2 – What is ‘Theology’?

Theology is a combination of Greek word parts. “Theos” meaning “god” and the suffix “-logia” suggests “interest” or “study”.

Many people who have not studied theology have their own superstitious definition of the word, unofficially yet predictably meaning things like: overly-complicated, big words, confusing concepts, and esoteric speech patterns reserved for self-important egg heads. That’s because theology can come across that way when expert theologians talk on their expert level in the presence of a novice.

But, herein lies a dilemma. Words must be defined by their definitions—if the are going to help us understand. When pop culture commandeers and derails the meaning of a word, that word loses its ability to help humanity.

“Capitalist” around the year 2000 meant much the same as the term “Republican” around 1900: rich elitist. Actually, a “Republican” is a member or supporter of the political party started by Abraham Lincoln, that’s all. “Rich elitist” means “rich elitist”. Likewise, “Capitalism” only means that people can do what they want with their own money—being born into a “lower class” doesn’t mean you can’t buy certain clothes; rather, you can buy whatever clothes you can afford. Capitalism delivered the world from old Feudalism in Europe. Pop culture definitions might be fashionable, but they don’t bring understanding.

Just the same, don’t let the word “theology” scare you. Don’t let it give you a big head. Theology means “interested in God”. A theologian is someone who carefully studies and learns about God with great interest.

“Why does God___?” is a theological question. All of us are theologians in a sense, that is if we have any opinion about God at all. However, not many people are very diligent theologians.

Studying God means studying things we can never fully understand. The ultimate conclusion of any good theology is our own humility. God is bigger and to be respected. That is a basic concept of theology—a concept many good people easily forget.

Martin Luther said that the ultimate theological question is not, “What do I think about God?” but, “What does God think about me?

Theology is not a quest for a mere opinion, but for understanding the Giver of goodness, wisdom, and love.

1 Chronicles 16:11, Psalm 14:2, Jeremiah 29:13, Acts 17:11

From the Creator of Watch Stand Pray

Though the subtitle reads “Moral Motivation”, I do not consider myself any moral authority by any means. Morality is a topic society is hungry for. It would be a crime not to spread the news: Morals are good.

Note that the title is not “Moral Perfection”. I write these words to myself as much as to everyone else. As the words suggest, this work is both a motivation for morals and a set of moral-centered motivationals.

I was inspired by my many students and friends, as well as Oswald Chambers. I was introduced to his work when a kind of spiritual grandmother in my life gave me a copy as I went off to Moody. My Utmost for His Highest, the gold standard of Bible-based devotionals, was a collection of notes from Chambers’ widow; our loved ones often know our best values best. He died at 43 years old of a health condition. His first book, Biblical Psychology, was published five years before that. If he could address both Bible and culture at such a young age, I can too.

I write this at 37 years old. At this time, I have only drafted the first read, about eleven other candidate reads, and have a list of about 180 for other topics, at least 100 of them Bible Theology topics. Most of these are rants I have given to friends on more than one occasion. It seems, according to the fact that his wife took notes of what he would say at home, Oswald was a bit of a “ranter” like myself. What writer/teacher isn’t?

My father would also go on “wisdom rants”. He called them “little Walter thoughts”. We treasure them today. Toward the end of his life, he started to write them down, but most of what he said remains only in memory. I don’t want that. Although I have written political, Bible, fiction, and numerous other pieces in various genres, nothing really had “Jesse thoughts”. This does.

Oswald Chambers brought something special. His daily readings aren’t just “Bible study”. They were real, passionate, and natural from the moment. Those kinds of “household wisdom rants” have the strongest “didactic” teaching impact in childhood. Some of our best books are the ones we don’t know we write. Oswald remains unique in the devotional world.

The lesser among devotionals can be filled with cliche, quite dry, belong best under dust on a coffee table’s lower shelf, or were invaluable for readers from another time. Many good Bible devotionals are aimed at novice Bible readers who love Jesus and need elementary teaching to enrich their busy, hectic lives. There are many rich daily-Bible books, such as 365 Read-Aloud Bedtime Bible Stories, the “Uncle” Arthor Maxwell collections, and it goes without mention that Max Lucado and my good friend, Joe Stowell, are generally awesome. But, all of these are heavily focused on traditional Bible-preaching topics.

What about the professional? What about the Christian who wants to minister through the marketplace or in government? Wisdom such as, “Make sure you’re nice to people because God really loves you as much as them,” carries truth that can be properly applied if we take it to heart; but it doesn’t necessarily answer all challenges of the working professional.

Who disciples the Daniels and Josephs? Who motivates the motivational speakers? They weren’t without mentors of their own. Without any spite, I believe there is a “red ocean” marketable need for a book that daily enriches the lives of self-proclaimed Christian yuppies. I wanted “Tony Robins meets Oswald Chambers”. Frankly, that’s Jesse Steele.

Oswald Chambers didn’t intend to write the book he wrote. That was part of its magic. The only reason that I can justify even being worthy to follow in his shoes is that every one of these 365 reads—353 of them yet-to-be-drafted—are from rants I have already made. I’m doing zero research and zero outlining for these devotionals. I’m simply sitting at a keyboard and pounding out “broken record rants” of my past that people have thanked me for time and again. The book will be finished as fast as I can type.

(Don’t tell her, but this is arguably a romance tactic. If I publish all my brilliant ideas before I meet my future wife, that might deter her from taking notes while I’m ranting. Wouldn’t that have been kind of funny—a young couple getting into it when the wife suddenly pulls out a pad of paper and starts taking notes? Just sayin’. But, I kinda’ like that kinda’ woman.)

No, I’m not married. I just haven’t had time to pursue it, being too busy with other important things that I won’t have time for in the future. So, how can I even include anything about marriage and family in the readings?

Well, I am a son and an uncle, for what it’s worth. I hope I’m valuable to my nieces and nephews. Still, I severely limit myself on the topic of raising a family. I can’t speak to the 24/7 gig; it’s exhausting just to think about. But, if it is wrong to write wisdom for children when you don’t have any of your own then most of CS Lewis’ work would be unqualified.

In terms of marriage, I am just an inquisitive observer. I’ve often picked the brains of married couples to see what works for them, why they fail, and I often know more about what goes on behind the scenes than people realize. I’m somewhat of the grapevine in that sense. I don’t think God would let those little “bees” buzz over and keep me so informed if I flapped jaw about other people’s problems. I keep a tighter lip than most will ever know. Many a secret will go to my grave with me. From those secrets, I have a wide scope of what I have seen fail and succeed. I think it would be a crime not to share at least a little from that insight.

These reads contain the warnings and wisdom anyone can see in advance, with a little diligence. I’ll probably write a post-parenting book on how it all worked out. My mother often told me with all sincerity and no animosity, “I can’t wait to see how your ideas actually work out when you’re a parent.”

What do I have to say about being a father?

I write this not as a father, but as a godfather of a godson whose father left him forever when he was three, to whom I gave my name. I have none of the rights nor powers of a real father, yet I carry much of the responsibility. I have no influence in his regular instruction or situation. I am only available when called on and can only act in the capacity of a commentator and cheerleader. In many ways, I wish I had even some of the powers of a real father to David, with no second thought for the burdens that would come with them. I did not ask for him to be my godson and I cannot ask to be released. I only write about the topic of fathering because no devotional would be complete without it. In this, I write from what I little I do know and from what the Bible teaches. I hope that God grants you the powers to glean from my wisdom and disregard my lacking.

But, I am no novice to these matters either.

My grandmother was called “Grandma” even by her elders because of her wide and long work with children in her local church. Even after she died, my aunt’s neighbor, who barely knew her, had a dream in which she called her “Grandma”. My mother was listed in the local newspaper among the top ten local daycare providers. My own babysitter, from before I entered elementary school, was a leader in her community and I am still in touch with her to this day. We often talk about dealing with people as we never stop growing up.

During the ages of nine and ten, when I was homeschooled, I listened to Dr. Kevin Leman on the radio every day as parents called into his national talk radio program for advice. Sadly, yet honestly, I believed I have studied the subject of parenting more than most parents. In addition to that, I have twenty years of one-on-one tutoring experience with ages ranging from five to seventy and in three different cultures. I have seen many parenting styles, what fails and what succeeds, and I say confidently as humbly: It’s all predictable.

Books have already been published about every problem and conflict. Talk radio hosts, even the less famous, have addressed many challenges. Yet, most of the people who face great challenges in family relationships rarely seek advice, let alone seek advice in advance. Not seeking advice in advance is usually among the greatest problems in family. Never have I encountered a situation where my own counsel had not already been published by men more experienced than I. When it comes to family, I have absolutely nothing new to say, yet I think I have seen one quarter of all there is to see, the total being unfathomable.

I do not have experience as a husband or as a biological father. I can’t speak from impure relations either. I can only speak from the perspective of one who has the wisdom to wait for things for which I know I am not prepared. Of all the experience I lack, the greatest is preventable and unnecessary failure. For the failures I have, I am glad I was at least absent from the bleachers and present on the game field.

Aside from parenting, I feel competent in the areas of which I write. I survived nine years overseas with my only financial plan being God as my provider. Everything I write about money came from what I have seen in life and read in the Bible. The same goes for leadership, whether organizationally, in business relations, friendship, or positions of authority such as controlling a classroom.

My work speaks for itself, including the fifteen ebooks I have made freely available as of 2018, as well as the inkVerb and PinkWrite projects. I have a degree in Bible, ten years of work in food service, twenty years in education, and am a pianist of thirty. I am son to a widowed mother and Military Police renaissance-man father, brother, uncle, godfather, Linux programmer, designer, podcaster, columnist, predictor of politics, advisor to unnamed few, ESL and piano teacher, forever student, individual sport enthusiast, hands-on student of culture, lover of people almost as much as I am lover of our Creator God, sinner, mentor, friend, hunter, tamer of animals, writer, survivor, and hope-to-be-better every day all-around good guy.

— Jesse Steele
Creator of Watch Stand Pray

1 – The Moral Compass from Above

As humans, we are partially responsible for who we are and partially responsible to accept what we cannot change about who we already are. One thing we cannot change is our need for a moral compass. Like open source software and peer-to-peer relationships, we must do to others as we would have them do to us. And, like the turtle dove, bald eagle, lar gibbon, prairie vole, albatross, French angelfish, black vulture, barn owl, black-necked swan, shingleback skink, pot-bellied seahorse, European beaver, sandhill crane, and macaroni penguin—humans are hardwired to mate for life. When the alpha male and alpha female gray wolves mate for life, it establishes a social structure that protects the pack. Humans also depend on social structure, another thing we cannot decide nor change.

Human society is sadly plagued by an idea that circulates like an invasive virus—that we can construct our own moral code and that each different moral code is equal to all others. For man-made morals, this is true; insufficient, they are all equally wanting. The Bible teaches that lies, including man-made morals, are promoted by the devil, who prowls like a lion seeking anyone to devour. Don’t take the bait.

That devil wants to destroy our lives, starting with his lie that we can survive life with our own morals. He wants us to think that any moral code is sufficient, so we will ignore the morals that protect us from injury.

A moral code for humankind cannot be created by humankind. Morals relate to those things we cannot change—but must accept—about who we already are. Such insight can only come from the source of our existence.

The Bible claims that it comes from God, through the personalities of its many authors, and that studying it regularly produces good results. That makes it a candidate for a moral compass—not from ourselves, but from above. The Bible proves itself to be from God, not with its overwhelming archaeological, scientific, and historical supporting evidence—but the Bible proves that it is what it claims to be by doing what it claims to do through the positive effect on our lives as we read it daily.

Joshua 1:8, Isaiah 2:8, John 8:44, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, 1 Peter 5:8, 2 Peter 1:21