Showered with the Grace of God in Christ

I was able to contribute to a series on the book of Ephesians for Servants of Grace. I covered Ephesians 3:1-2:

Would we go to prison for someone else? The Apostle Paul did. He opens Ephesians chapter three by referring to himself as a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of the Gentiles. This type of sacrifice seems almost unreasonable in our day and age. With mantras like, “you do you” and “speak your truth,” hearing of somebody laying down their own desires and ambitions for someone else is radical. But this is the way of the cross. When Jesus first appeared to Paul (then Saul), this was the road Jesus was calling Paul to walk down, and it’s the same road we must follow as well.

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The Commander, The Armor, and The Weapon Are One

When a solider goes into battle he never knows the outcome. And even if him and his comrades win the battle they don’t know who will win the war. As Christians in supernatural war we already know the outcome. We go into battle as victors. Colossians 2:15 says, “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” Here Paul is giving the Colossians an image of a triumphal Roman military procession, where the spoils of war and the defeated foes were paraded through the streets of Rome.

Who is leading this military procession?

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Christ & Culture Series: Academia

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This is a continuation of a current series

In this post I interview my dad, Robert Oleck, about the academic world. Growing up my dad was always my ‘go-to person’ for theology and apologetics questions. I credit him for influencing me, at a young age, in my love for Bible Doctrine and Reformed Theology. 

His academic background includes a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Rutgers University, an M.S. in Architectural Engineering from Penn State, and a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from Syracuse University, where he also was an adjunct Professor of various engineering courses from 1983-1990. 

In 1973 (before attending Syracuse University in 1977) my dad came to know Christ, and in 1997 he also received an M.A. in Theological Studies from Reformed Theological Seminary in the Central Florida area. He is currently retired and doing consulting and freelance engineering work, while serving as an Elder at Grace Church in his hometown of Winter Garden, FL.


 

Did your Christian beliefs have an effect on your years as a professor? If so, how and why?

Yes, my Christianity gave me a new view of the physical laws we engineers use to design structures, aerospace vehicles, cars, etc. These physical laws are extremely precise and if not adhered to will cause failure and collapse. Somehow I wanted to try and get this point of view across as I taught Engineering Mechanics to undergraduates, a couple of graduate courses in Earthquake Engineering, and courses in Advanced Reinforced Concrete design. We engineers are the practioners of the physical laws of the universe that God has put in place in order for the universe not to be in chaos. In subtle ways I would mention this point of view when possible.

Compare your student years as a Christian and non-Christian. What were the differences and similarities?

As a non-Christian, at Rutgers and later Penn State, my ambition was to get a good job so I didn’t have to work manual labor. My motivation was also to get a better salary as well as enjoy myself as much as possible. As a Christian at Syracuse University I still wanted to better my education but now more to help my family have a better life and to glorify God through what I could learn. As a non-Christian my ambition was self-centered, but as a Christian I became more God and family oriented.

Does God’s Word have any bearing on the academic world? If so, how and why?

Yes it should because the academic world should teach us how to think. God’s Word answers some of the questions about our world and ourselves that in a growing number of educational institutions are not being asked, such as: Where did we come from? What is our purpose? Are we basically good or evil? How do we arrive at our knowledge of what is good and evil? What happens after we die?

As an undergraduate at Rutgers University, we engineers had to take one course in philosophy, and the professor said that most philosophies come down to assuming man is either basically good or basically evil. As an engineer I was trained in only the physical sciences. I learned all the equations and formulas, but not to think critically in any way.

How do you think our culture views the academic world?

Based on discussions I’ve had with professors and students from various universities, our current American culture has become very one-sided in its view of God, man, and right/wrong. The educational institutions are the factories that reproduce this cultural bias into the next generations. However, I think our culture believes they are right about this approach to education and resists anyone or anything that tries to offer an alternative view. The surprising thing about this attitude is that it contradicts the post-modern philosophy that advocates relative truth and acceptance of multi-cultural beliefs. A current book confirming this hypocrisy is The Silencing: How the Left is Killing Free Speech, by Kirsten Powers.

In addition, even the Greek philosophers were interested in comparing ideas. Plato expressed this view as follows, “The unexamined life is not worth living” (Sec. 38 of Plato’s Apology.)

How should Christians view the academic world differently?

God has provided various sources of general or normal means besides the Bible (General Revelation) about Himself, His ideas, His view of right and wrong, etc.,  Though there are some good things we can learn from the academic world, Christians should also see education as an opportunity to learn many points of view about the questions I mentioned above as a way to reach out to other cultures, beliefs, and different peoples with the gospel.

Example: Paul at Mars Hill (Acts 17:16-34) had learned the Greek philosophers. In Paul’s presentation of the gospel he quotes a Greek poet and philosopher to indicate that there is an “unknown” Greek god that he would inform the audience of at the Areopagus (a philosophical discussion group) near Athens. This approach enabled Paul to introduce a “bridge” between the Greek culture and the gospel.

What is also interesting about the group at the Areopagus was that they were interested in hearing what Paul had to say, which is better than what occurs at our academic institutions where any ideas that are contrary to the current philosophy are prohibited.

Is Marriage a Cage?

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Marriage? Nope. Not for me. I was the fish swimming against the current when all my girlfriends were swimming in a desperate frenzy for the destination. I was like the Apostle Paul, happy being single and wishing all the fish would realize singleness is a gift. I appreciated Paul’s enthusiasm for the single life, but I overlooked his encouragement for the gift of marriage. (1 Corinthians 7:7.) My upstream swim was due to a dark cloud of fear blocking my vision.

I believe my fear stemmed from a few sources. The church I grew up in held strong views of biblical manhood and womanhood, especially the woman’s role of submission in marriage. I believed in these truths only as concepts, but as real life personal application it felt daunting.

I also think the subtle cultural grasp of feminism was grabbing at my heart and mind. I was in college at the time and many of my professors were influencing the classroom with their worldview. Though I was scared of applying biblical womanhood in my life, and my college professors had a strong feminist mindset, the fault did not lie with all of them, but with me.

Courtney Reissig, author of The Accidental Feminist: Restoring Our Delight in God’s Good Design, states fear as the root of feminism by saying,

“But what feminism tried to do was empower women to rise above their circumstances in their own strength, in many ways owing to these very fears of vulnerability…Feminism answered the fears that women faced by putting women in control of their own destiny, by making women the final authority in their lives. And it’s easy to do isn’t it? We feel like if we have some semblance of control than we can’t be hurt, we can’t be disappointed, or we can’t be given over to our fears.”

My heart was fearful, because I desired control of my life. A godly relationship and marriage was a threat to my happiness from my perceived control over my life and identity. Control was the root desire I craved, which resulted in fear. I wanted control over my heart too. I was overly guarded. I barricaded my heart from vulnerability, because I knew a relationship had the potential to hurt me. To me showing emotion was a sign of weakness, and I took pride in the lack of it.

Freedom and a Cage

I felt like singleness was freedom and marriage was a cage. I thought my future husband would squelch my gifts, and I would be resigned to a frilly apron in the kitchen baking chocolate chip cookies. Yet, today I am married. How did that happen? Only by the faithfulness of God slowly chiseling away at the rock of my stubborn heart.

He was my good Shepherd who disciplined me with his staff to protect me and kept me within his boundary lines. He guided me through the shadow of the valley of uncertainty. He did not leave my side. I could trust him. He was giving me a gift to bless me, and I was pushing it away. I thought marriage would trap me in a cage, but I was already caged in by my sinful fear. I finally realized Christ was the remedy for my fearful heart.

Throughout my dating relationship with my husband God continued to guide and discipline me. He had my best in mind and wanted me to see it as his best. He showed me that marriage is not a cage, it is a blessing; a gift he gives to make us more like him. The only cage is a heart trapped in bondage to sin.

Marriage is also a picture of Christ and his Church; a picture of submission and service. Christ led through service to a cross of sacrifice, and we as his Church respond in humility and appreciation for his service and sacrifice. God was calling me to live out this beautiful picture all through his sufficient grace.

My identity as a wife is cloaked in the ultimate identity I have in Christ. My gifts are not squelched, but they are being poured out in service for others in my home. My gifts are being used not only in my home life, but in my local church, and even through some of my writing. Other seasons will come for using more gifts as well. I don’t have to ‘break free’ from a family to experience the freedom I have in Christ. He’s broken the cage of my sin and set me free to live for him.

Unfulfilled Longings in the Check Out Line

Part 3 of the Christian Thinking series. 


Have you looked at the women’s magazines at the store check out lane recently?

  • 99 Ways to Look Better, Feel Better, Enjoy Life More!
  • Snack off Weight
  • Look Gorgeous When It’s 100 Degrees
  • 25 Secrets to Looking Young
  • Indulge Yourself: Instant Long Hair; Goof-proof Self-tanning
  • The Little Health Habit That Keeps You Thin, Improves Your Skin, and Ups Your Energy!
  • The Easy Life: Fun Jobs, Cool Dresses, Wild Fantasies, and Smart Solutions

All of these article titles promise to satisfy our desires to be thin, beautiful, young, and have everything we want quickly and easily. Yet, if we don’t get the results we want, when we want them, we launch into feelings of resentment, depression or anxiety. Then when we feel this way we look for other
ways to fulfill our longings: a new hairstyle, wardrobe, job, a man, children, vacations, and food. It’s a frenzied cycle of bondage.

We live in a culture of convenience. The only worthy pursuits are ones which come with little effort. Once life gets hard and we don’t feel fulfilled we pitch a fit. We live in a time where results are demanded instantly; a fast-food mentality permeates all areas of our lives.

This is false teaching alive in the message of our culture, and it is not a biblical message. Women embrace this message, because of insecurity, unhappiness, and a desire to feel fulfilled. Here are 3 ways we can put on our Christian Thinking caps and impart truth into our lives in this area:

1. Unfulfilled longings are not always sinful.

Longings and desires, in and of themselves, are not sinful, and fulfilling these desires are not always sinful either.  When our quest for fulfillment becomes a demanding right that must be fulfilled instantly or we insist on fulfilling our longings in illegitimate ways then we have entered the territory of sin. The problem enters when our desire for other things or people take the place of our desire for God.

2. Our unfulfilled longings cannot be filled by people and things.

C.S. Lewis says this perfectly:

It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

We will always have unfulfilled longings this side of heaven. The problem is we are too easily satisfied with lesser things offered on this earth, and these lesser things will always fail and disappoint us.

God gave us these desires as a way to point us to heaven and to himself as the ultimate satisfying source of life. He wants us to feel restless on this earth; we are sojourners and aliens here. We should not try to make our home in the wilderness, while the promised land is waiting for us.

3. Unfulfilled longings are a normal part of life. Contentment is key.

We will always live with unfulfilled longings. Once we get what we want, we’ll just want something else. The grass always looks greener on the other side, until we get there and see all the weeds we have to fight, and then we desire a new patch of grass. Our consumer minded society is constantly feeding its ferocious appetite for more. This is not a Christian mindset. We are called to think like Paul and learn contentment in every season of life.

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:11-13

As Christian women, we need to ask God for strength to be content with whatever lot we find ourselves in. We need to ask for joy in whatever God has set before us. We need to trust God with our unfulfilled longings, and see Christ as our source of ultimate fulfillment to life.

Part 4 >>