Nashville in population and prominence. But when the plague hit, 25,000 out of the 40,000 people left, and 13,000 out of the 15,000 remaining one’s died. Memphis has never recovered. Moving.

5. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, Eric Metaxas

Surprise, surprise, another biography! And this one didn’t disappoint! We’re all acquainted with the great pastor and theologian who died at the hands of Hitler close to the end of WWII. This biography dives into the ethical dilemma of Bonhoeffer’s life- is it right for a follower of Jesus Christ, to take part in an assassination attempt on the life of its leader? This is what Bonhoeffer does. For more on the plot see the movie Valkyrie. Well written!

4. The Help, Kathryn Stockett

I hardly ever read fiction, but I had heard so much about this book that I decided to give it a go, and I’m glad I did. Set in Jackson, MS during the 1960′s, this book centers around African American domestics and what they really think of the white families they help. This book is so good that it’s being made into a movie.

3. Hellhound on His Trail, Hampton Sides

I had about five guys from my church tell me about this book, and whenever this happens that’s clearly a sign I need to read it. I could not put it down. This is the second book that centers on Memphis- it deals with the stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr, by James Earl Ray. It reads like a novel, but it’s non fiction. Unbelievable is all I can say.

2. Spiritual-Mindedness, John Owen

Outside of the Bible, this was the most spiritually motivating and heart warming book I read this year. I felt so convicted, and inspired in regards to the stewardship of my mind. This is one of those books that I have to return and read again, something I only do with three other books in my library.

1. Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand

Best book I’ve ever read outside of the Bible…nuff said!

Act Before You Feel

Posted: November 24, 2010 in Uncategorized

I was recently asked what do I do to keep my relationship with my wife fresh? A list of things immediately came to mind- take her out of town, by her some new clothes, flowers, date her. But as I thought about all of these things I realized that the foundation is simply cherishing my wife.

The dictionary defines cherish as “to regard or treat as dear; to care for tenderly; to nurture”. In other words, the idea of cherish is to treat as precious and special. It’s counter intuitive, but I’ve found in my experience that when the feelings have run out, if I want them to return I can’t wait for them to come back, I must act first and then I feel. If I want that fire that burned in my soul the first day I saw Korie to return, I have to treat her as precious and valuable now.

One of the main curses of Adam and Eve’s sin is that things naturally spiral downward. Gardens will inevitably grow weeds. Our bodies require more and more attention as the years go by if we’re going to stay in some semblance of shape. And in our relationships what started out as a nauseating kind of love is bound to slowly deflate. But God offered Adam and Eve a remedy. He tells them that even though sin has caused all of creation to spiral downward, that if they wanted to see some sort of beauty and order they could, but it would only come by the sweat of their brow. They would have to learn how to cultivate, and work hard.

Relationships require constant work. Of course they do, they’re a proposition between two very flawed people. Feelings ebb and flow. The flame of romance flickers. Other people may catch your eye, however momentary it may be. Our relationships are a garden that starts out immaculate, but if not tended to properly can become over run by weeds. Yet here’s the problem, many people are just not willing to put in the work; they want to feel before they act. Speaking in sociological terms you and I both know that people who wait to feel before they actually do something are emotional teenagers at best. I guess that’s why marriage is for grown folks. I tell my three boys all the time that manhood is doing what you ought to do even when you don’t feel like doing it. I ought to cherish my wife and treat her as the jewel she is. It’s when I do this that the flower of love and romance blooms in my life.

When a person is sitting by the fireplace and they notice that the fire is about to go out, they don’t sit around hoping that the logs will suddenly ignite. Instead they get up and tend to those logs, exerting effort as they poke and prod, cultivating a fire. So it is with marriage. If you feel as if the fire is about to go out, don’t sit there hoping and waiting. Do something. Act.

I just finished a great, but sad biography on the life of Henry Ward Beecher, the famous Brooklyn, New York preacher of the 19th century. He was so famous, that he was considered to be the most famous man in America. Friend to presidents, crusader against slavery and pastor of one of the largest churches in America, Beecher’s celebrity was so wide spread that those who crossed the Hudson on Sunday mornings from Manhattan to Brooklyn did so on vessels called “Beecher Boats”.

A major part of Beecher’s appeal was his preaching, and by this I’m not just alluding to his oratory. His message was a much different one. Ironically born the son of what many considered to be the last Puritan preacher (Lyman Beecher), Henry decided to depart from the hell fire and brimstone that marked his father’s era. In exchange, Beecher preached against hell and for the love of God. While we may consider this old hat today, in Henry’s time this was quite the scandal. People found his message both refreshing and appealing, so much so that they broke their necks to hear him on Sunday mornings, or to read the many articles that he wrote during his lifetime.

To the orthodox, Bible believing Christ follower Henry Ward Beecher was not doctrinally correct. His distorted view of a benevolent God who did not act justly would ultimately become his down fall, as in his latter years it was discovered that he had lived a life of adultery. Several people said of Henry, that every Sunday when he stood to preach he did so with a dozen or so of his mistresses in the audience.

What Henry Ward Beecher’s life shows us is that there is a close connection between orthodoxy (right doctrine) and orthopraxy (right practice). What you believe about the Bible will have a profound influence on how you actually live. If we deny the justice of God, as Henry did, we should not be surprised to live in such sins as adultery and immorality.

His example of the closeness of orthodoxy and orthopraxy reverberates today. Show me any preacher who has lived a life of sin, and I will show you someone who in most cases has not preached right doctrine, or has refused to actually live what they claim to believe. The Jews had it that you actually do what you believe, and to say you believe something without doing it is not to believe it. Show me anyone who lives contrary to what they “believe” and I will show you someone who doesn’t actually believe what they claim. How we live ultimately reflects what we believe.

So what do you believe?