PREPARE FOR CULTURAL ICE STORMS

PREPARE FOR CULTURAL ICE STORMS

Our rural Virginia county got hit hard by the recent ice storms. It wasn’t as bad as Texas, but many people who had generators were still running them and hauling “flush water” a week later. And good luck buying a generator if you weren’t prepared.

Another storm is coming, a cultural ice storm that, like Narnia’s Ice Queen, is already freezing free speech, intimidating the weak, and punishing dissenters. Most of us are unprepared. Rod Dreher is and his recent books, The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post Christian Nation (2017), and Live Not By Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents (2020), will alert readers, all readers, not just Christians, to what’s ahead and help them develop a plan.

I know that sounds sensational. Alarmist rhetoric across media has made us wary of all warnings. But when all the signs indicate a storm is coming, it is time to ring the bell and make a plan.

Some recent examples: A friend and tenured professor at a state university tells me his department’s deputy director is pushing a diversity statement—Dreher calls it “a formal statement of loyalty to the ideology of diversity”—all faculty must sign. The situation is serious enough that he has retained legal counsel. The Virginia Values Act, which threatens freedom of conscience for all Virginians, was signed into law last July. Amazon just blocked the sale of Ryan Anderson’s When Harry Became Sally, the most scholarly, well-researched, and unpretentious book—every parent of a child in public school should read it—on the subject of transgenderism. School teachers tell me that their social media accounts are being watched, and somebody will punish them for any speech deemed out of line by school boards who are rapidly adopting state diversity guidelines. The Equal Rights Amendment will soon enshrine in Federal Law what the Virginia Values Act does on the state level. Attorneys who work in the religious freedom arena tell me that Christian business owners are increasingly at risk for business-destroying lawsuits. Politicians and policy wonks tell me the laws pursued by the left in general and the LGBTQ lobby, in particular, are meant not to secure equality of access—they already have that—but to “punish the wicked,” i.e., religious and other conservatives who disagree with them.

Meditate on that for a moment. It means using state and federal law to force agreement. Read thought police.

Dreher says, “As a journalist who writes about these issues, I often hear stories from people—always white-collar professionals like academics, doctors, lawyers, engineers—who live closeted lives as religious or social conservatives. They know that to dissent from the progressive regime in  the workplace, or even to be suspected of dissent, would likely mean burning their careers at the stake.”[1] He calls what’s happening “soft totalitarianism” and defines it thus:

Back in the Soviet era, totalitarianism demanded love for the Party, and compliance with the Party’s demands was enforced by the state. Today’s totalitarianism demands allegiance to a set of progressive beliefs, many of which are incompatible with logic—and certainly with Christianity. Compliance is forced less by the state than by elites who form public opinion, and by private corporations that, thanks to technology, control our lives far more than we would like to admit…Today in our societies, dissenters from the woke party line find their businesses, careers, and reputations destroyed. They are pushed out of the public square, stigmatized, canceled, and demonized as racists, sexists, homophobes, and the like. And they are afraid to resist, because they are confident that no one will join them or defend them.[2]

Samuel James, writing for Christianity Today, finds Dreher’s thesis unconvincing, commenting, “prophecy is tough work, and people who share the deepest religious and social convictions can nonetheless interpret all the moving parts differently.” I hope he is right. But Dreher’s cultural analysis has been dead on target so far.

Jesus rebuked his enemies by telling them, “You can read the weather, but you cannot read the signs of the times.” Rod Dreher has read the signs. Christians and others who believe in truth, reality, freedom, and justice need to prepare for what’s coming. Dreher’s insights are an excellent place to start.


[1] Rod Dreher, Live Not By Lies, p. 58.

[2] Ibid, p. 8-9.

THE PLOW An Ash Wednesday Reflection

THE PLOW An Ash Wednesday Reflection

Every summer, we enjoy another of the benefits of living in a rural community: garden-fresh fruits and vegetables. I thought I knew what a fresh tomato was before I moved to the country. But then I ate an Abbott tomato. I thought I knew what sweet was, but then I tasted a Turbeville cantaloupe.

One such garden was across the street from our house. But none of its fruit would’ve been possible without Mr. Rice from down the street. He didn’t water the ground. He didn’t plant the seed. He didn’t even help in the harvest. He just appeared on his tractor every spring with the thing every garden needs: the plow. 

The plow is hard and sharp. It rips through weeds, punctures the hard surface, and breaks up the clotted dirt. The plow prepares the ground for the beginning of life-giving things.

The spiritual life has a parallel in the plow: repentance. Repentance penetrates hardened hearts, breaking up clods that clog our souls. Repentance opens the way for the word of God to work down into the soil of personality and bring forth the sweet fruit of a life empowered by the Spirit. Repentance is the first step in ‘putting off the old life’ and ‘putting on the new.’ Nothing happens without it.

Today is Ash Wednesday when some Christians mark their heads with an ashen cross to begin the season of Lent, a concentrated period of personal repentance before Easter. That’s good if it helps. Like an unused plow in an abandoned field, repentance has rusted away in our “self-esteem is everything” culture. But repentance is a spiritual discipline that requires regular practice if it’s to do us any good.

Nehemiah shows us how to do it.

Repentance Reviews the Offense

Repentance calls sin, sin. Nehemiah said, “I confess the sins…we have committed, including myself.” Neh.1: 6b-7.

There goes that plow blade, right into the toughest part of the ground, the hardened surface of self. We come before God and say, “Lord, I did it. It wasn’t my environment, it wasn’t my job, it wasn’t my family, I did something wrong, and I’m responsible for it.”

Repentance Is Specific 

Nehemiah confessed sins of commission, doing what we know is wrong. “We have acted very wickedly toward you,” he said. We might say it this way: “God, I have been corrupt in my dealings with you. I’ve played the religious pretend game. On the outside, I look fine. On the inside, my heart is far from you.”

Corruption is a heart hardening thing. It needs a sharp plow.

Nehemiah also confessed sins of omission, failing to do what we know is right. We have not obeyed the commands… you gave to Moses.”

Finally, Nehemiah confessed to group sins. He used the plural pronoun, “We.” We don’t imagine ourselves responsible for what our culture is doing. But when we fail to speak up for the defenseless unborn, are we not responsible? When we fail to care for the poor, are we not neglecting our responsibilities?

Repentance reviews the offense and takes responsibility, putting everything out on the table between God and us. That is essential if we want a response.

It has been a long time now since we ate the fruit of the garden across the street. The neighbors who tended it died or moved away, grass and trees now fill the lot. I chatted with Mr. Rice about that. He said, “I’ve been plowing gardens for folks in town here for decades. At one time, there were thirty-five that I plowed every spring. Now there are less than five.”

When I observe our culture and see the poison it produces, I wonder if the reason is that we have stopped tending the garden of the soul, we have stopped turning over the soil of the spirit with the plow of repentance. 

READY-MADE PRAYERS Spiritual Meat for Hungry Souls

READY-MADE PRAYERS Spiritual Meat for Hungry Souls

Some days my mind is scattered as a caffeinated squirrel, and my heart is as flat as a pancake. Ready-made prayers are helpful then.

Growing up Baptist had some definite advantages for my spiritual life. The clarity and importance of personal repentance and faith in Christ alone for salvation remain paramount. Add to that the emphasis on singing in worship and participation in choirs. The songs I sang then still bubble to the surface today. And eventually, personal Bible study, the conversation with God one develops when digging deep in the word, became important. The fried chicken (aka gospel bird) wasn’t bad either.

But among the things that my spiritual development lacked was a robust prayer life. We Baptists were great at potlucks. But if prayer is like chicken, we were getting the skinny bird every time. “Lord, we just want to praise you for this. And Lord, we just want to ask you for that, and Lord, we ask you to bless so and so.” That kind of praying will leave you spiritually hungry after a while.

The prayers of the Bible are much meatier, as are the prayers of many other denominations. For example, the Anglican Book of Common Prayer (1928 edition) has some wonderfully deep and theologically robust prayers. But as a young believer, I thought written prayers were for people who lacked a real heart relationship with God. They can be abused. Reciting a written prayer will not save an unrepentant sinner or deepen a spiritual life through the mere repetition of elegant prose. But that doesn’t make them useless.

That became clear when I learned that scripture contains many formal prayers and praises. Everyone is familiar with the Psalms and The Lord’s Prayer. But it happens in other places in the New Testament as well. 1 Peter 1:3-5 is a good example. With the help of his friend Silas, Peter begins with an expression of praise that is almost identical to the wording of 2 Corinthians 1:3 and Ephesians 1:3. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.[1] Push on down through verse 13 of Ephesians 1, and you find the same themes Peter stressed: Election or choseness, redemption through Christ’s blood, our spiritual inheritance, and hope in Christ’s return.

From that foundation, Peter builds out his prayer and links it to his readers’ specific situation. So he isn’t just repeating empty words. He is taking a form of praise widely used in the Church and building it into his prayer and exhortation to his readers.

As I got older, I realized that C.S. Lewis’s experience on this topic, provided in an essay whose title I borrowed, reflected mine. Some days my mind is scattered as a caffeinated squirrel, and my heart is as flat as a pancake. Trying to pray spontaneously on days like that was “counting on a greater mental and spiritual strength than I really have,” he said. I was making “what Pascal calls Error of Stoicism; thinking we can do always what we can do sometimes.”[2] The latest news headline or political crisis will always loom larger if we let it and have us praying about only those things instead of the strategic mission of the Church. And, left to the vagaries of our weary minds and momentary emotions, we can easily drift into some pretty shallow spiritual puddles. Praying the ready-made prayers of scripture and the great traditions can help us stay on the right path.


[1] The New International Version. (2011). (Eph 1:3). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] Ready-made Prayers. C.S. Lewis, The Joyful Christian: 127 Readings

GENESIS 2021 Building Our Future on Stable Ground

GENESIS 2021 Building Our Future on Stable Ground

Fans of the first Star Trek movies remember that in The Wrath of Khan, the villain tried to destroy the Starship Enterprise by detonating an experimental terraforming device called Genesis. We learned in The Search for Spock, that the planet that emerged from that explosion was beautiful but unstable, doomed to devour itself in earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. David Marcus, a key scientist on the project, revealed the reason. He had used a restricted substance, “proto-mater,” to speed up the process. What should have been a utopia was doomed from the start by the hubris of its creator.

By 1984 standards, the special effects were excellent. But that is not what made me think of Star Trek movies at one o’clock this morning.

2020 has been an epic disaster. People will make movies about it. Heroes and villains will emerge. Everyone hopes 2021 will be better than 2020. But the biblical worldview warns us that we dare not anchor our hopes here. It tells us that God made us good, but in our hubris, we inserted an element to make life better. We rebelled and corrupted all our capacities in the process. We took earth with us when we fell, and because of the fall, we can count on two things.

First, the earth itself, in the form of earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, and yes, pandemics, will oppose us. “Cursed is the ground,” God said to our first parents and earth’s first stewards. “Thorns and thistles, it will produce for you till you return to the dust from which you were formed.”  

Second, our best Utopia-building efforts will be fatally flawed because we are fatally flawed. Like Dr. Marcus in Star Trek, we cannot resist the temptation to hurry-up success. In our hubris, we add ingredients to life guaranteed to produce catastrophic, if unintended, consequences.

We need a savior, someone who can break the curse and reverse the consequences of the fall; someone who can cancel our corruption and restore true goodness to men and women. And the good news is, we just celebrated his arrival at Christmas.

The babe of Bethlehem became the man on the mountain who began his ministry by saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” His recipe for success, called The Sermon on the Mount[1], has no shortcuts, no place for hubris, only humility, faith, and love. He ended that sermon with this practical application.

“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”[2]

The vaccines may work. Life might return to something like normal. But because of the fall, we can count on two things: something else will come along to destabilize the world, and in our hubris, it might be us!   Build your house on the rock. Put your hope in Christ in 2021. He is the only savior.


[1] See the Gospel of Matthew, chapters 5-7.

[2] The New International Version. (2011). (Mt 7:24–27). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

A POST ELECTION PRAYER FOR ALL BELIEVERS

A POST ELECTION PRAYER FOR ALL BELIEVERS

I woke this morning and found about what I expected, an undecided election fraught with the potential for significant conflict in our country. As one commentator said last week, “This is going to make Florida’s hanging chads in 2000 look like a cake-walk.” Thankfully, as a result of that debacle, the Supreme Court rendered a decision that all ballots must be counted and turned in by December 8, six days before the electoral college meets. So, we should have a decision, if no less conflict, by then.

I grieve for our country and pray for it daily, but my chief concern is for the Church of Jesus Christ. We are “the support and pillar of the truth”[1] and cannot stop speaking it even when the world would rather not hear it. But we are also required by our Lord to be peacemakers in this world.[2] We are also commanded to “make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” within the Church.[3]

With those three tasks in mind, I offer the following prayer, adapted from 1 Peter chapter 1, and I ask you to pray it with me for ourselves and for all who bow the knee to Jesus Christ over the next month.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade—kept in heaven for us, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

Though we have not seen him, we love him; and even though we do not see him now, we believe in him, and are filled with inexpressible joy, for we are receiving the goal of our faith, the salvation of our souls.

Therefore, Father, we ask that you help us prepare our minds for action, be self-controlled, and fully set our hope on the grace to be given us when Jesus Christ is revealed. Please help us, Father, as obedient children, not conform to the evil desires we had when we lived in ignorance of you and your Son. Please help us, Father, to be holy because you are holy.

Since we call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, help us live our lives as strangers here in reverent fear. For, we were not redeemed with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

Finally, because we have been purified by obeying the truth, help us to love one another deeply, from the heart, recognizing that we have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

For, all men are like grass, and all their glory like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.

Amen.


[1] 1 Timothy 3:15

[2] Matthew 5:9; James 3:18

[3] Ephesians 4:3

THE PARABLE OF VANNA WHITE

THE PARABLE OF VANNA WHITE


Vanna White needed a new transmission. I guess I should explain that.

Tradesmen often name their trucks. The maintenance crew I worked with in the early nineties was no different. The ancient, white Ford Econoline 150 panel van that the carpenters used was so reliable, doing the same simple tasks day after day, well past her prime, that they called her Vanna White. Only now her transmission was slipping. It was time for a rebuild.

I put her on the lift, removed the big automatic tranny, dismantled it, cleaned it out, installed a rebuild kit in the case, and hoisted it back into place; a six or seven hour job. Then I filled it with transmission fluid and took it for a drive. It slipped, right between first and second gear.

So I did it again, looking carefully for mistakes, and it slipped again. So I did it again. And again. And again. And again. It kept slipping! I was ready to drive it off a cliff!

Now let’s pause this parable and ask a question: Is there some part of your spiritual life that isn’t working? Are you continually disabled by a slip into sin whose source is invisible to you? Have you gone over the details again and again, tried as hard as you can to solve your problem, and failed?

Good. Coming to the end of our resources is the best place we can be because only then are we ready to receive the power to overcome the “sins that so easily entangle us.” The Apostle Paul explained it as the difference between living in the “flesh,” translated “sinful nature” in the NIV, versus living in the “Spirit.” (See Galatians 5:16-25). Jesus spoke similarly in John 6:63 when he said, “The flesh counts for nothing. The Spirit gives life.”

Everything about us, our bodies, our minds, our emotions, and personalities were permanently weakened by the power of sin. We “slip between first and second.” Until the day we die that power will remain. In fact the only way to conquer the power of sin is through death. 

That is the beautiful thing about the gospel. In Christ we did die, not a physical death, but a spiritual one. We died with him to the power of sin. When the Holy Spirit baptizes us into Christ his death and his resurrection become ours in spiritual fact (See Romans 6). The trick is to learn how to live in the power of those things.

Remember Vanna White? The sixth time I pulled the transmission from the old van I remembered another Ford E 150 in our fleet. The engine had died and we junked it, but not before harvesting all other usable parts, one of which was the transmission. Automatic transmission casings are cast with hydraulic control circuits inside. If the case cracks in the right place, a place invisible to the naked eye, those circuits will leak under pressure and the transmission will slip. I pulled the new parts out of Vanna White’s original transmission case and installed them in the one from the van that had “died” and Viola! No more slipping between gears!

The problem most of us face in overcoming sin is that we try to stuff new parts into our old life. We need new parts in a new life. By the power of the Holy Spirit within us we can overcome by exchanging our life with Christ’s.  Only when we have given up on trying to improve ourselves by our own will power are we able to begin operating in the power of the Spirit. Only when we have exchanged Christ’s life for ours are we able to know his power to overcome. 

MAX ANDERS: Biblical Clarity on the Current Crisis

MAX ANDERS: Biblical Clarity on the Current Crisis

Every pastor needs a few brilliant friends and advisers. Max Anders is one of mine. He is the author of over 25 books, including the bestselling 30 Days to Understanding the Bible, and his most recent work, Brave New Discipleship. He is also the creator and general editor of the 32 volume Holman Bible Commentary. His September 8 blog, AN HISTORIC OPPORTUNITY FOR CHRISTIANS IN AMERICA, caught my attention because I’ve never seen Max write on politics.

“To one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” James 4:17

AN HISTORIC OPPORTUNITY FOR CHRISTIANS IN AMERICA

By Max Anders

This blog post is a little long, but it’s very important, and I hope you will read through to the end.

The cultural and political upheaval we are currently experiencing in our nation is not an accident.  It is not a spontaneous uprising by sincere Americans who only want to bring about more “just” treatment for blacks by police. That may have been the motivation of some when it all started, but it has gone way beyond that now.

This is a full-throated uprising against American democracy and rule by law.  It is a premeditated campaign that is satanic and demonic in origin, infecting willing human servants (socialists and Marxists).

Spiritual/political attack on America

The uprising is now being carried out by those intent on destroying our American way of government and life.  They want to replace it with socialism/Marxism, which is violently anti-Christian and which has failed spectacularly everywhere it has ever been tried (Russia, China, Cambodia, Cuba, Venezuela).

Why in the world are people championing something that so clearly doesn’t work?  Well, Scripture tells us that Satan has the ability to deceive and blind the minds of unbelievers (2 Corinthians 4:4), causing them to be unable to come to a knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 2:24-26), generating wisdom that is earthly, natural and demonic, producing disorder and every evil thing (James 3:14-16).  Their blindness is spiritual blindness, a consequence of spiritual warfare.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s non-violent civil rights movement was governed by biblical/Christian principles and was historically effective. Two organizations, Black Lives Matter and Antifa, that are highly visible in recent riots, use violence to further their agendas and are deeply anti-Christian and anti-American.

It is helpful to understand that most riots have three types of people involved:

  1. Peaceful protestors who gathered legally with no intent to riot.
  2. Thugs and criminals who simply want to loot and destroy.
  3. Committed Marxists and Antifa members who organize and energize riots.

Mainstream Democrats do not necessarily agree with far-left socialists, but they have joined forces with them because they cannot get elected without them, and they are willing to pay nearly any price to defeat President Trump. As a result, the Democrats have been pushed so far to the left during campaigning that they have made promises they will have to keep. They are feeding the beast that will destroy them.

Where did this upheaval come from?

One might be excused for thinking that this has all come about suddenly.  But such is not the case.  Things have been deteriorating below the radar for decades, and just now have gotten to the point that they have broken out into the open.

In the 19th century, Karl Marx tried to conquer England with Marxism in his lifetime, but it didn’t work.  Author and freelance columnist Larry Taunton explained that the church was too strong, had too much cultural influence.

Later, Italian Antonio Gramsci concluded that for Marxism to succeed, a culture must first be softened up from within.

Socialism will triumph,” he wrote, “by first capturing the culture via infiltration of schools, universities, churches and the media by transforming the consciousness of society.”

Socialism/Cultural Marxism is a Trojan Horse designed to:

  1. Subvert families, traditional morality, and the symbols of national identity.
  2. Infiltrate educational institutions, the church and the legal system.
  3. Watch the country fall like a ripe fruit.

To accomplish this, Saul Alinsky wrote the Marxist playbook, Rules for Radicals, which Larry Taunton summarized here:

  1. Divide and conquer: drive wedges between as many different groups as you can (rich/poor, black/white, conservative/liberal, laborers/professionals, etc.)
  2. Create scapegoats: Your problems are never your fault.  They are someone else’s fault.
  3. Create chaos: Riots, strikes, controversies (kneeling during anthem, etc.).
  4. Trash talk: Use outrageous language, verbally bully others.
  5. Spread disinformation: Tell strategic lies, repeat incessantly, accuse the other side of what you are doing.
  6. Exploit morality: Use others’ moral principles against them. Attack them when they try to be reasonable and gracious.  Use their morals as a weapon against them.  Do to them things they would never do to you because of their moral standards.
  7. Ridicule/attack common values: religion, patriotism, traditional values.

The playbook is working spectacularly well in the United States.  Our schools have been infiltrated (with Marxism openly taught in our universities for decades), our churches have been infiltrated, and our legal system has been infiltrated with Marxist values and sympathizers, and we are well on the way to Gramsci’s goal of softening us up so that we fall, like a ripe fruit, into the hands of Marxists.

Among other things, this is how we are seeing this worked out:

  1. Identity politics in which individual minority groups promote self-interest rather than the interest of the whole (Divide and conquer).
  2. The assertion that the problems of all minorities are the fault of white privilege and racism (Create scapegoats).
  3. Riots and destruction in cities (Create chaos).
  4. False charges and accusing others of the same thing you are doing (Trash talk).
  5. The rise of opinion journalism and fake news (Spread disinformation).
  6. Rioting in streets, destroying family businesses, patrolling suburbs (exploit morality).
  7. Destruction of statues, memorials, Marxist Black Lives Matter rallies (Ridicule/attack common values).

If this movement is successful, it will change America as we have known it.

What should the Christian response be?

Christians must rise up to stop this godless assault on our country and the church.  There are so many of us that we can do it. We have the votes. All we have to do is act… and vote our values.  Not to do so is to bring on our nation, and on the church, calamities I have listed here.

There are some Christians who are too unaware to get involved.  They are not naturally interested in political things, and they spend their lives occupied with “spiritual” things, assuming that everything is going to work out fine. I’m not criticizing these Christians. I used to be one of them. I just didn’t fully realize what was going on. Plus, more is going on now than ever before.

There are other Christians who think they shouldn’t get involved. In one article I read, a pastor said one reason he did not get involved is that “God is in control.”  He said he is working for the heavenly kingdom and doesn’t want to get distracted by the earthly kingdom.

But how would that perspective play itself out in other areas of life if lived consistently?

  • If someone broke into your house to harm you and your family, would you stand by idly and say, “God is in control?”
  • Would you turn the other cheek for the malicious intruder?
  • Would you let the invader have his way and say, “God causes all things to work together for good?”

Of course not! You’d try to protect those God has given you!

I see this as the same situation. Evil people are breaking into our national home. How can we, who have the ability to stop them, not stop them? Even Jesus said, “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are undisturbed” (Luke 11:21).  There are so many evangelical Christians that if we would simply “guard our house,” we could avert disaster.

More than America is at stake

This is not just about our comfort and safety. It is about having the knowledge, technology, and money to…

  • finish Bible translations around the world,
  • help start churches in emerging nations,
  • help advance the gospel around the world,
  • help reduce the pain of poverty,
  • help bring medical supplies and advances to those who need them,
  • help reduce the profound discrimination and suffering of Christians around the world.

Never before in the history of the Church has there been so much potential to take the Great Commission to the entire planet. There is a world of good to be done, but if the U.S. falls to socialism, it will deal a grave blow to all that potential.

James 4:17 says, “To one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” My goal in writing this blog post is to help convince you that to vote Christian values for the sake of stopping anti-Christian socialism is the right thing to do.

As I see it, the choice is very clear: Christians must vote, and we must vote Republican if we do not want the United States to be overtaken by socialism/Marxism.  The traditional understanding of Republicans and Democrats is out the window in this election because Democrats have sold out to socialism. Today’s Democrat Party is not the same party of yester-years. If you vote Democrat because you or your family has “always voted” Democrat, please understand that today’s Democrat Party is not your parents’ party and please take the time to investigate their platform and policies before casting your vote. If you don’t want socialism, you don’t want a Democrat party platform.

It is a stewardship responsibility.  How can we neglect this gift the Lord has given us?  We have the power – God has given us the power through prayer and the privilege of informed voting – to prevent this calamity. We should be praying! But if we pray without also exercising our responsibility of voting, we have only done half the job. 

This is an historic moment for Christians in America. Help keep the Church in America strong so that we can use our knowledge, technology, and money to energize the Great Commission on a level we have never seen before.

Let’s rise to the challenge! Let’s pray and vote!

Max Anders is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, and has taught on the college and seminary level. He was an original team member with Walk Thru the Bible Ministries and the author of over twenty-five books. He has pastored small, medium and large churches spanning over 25 years, including currently serving as Senior Pastor at Geist Chapel in Indianapolis, IN.

AN ALIEN IN YOUR DRIVEWAY

AN ALIEN IN YOUR DRIVEWAY

Imagine an alien from outer space landed in your driveway and asked, “What are all those buildings in your town with pointy spires and crosses on top? What is that about?” Could you answer accurately?

That’s the question C.S. Lewis—author of the Chronicles of Narnia—and Oxford College Chaplain, Walter Hooper, knocked around one day. “We wondered how many people, (who did not flee) apart from voicing their prejudices about the Church, could supply them with much in the way of accurate information. On the whole, we doubted whether the aliens would take back to their world much that is worth having.”

Hooper and Lewis were speculating because at that time, in the mid-twentieth century, several autobiographies of former bishops and preachers had flooded the market, explaining why they could no longer accept the faith. Lewis believed the ignorance of true Christianity was due to the flood of “liberal writers who are continually accommodating and whittling down the truth of the Gospel.”

Not much has changed. Today, many people reject Christianity because of prejudice or personal failure that seemed to disqualify them from the faith. Others were injured by fraudulent Christians and left the faith out of anger. A spate of recent books by former evangelicals such as the late Rachel Held Evans, and ex-pastors Rob Bell and Joshua Harris contribute to the confusion. “If professionals can’t follow it, how can I?”

But as Hooper writes in his preface to God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics by C.S. Lewis, “…it is impossible to decide whether Christianity is true or false if you do not know what it is about.” Spiritually hungry skeptics must ask themselves, “Am I rejecting something I fully understand? Or am I using negative examples as an excuse not to investigate it?”

That is why we offer the Alpha Course every fall. It’s a ten-week introduction to basic Christianity that’s designed to encourage questions and build friendships with others on the same journey. It covers the ten most common questions people have about Christianity, including Who is Jesus? Why Did He Die? Can I Trust the Bible? How Does God Guide Us? What Does the Holy Spirit Do? Why and How Do I Pray?

Our Church is hosting its ninth Alpha Course this year. If you’ve never attended one, I encourage you to find a course near you and go. Click here to find one in your area: https://alphausa.org/try.

WE ARE CAESAR: Christians and Politics in 2020

WE ARE CAESAR: Christians and Politics in 2020

A national election looms, and the contrasts between the candidates and their platforms could not be more distinct. How should we choose? Do the life and teaching of Jesus give us any guidelines?

Yes! Jesus faced a hotly contested political issue. His epic reply was: “Render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and to God, what is God’s.” (See Matthew 22:15-22). The story behind the quote is rife with political tensions that make ours seem mild.

The Story

Judea became a Roman Province in 6 AD after the failed tetrarchy of Herod Archelaus. After the census, the Romans levied a head tax on top of the property tax customs tax. Judas of Galilee led a revolt over it. The debate that raged at the time was whether a good Jew should pay the fee.

We can paraphrase the question to Jesus like this: “Can we pay taxes to Caesar and still give allegiance to God? Are we traitors to God for supporting this pagan leader’s rule over His land?”

The question was a trap. If Jesus rejected the head tax, he was liable to Caesar’s court. If he supported the tax, the Zealots—a violent political movement—would turn on him.

Every resident of Palestine knew someone, a brother, a father, a cousin, a neighbor, whom the Romans had victimized. They were sold into slavery, forced off their land, or executed for speaking out against oppression.

Moreover, the Messiah, like the judges of old, was expected to depose tyrants and enforce justice. Would Jesus measure up?

Jesus turned the tables and set a trap of his own. “Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” He said.

They paid it with a Tiberian denarius, propaganda disguised as currency. One side had a profile of the emperor and a superscription that read: TI CAESAR DIVI AUGUSTI FILIUS AUGUSTUS (Tiberius Caesar, August Son of the Divine Augustus). The other side had a picture of a woman seated on a throne holding an inverted spear in her right hand and a palm branch in the left. The superscription read “PONTIFEX MAXIMUS” (High Priest). The Jews saw it as a portable idol promoting a pagan religion and hated it. So it was funny to watch the questioner dig around to find one, and then realize with embarrassment that all the Jews in the courtyard were frowning at the fact that he would have it on his person.

When he handed it over, Jesus nailed them with three piercing facts. The meaning of his reply runs something like this.

“Hypocrites!” He said. “Since you don’t seem to have any problem doing business with Caesar’s coins, you had better pay his taxes. Second, as much as you pretend to be offended by Caesar’s claims on deity, you have no qualms about bringing this pagan symbol into God’s holy temple. And third, by holding his coin, you already pay tribute to him, let Caesar have his idols.”

“Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, namely the thing that bears his image and name. But give to God also what bears his image and name – yourself.”God made us in his image. God saved us and called us his own. We owe him our entire being. Jesus is saying, “Caesar owns your money. God owns you. Don’t confuse the two.”

The Principle

The principle is this: Get your allegiances right, and your obligations will come clear. Render to the government what you owe to the government, and to God what you owe to God.

How does this story guide us today? To answer that question, we have to recognize the differences between our government and theirs. Our political systems are completely different. Thus our obligations are different.

Jesus and his contemporaries lived in a conquered country occupied by hostile troops and governed by foreigners. They had no vote or representation in government; they faced imprisonment, slavery, or death for protesting, and had no power short of open rebellion.

Thankfully, our system of government is different. We have freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom to vote, and freedom to sue the government for justice. We also have the freedom to live and do business publicly as our religious conscious requires. We have not only the right but also the obligation to participate in government at every level. ‘We, the people’, are Caesar. But just as it was in those days, so it is today, Caesar isn’t Lord. God is. ‘We the people’ – in the form of the legislature, the courts or the executive branch – might make a law or ruling that runs contrary to the will of God. Because Christians have the option, we also must promote government for the common good and oppose or change those laws and rulings that are opposed to the common good. That is our obligation to Caesar.

Applying the Principle

To apply the principle, we need to think about both sides of the political equation: our allegiances and our obligations.

The Christian’s first allegiance is to the gospel. Our primary mission is the proclamation of the gospel, which alone can change the heart of a nation. Thus, we need to be wary about aligning ourselves with a particular individual or party.

Our allegiance to God, who commanded us to ‘love your neighbor’ motivates us to work for the good of all our neighbors, not just the advancement of our religion. Therefore, Christians must be impartial advocates of truth, no matter the political consequences.

What are God’s values concerning the political issues of the day, and what is our obligation as participants in a government of the people, by the people, and for the people?

Abortion – God is the creator of life. Children in the womb are the most defenseless. Isa 1:17 says: Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. (NIV) Christians should vote for the people who will do the best job of defending the unborn.[1]

Marriage – God established the moral order for the world he created. If we abide by it, things go well. If we abandon it, we can expect trouble. Christians should vote for people who will honor God by maintaining the traditional definition of marriage.

Religious Freedom & Freedom of Speech – Jesus commanded: “Go into all the world and make disciples, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Religious freedom and freedom of speech are the two most important founding principles of America. Religious freedom is broader than the so-called freedom of worship. And freedom of speech is central to our ability to function as a civil society. Christians should vote for officials who will protect religious freedom and freedom of expression.

Economics

Jesus was clear about our obligations to the poor. But scripture also teaches, “He that will not work, should not eat,” and that all men should be responsible for providing for their families. No fair-minded person could look at the multitude of social services offered in this country and conclude that our government isn’t caring for the poor. Yet welfare fraud totaled $99.1 billion in fiscal year 2019. Christians should vote for officials who will do a better job of managing that system and reign in the abuses.

Jesus said, “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and to God that which is God’s.” As we consider our civic responsibilities, let’s get our allegiances right, and our obligations will become clear.

[1] Biden’s VP Choice Expected, World News 8/11/2020.

DON’T SCREW UP A Father’s Day Reflection

DON’T SCREW UP A Father’s Day Reflection

Back in the ’90s, when the Christian men’s movement was booming, and books on godly masculinity were flying off the shelves, I attended a men’s conference with several well-known speakers. Among them was Steve Farrar, author of the bestseller, Point Man: How a Man Can Lead His Family.

One of the small-group exercises popular in the break-out sessions of those conferences was to develop a personal mission statement and then share it with the group. The conference speakers did the same and shared theirs from the podium.

Several leaders gave thoughtful, spiritual-sounding personal mission statements. Then Farrar walked to the mic, complimented the other guys on their profound thinking, paused a moment, and said, “Mine goes like this: Don’t screw up.”

The room exploded in laughter. I forgot the other men’s statements before I got home, but I’ve never forgotten Farrar’s.

I have three grown daughters, and I made plenty of mistakes as their father, but by the grace of God, they still love me, still walk with Christ, and are doing quite well in the world. Sunday is Father’s Day, and in the spirit of Steve Farrar, I offer the following advice on how not to screw up.

Be their father, not their friend. Project calm, resolute authority. Authority is not the same as authoritarianism, and this blog is too short to go into all that implies. (See John Rosemond’s works for that). But remember, kids feel safer and grow up healthier when a strong and kind man sets the boundaries for their lives and enforces them. Now, we are friends.

Set the spiritual example. I’m a pastor, and my wife is an educator, but it may surprise you to learn that we never, except for Advent devotionals, had family Bible studies. I know that works for some families, but for many kids, it just feels forced. My daughters saw their dad, almost every day of their lives, sitting in his chair with his Bible or some other good Christian book open, communing with his heavenly Father, and their mom, on the floor in her room, her Bible and journal in her lap doing the same.

Speak calmly when correcting. I think this was what the Apostle Paul was referring to when he wrote, “ Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”[1] Children are remarkably sensitive to the power in a man’s voice. I can’t count the number of times my daughters thought I was yelling at them when I felt I was calmly giving direction. A shouting father frightens young children and demeans older ones. Projecting authority is about the way you carry yourself, your integrity, and consistency in discipline, not about screaming at your kids.

Affirm them as often as you can and keep your criticism to a minimum. My daughters do not complain about this with me, but I cannot count the number of men who’ve told me over the years how hard it was to get their father’s approval. Constant criticism cripples’ children, even years into adulthood. It is OK to teach them to strive for excellence, but perfection belongs to God alone.

Release them to God. The hardest thing to know is when they are ready to take full responsibility for themselves. And the hardest thing to do is let them go to experience the full consequences of their choices. The trick is to start early, with little things, and work up to the big ones.

I’ll leave you with another quote from Farrar: “Satan’s strategy in the war on the family is to neutralize the man…You were appointed to be head of your family. Like it or not, you carry the responsibility. You are the point man.”

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Col 3:21). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.