Who Conforms to Whom?

Are you familiar with “Calvinball” from the comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes? It is a fictional game in which both Calvin and his stuffed toy tiger Hobbes, who lives animated in Calvin’s imagination, make up their own rules as they go along. No rule can be used twice, except the rule that no rule can be used twice! It is Calvin’s way of averting society’s demands and conforming reality to his passions of the moment. In a little ditty he sings, “You don’t need a team or a referee! You know that it’s great, ‘cause it’s named after me!”1

In its humorous way, Calvinball gently illustrates something more consequential than childhood fantasies, namely our tendency to comport Biblical truth to our own comfort level, instead of vice versa. This is neither new nor cultural; it is human. It shows up in what we choose to believe about God, rather than what is necessarily true about Him. What might this look like? Sometimes we dangerously supplant God’s law with our own notions of right and wrong, as Isaiah cautioned, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”2 Also, our religious traditions, however sincere, may actually “nullify the word of God,”3 as Jesus warned the Sadducees, who insisted there was no life after death. “You are in error,” He told them, “because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.”4 Forewarning us against bending God’s truth to our preferences, Peter cautioned his readers about “unstable people” who distort Scriptures, even “to their own destruction.”5 It is Satan’s oldest trick—to “explain away” the clear meaning of God’s Word through false premises and twisted reasoning and thus redirect us toward “a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.”6 Tragically Adam, in the garden, fell for it; thankfully Jesus, in the wilderness, did not.

To his protégé Timothy—and effectively to us—Paul wrote, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” 7 God’s Word is truth8, and when we misuse it, we do so at our own peril. But when we conform our will to His ways, and not vice versa, we are safe to serve and free to flourish in life eternal—a fruitful, meaningful life.

Father, You send us not away from this world, but into it.9 Ignite in us a burning passion for Your Word and equip us in its truth to do every good work.” In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

1 Waterson, Bill. “Calvin and Hobbes” comic strip. September 14, 2015.
2 Isaiah 5:20
3 Mark 7:13
4 Matthew 22:29
5 1 Peter 3:16
6 Proverbs 14:12
7 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT
8 John 17:17
9 John 17:18


The Authority We Want and Need

Attending college in Columbus, Ohio, I introduced a friend to the joy of skating at the OSU ice rink across town. She quickly grew in fondness and ability for this winter pastime, and decided to buy her own skates. While fitting her, the rink worker noticed she was wearing two pairs of socks. “You’ll only want one pair of socks for skating” he told her, at which point I interrupted and said, “No, she’ll need two.” We went back and forth a couple of times, so I pulled out my ace: “I grew up in northern Michigan and played four years of hockey in high school, and I’m telling you, she’ll need to wear two pairs of socks.” To which he replied, “I grew up in Ontario and played five years for the Boston Bruins; she will only want to wear one pair.” With a keen recognition of authority, I humbly conceded.

God’s Word is authority for life. His commands, wrote Paul, are “the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth,”1 and we live “on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”2 Yet our sinful nature is prone to challenge His Word—and thereby, His authority—rebelliously subjecting His truth to our flawed judgments and twisting it to appease our self-centered desires. This is not new, for through Jeremiah God declared of ancient Israel, “every man’s own word becomes his oracle and so you distort the words of the living God.”3 Nor are we immune from it now or in the future, for as Paul warned Timothy, “the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”4

Then amid the escalating cacophony around us, how do we discern and flourish under the voice of authority? First, recognize that truth exists—“[God’s] word is truth”5—and that He who reigns in authority loves us, for “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.”6 Then in such confidence we, like David, walk today with this assurance firmly placed in God: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”7 God’s Word is authority; we humbly concede. He speaks it in love; we gladly submit.

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”8 Light our path today in the truth of your Word. In Christ we pray. Amen.

1 Romans 2:20 NASB
2 Deuteronomy 8:3
3 Jeremiah 23:36
4 2 Timothy 4:3-4
5 John 17:17
6 Proverbs 30:5
7 Psalm 119:105 KJV
8 John 6:68


Full Stride and Forward Focused

My brother was a strong high school track athlete competing on a strong high school team. I enjoyed going to his meets to cheer him on, and I remain a track and field fan still. I remember the day a competitor blazed down the track and, knowing he was comfortably in the lead, looked back at the others behind him, eased his stride, and flashed double-peace signs several paces before breaking the tape. When the times for the event were announced moments later, his was one tenth of a second above his school’s record, prompting from him an audible cry of anguish at an opportunity lost. To my knowledge, he never did set the new mark.

In a sense, I think we believers run much of life’s race looking backwards by living in regret of past wrongs or languishing in a pool of past pains. Clearly, there is great value in confessing our sins, forgiving those of others, and confronting the reality of our hurts. Yet our purpose, effectiveness, and destination in Christ all lie before us. Paul grasped this well, shedding the weight of his sordid past and living into his call: “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. . .  Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”1 His real and regrettable past was neither defining nor debilitating to his future; his eyes were on the prize.

The same must be true of us, for “if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”2 We are free to flourish, for Paul’s words to the Corinthians remain true for believers of every time and space: “You were set apart for God-like living to do His work. You were made right with God through our Lord Jesus Christ by the Spirit of our God.”3 Our most impactful and meaningful Kingdom work lies ahead, and we are equipped to pursue it. So let us run full stride and forward focused in our race to the end—losing none of the opportunities before us, but living daily into our call.

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. —Isaiah 43:18-19

Father, You have redeemed us from our brokenness and established us for Your great purposes. What can we say, but thank You! Draw us near, that, today, our sights would be on You and our actions aligned with Your purposes for us. Amen.

1 Philippians 3:12-14
2 2 Corinthians 5:17
3 1 Corinthians 6:11 NLV